First I greeted them in the cool, trendy youth style where you bump each other’s fist (or spud some might call it) and then bring your fist up to your chest. They smirked, surprised at how I knew because I had the obvious look of someone who was not from around here, but still I knew enough of what was ‘cool’ to fit in amongst the youth, as if I was.
“What’s your name?” I asked them in Mooré (e.g. Fo yuure la boe?)
“My name is Paul”
“My name is Jean Pierre” they too had replied in Mooré (e.g Mam yuure Jean Pierre)
“Do you speak French?”
“Yes” they both replied.
“How old are you?”
“I’m 12” said Paul
“I’m 13” replied Jean Pierre
“Do you go to school?”
“Yes...” They both replied, nodding simultaneously.
“It’s just around the corner” Paul said point “ in the region of Bogodogo”
“Do you enjoy school?”
“Yes, it’s alright” replied, whilst Jean Pierre remained relatively quiet.
“You have to work hard, make sure you do well. Do your homework and read lots of books.
What do you want to be when you’re older?”
“Hmm…” they both hesitated
“A teacher, a lawyer, a doctor…?”
“Yeah, that one”. Paul replied.
“A It’s hard, you have to do lots of reading and work hard in school, but you can do it…”
“…what about you Jean Pierre?”
“I want to be a doctor too”
“Excellent. So in 10-15 years, I will come back to find you and I will ask for Dr. Paul and Dr.
“I’m serious, when I’m ill, you guys will have to help me”
They agreed with smiles on their faces.
“Do you play football?”
They both nodded.
“Do you think you’re better than me?”
“Yeah” Paul replied, whilst Jean Pierre laughed in the background.
“Better than me? You think so? I’m better than Didier Drogba, when I shoot I cover my eyes with one hand” (this was added with a feeble attempt at a soccer shot, not surprising I gave it up many years ago).
“Dr. Paul and Dr. Jean Pierre, I have to go”
I saluted them in the youth style and then returned to the table where I was sitting with the rest of my group. About 15 minutes later, Paul and Jean Pierre walked past with some of their friends. They noticed me sitting at the table and began pointing, smiling and waving. I just smiled back. It made me wonder, when was the last time a non-authoritative figure had interacted with these children, on their level. They, on the surface, seemed like the kind of children that most would ignore in fear, but I am glad I did not, the light of their eyes, I will not forget. I can only hope that they receive the opportunities that will allow them to fulfil their ambitions, and that one day, someone will call them Dr. Paul and Dr. Jean Pierre.