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No Mr. Trump, Burkina Faso is NOT a Shithole Country

No Mr. Trump, Burkina Faso is NOT a Shithole Country

Burkina Faso

This past week our Idiot in chief made a statement about not letting people from El Salvador, Haiti, and Africa into America. His exact words were: “why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

The clapback was quick as his statement is extraordinary offensive.

But you know, I think a lot of people seem to share Trump’s thoughts. At least in their head. So many people can’t understand how I could go volunteer in Burkina Faso. Apparently, it also makes me really selfless and brave. Spoiler, I’m not.

The way people speak to me about my time in the Peace Corps, well, it’s like I’m some white savior marching in. “Does their culture have strong work ethics?” I mean, come on. America’s work ethic isn’t the way we got rich.

Burkina Faso might be one of the poorest countries in the world. It might have famines. It might have security issues. It might have malaria problems. But Burkina Faso is definitely not a shithole country.

I don’t really have words to tell you how special my home was for 3 months.

Houses were small and they didn’t have electricity. But people innovated. We had solar lamps. Everyone in the village would come by to watch TV at night. And the stars were incredible.

The first time I came out at night I just stood there, looking up at them. My mama laughed and laughed.

“You can’t see the night sky in America?”

“Not like this.”

My mama just laughed longer.

My mama took care of me. She made me dinner. She showed me how to wash my clothes. She would laugh her huge booming laugh and gossip with the other women of the village. And she was always laughing at me and the crazy things her American would do.

She called me her little baby. Because I couldn’t do anything. She nervously looked over me when I was sick. And whenever I had new clothes made she would hug me and say, “ohhhhh. My baby is so pretty.”

I remember her taking me to a school dance.

“You’ll do the dance of the nasara right?” She joked mischievously.

Except for it wasn’t a joke. At one point in the night a group of children circled me, jumping around me with their hands held so I couldn’t escape.

“Dance Phyllis, dance.”

I was shocked they all knew my name.

My mom just looked on and started dancing around me.

I went to get my friend Ashley. And I was led to her house in the pitch black by a group of kids. My little friend who helped my Mom was there-Maniceda.

I tended to avoid the village children whenever I could. If you showed just one of them kindness or interest you would end up followed by a pack of them wherever you went. Including your room. And they were wild.

But Maniceda was different. She would just look at me and grin and grin. And I loved it. Every time I saw her I would stop and wave and talk to her. We were special friends.

One time, I was trying to bring water to our garden. I managed to pump it fine. But balancing the bucket on top of my head was hard.

Maniceda thought I was crazy. She took it off my head and carried it back to my families compound herself. This little skinny girl was stronger than I.

I would give her moon pies when I could. I would do anything to keep that beautiful smile on Maniceda’s face. My special friend indeed.

Zorro was filled with these small interactions every day.

A lot of the village didn’t speak French. But I would say the one word in local lang I knew and just repeat it.

“Oh le le le le.”

The village women would crack up. My mom wrote down local lang words she translated into French so I could attempt to hold out small conversations.

It never worked but everyone loved me for trying.

“Oh le le le le.”

Everyone I passed in the village was smiles, greetings, and laughter. They loved having us and watching over us. We were there special guests. Our lives all woven together.

Everyone in Zorro met under a ginormous rooty tree. Village meetings. Us. We would take our mats and have French class. We would discuss with the Peace Corps staff. It was shady and cool.

Our group had small little get togethers there where we would hang out and drink crates of sangria. Chickens, goats, and small children would continuously walk through.

We named it. The big tree. The tree of life.

We would set up mats and have French lessons under the tree.

No, never inside. We were always outside in the Peace Corps.

Perhaps in gazebos. Or outside arenas that were covered for the rain. Or under a tree eating at a café. Biking back and forth between village to village. We were always outside, under the sun.

I miss the Peace Corps. I miss the friends I made there. I miss the family that took care of me there. I miss biking everywhere.

No, Burkina Faso is not a shithole country. It’s a country rich in culture and friendships and relationships.

And I am not a selfless or brave person for going there. My life has been enriched from this country and the Burkinabe who live there.

We would be so lucky to have Burkinabe come to America.

About the author

Vegetarian foodie and tree hugger over here. I've got all the blog tips on traveling sustainably. So follow along for epic hikes, savory food, and all around ethical travel.


  1. Don Morrison
    January 30, 2018 at 6:23 am

    Phyllis, in your piece published a few months ago, you literally describe Burkina Faso sh*tholes:
    According to you, yes, Burkina Faso IS, in FACT literally a sh*thole country. You go on to say that you apparently piss in your “shower” too.

    • Phyllis
      January 30, 2018 at 8:25 pm

      Underdeveloped and third world countries doesn’t mean these countries are shitholes. That’s incredibly offensive. And my point in writing this post was to promote how amazing the people of Burkina Faso are.

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