Look at this picture. You’ll probably see many things in it and wonder what it’s a picture of. It’s actually a picture of part of the wall on the front of my house, next to my porch. Yes, I do have an outlet on my porch, so that’s what you see. You’ll notice the – and + signs on the outlet, too, since it’s a 12v outlet, and if you put the plug in upside down it would be bad. You’ll also notice that they put in the outlet after they had already cemented the walls, so they had to fix up the cement, which makes it look not quite as nice. And you’ll notice the teal paint splops from when they painted my windows after doing the cementing, too. See? There are lots of things to notice in this picture.
But when I look at this picture, the thing I notice most is the mark of acceptance. That’s the pink spot you also notice in the picture.
You see, when I moved into my house, that pink spot wasn’t on my wall. But one day one of my host mom’s daughters came over to use my nail polish. . .
Yes, here they also have nail polish. But maybe it’s because it’s so dry here most of the year, or maybe it’s because the nail polish sold here is of low quality, but when they open the bottle to polish their nails, they don’t leave the bottle open while they’re polishing, but they put a finger over the top of the bottle to close it so that it won’t dry out while they’re using it.
So that’s what she did when I let her use my pink nail polish as we sat on my porch. And then, like normal, when she was done polishing her nails, she scooted over to my wall and wiped her finger (that had gotten polish on it from closing the bottle with that finger) on my wall. Hence the pink spot on my wall.
And that’s why I call it a “mark of acceptance.” It’s easy for people to keep their distance and be on their best behavior around new people, right? (Think of that new family down the street or the new people in church. Or remember when you were the new people and were really on your best behavior!) It’s only around people that we feel comfortable with that we do whatever we’d normally do, right?
If that new person is someone of a much higher social class, which is what people here in Burkina Faso automatically see any white person as, there is even more the desire to be on your best behavior. So the fact that she didn’t even think twice before smearing her nail polish on my new wall made me feel accepted – like she wasn’t afraid of me or wanting to impress me, but just making herself at home.
So you see? Even though I now have a bit of pink nail polish on my wall, which I will still be around whenever you come to visit, I wouldn’t change it for a clean wall. It makes me smile when I see it, reminding me that I am getting accepted as a normal part of life, and they’re willing to live their normal life around me. I’m accepted! And that’s writing on the wall that’s worth reading.