Our woman of the week this fine Monday is Rita Dioma, one of my counterpart, Monique Dioma's, four daughters. Rita runs a local beauty salon in Solenzo where she takes care of everything from hair to nails to eyebrows and eye lashes. Rita works from about nine in the morning till past six at night every day, and during that time her fingers never stop moving. Whether it's braiding or nail-painting or eyelash application, Rita's salon is always full of glamorous, smiling women and a gaggle of children to boot.
Rita and I became friends very slowly during my first year in Solenzo. Her salon was a place I could go and feel comfortable surrounded by the warm energy of women and lots of pretty things. I realized we were really becoming close one day when I pulled up on my bike in the afternoon and Rita gave me a big, unsolicited smile. "Welcome Elena," she said casually, "come sit."
Rita is about 7 years my senior and the mother of two children, Kevine, 11, and Leandre, 4. Rita left school in the equivalent of 10th grade and sought to fulfill her childhood dream of opening a salon. Rita is probably the only person in Solenzo who understand's my American humor and is tickled rather than alienated by my strange habits. She goes out of her way to make me feel comfortable and relaxed every time I am around her in such a way that I almost forget we don't come from the same place. Her confidence, intelligence and the ease with which she balances her professional life, home life, and social life have always been striking and inspiring to me.
The father of Rita's two children is a nurse working outside of Bob-Dioulasso, so Rita is effectively working and living as a single parent right now. Even when she marries him later this year, Rita will likely carry on shouldering the burden of her work and her children largely independently. She does this, of course, without batting an eye and with unquestionable poise. Rita gets a shout out from me this week not only because she is there for me when I'm upset, giddy, when there is no one to help me celebrate my birthday or when I just need girl talk, but also because she is an example of a woman who supports herself in her ambitions and works to a achieve them. For all these reasons and more, I am proud to call Rita my friend.