Ouagadougou, January 17, 2009 - Saturday

Trip Start Dec 18, 2008
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Trip End Jan 18, 2009


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Where I stayed
hotel "Belle Vue"

Flag of Burkina Faso  ,
Saturday, October 30, 2010

I wouldn't have been disappointed if I’d slept in, but that’s how it is. When you go to bed early, you wake up early as well. But here in Africa, being up on your feet early had its upsides, as well. The most obvious one was a wonderful, almost cool morning. If you miss those mornings, you have an impression that African days are one continuous, relentless oven. But if you get out while the hours are still in single digits, it may actually be truly pleasant to take a walk.

And so, after the breakfast, and before Na Prisca would come to see me again, I thought it was an ideal opportunity to go check my e-mail. It’d been a few days since I’d done it last and it was both a good way to kill some time and a good excuse to go for a walk.

Practically on the Place de Nations Unies, next to the post office, and right across the „Jardin de l’amitié" restaurant, there was an Internet café which I had noticed the day before, so I decided to go there. Probably less than a kilometre away from my hotel, it gave me a chance for a nice little stretch of legs. And when a few minutes later I arrived at the Place de Nations Unies, the digital display just above the globe on the roundabout there showed 21°C. And we were just shy of nine in the morning.

I crossed the road and as I was getting closer to the building housing the café, a guy approached me with a ubiquitous „bonjour“, matched his pace to mine and started walking by my side. I guess I had by now grown tired of all those bonjours and not so subtle attempts on the side of too many people to wheedle whatever they could out of me. Therefore this uninvited character pretty much failed to amuse me. So much so that I never even listened to his blabbering. I hardly bothered to understand what this particular one had in mind. Instead, never sparing him a second glance, I merely kept waving him off without a word. I hoped it would do the trick and that he would realise he was plainly a nuisance.

He wouldn’t.

But unapologetically, I kept dismissing him without saying a word. And when he wouldn’t budge, I opened the door to the café, entered and simply slammed it shut right into his face.

Was I rude? You bet. If you possess even a trace of good manners in your veins, you don’t do it. But the worst of it all was that I didn’t feel guilty in the slightest. The guy was just too much to bear so early in the morning.

When two hours later I left the Internet café the temperature was already 27°C.

And the guy was still out there. I couldn’t believe that he’d had nothing better to do than to loiter outside and wait on me. Was I really his best chance today?

If I was, then unfortunately he was in for some rather bleak immediate future. He tried the same approach, but I did the same, as well. Again without a word, just dismissing him with a wave of my hand, I crossed the road and marched back on in the direction of the hotel. And he fell by the wayside.

Na Prisca was going to join me for lunch again. When exactly, no one could predict with certainty. The target appointment time was roughly the same as the day before, and since she had shown that she could arrive relatively close to being on time, I decided I’d just wait for her in the hotel. Besides, the relentless pace of the past thirty one days had been taking its toll on me and I kind of really felt like just taking it easy. So I had all the reasons to stay put.

Back in the hotel, I just got my book and the diary out of the room, and at first sat in the hotel lobby to read. Now that I took a seat and wasn’t just whizzing through, I noticed a few pictures hanging on the wall as a decoration, depicting Jesus and Virgin Mary. It was clear where the owner’s religious affiliations lay. But Burkina Faso seemed to be a tolerant country when it came to religious views, so whichever way you went, it was not a big deal.

After a while, however, I decided I preferred sitting in front of the hotel, at a chair next to my friend, the hotel guard. He was a guy who seemed to always be there, apparently doing nothing apart from watching over the entrance gate to the hotel. He had a desk on a small platform outside, right by the entrance, where he would sometimes sit. Of course, he spoke no English. But his friendly handshake and mandatory „comment ça va?“ and my basic „très bien, merci“ were a sufficient basis for the two of us to get along fabulously.

So I was sitting outside on a plastic chair, reading a bit and watching people a bit, all along expecting Na Prisca to come „any minute“. That any minute turned out to be about an hour and a half later. Well, this was Africa and there was no way around it. While you were there, you just had to adjust to their pace.

And when you do it at their pace, then it means it takes you another hour, or a bit more, to get to a restaurant which is less than a kilometre away. While going to Internet café earlier in the morning, practically next door to „Jardin de l’amitié“, I had noticed another restaurant, this one called „Le Verdoyant“, and now I suggested to Na Prisca that we check that one out today. Just for the fun of it. And for the sake of change. She didn’t mind either way. However, she wouldn’t hear about walking there even if I tried to assure her that it had taken me just over ten minutes on foot to reach Internet café across the street. As far as she was concerned, „Le Verdoyant“ was not any closer than Bamako, and the only way she would go there was by taxi.

So taxi it was.

In terms of ambience, „Le Verdoyant“ and „Jardin de l’amitié“ were pretty much alike. Both spacious and leafy, both pleasant and sluggish, almost down to a slumber. You most certainly would not be advised to arrive there hungry, but rather still in anticipation of hunger. Otherwise, if you arrive already hungry, by the time they serve you what you have ordered, you may start believing that famine has besieged Burkina. Or alternately, you might want to have some extra sandwich, just in order to help you survive until your meal arrives.

Either way, if you’re in a hurry, very few of African restaurants seem to be the places to go. But then again, who is ever in a hurry here?

All in all, it took us several pleasant and easy-going hours to consider our lunch over. If I was the guy who ate dinners, and if I had wanted to order myself one, I would have probably had to place an order right away, back to back to lunch, if I had intended to have it reasonably on time.

As for Na Prisca, she was not a night owl. As far as I knew, she never went out of an evening. I couldn’t quite get my head around as to why. All I could see was that her family was very tightly knit, very compact from the inside and pretty closed to the outside. Na Prisca’s constant state of being wary of strangers and her lingering suspicion that most of the people she didn’t know had to have some „angle“, to quote Paul, may have had roots in that siege mentality. Or at least that’s how it appeared to me. Maybe I was reading it all wrong. After all, I hardly knew them and I knew her only somewhat better. But during all the time we’d spent together, she had never mentioned a single friend. At least not someone she called friend at present. It was all about family. Parents and six brothers and sisters.

In other words, since she was the only person I knew in Burkina Faso, she was the only one I could have asked to join me for some night life. And as she never went out in the evening, it left me in effect stranded in the hotel every night. It’s not that I was crazy to go clubbing. First, after a month on the road, I was tired enough even without it. And second, sheer drinking had long stopped making any sense for me. But I wouldn’t have minded to go out once or twice. Just for the feel of an atmosphere. Just to see how locals – probably those more affluent ones – spend their evenings out.

Of course, I could have always ordered myself a taxi, asked for the name of the most popular dive and go out on my own. After all, on a certain level, how different would it be from going to a foreign country all alone like a number of us independent travellers do?

But I didn’t do it. Once again, after Na Prisca had left, I stayed in my hotel dig and had a kip early. She said she would come earlier next morning because she was inviting me to visit her family once again. We agreed that we would have lunch in town together and go to her place after that.

And that was it. The end of my last full day in Burkina Faso. Last full day this time around, at least.
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