When a young girl of about 8 or 9 quietly sat next to me at the children's library of the Centre Culturel Francais in Ouagadougou, I just continued to read and translate French stories to Alex. And when I asked her what she liked to read, she shook her head no. I interpreted her no as an inability to read, which is not so uncommon given Burkina Faso has a literacy rate of 28%, one of the lowest in the world. But as the library was closing, she wandered around a bit, still keeping an eye on us. As we made our exit, it was clear, she didn't want us to leave her. She mumbled a story about her father dying and that she was willing to go wherever we were going. On the street, we firmly told her that we could not take her back with us and that she had to go home. But she was persistent and continued to follow us. We turned to her and explained that it was not possible for her to come with us and thought that giving her some money to take a taxi home and eat dinner was enough for her to understand. You could see in her eyes that home, if it even existed, was the last place she wanted to go. We thought that maybe she didn't understand French well enough, so we asked a few locals to ask about her situation in Moore. She finally expressed that her father did in fact die, her mother lived in a village but she did not live with her and that her grandmother lived in a district in Ouagadougou. We ended up leaving her with them, hoping they would have a better handle on the grim situation this girl was in.
That same day, by constrast, we were witness to a new family being formed. A little Burkinabe girl of nearly 2 was getting acquainted with her new parents who had made the long trip from Spain to adopt her. They had only been with her for 2 days when we met them, and already, she seemed right at home with them.