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World through My Eyes My first trip to Africa

Ouagadougou, December 21, 2008 - Sunday

BURKINA FASO | Sunday, 18 March 2012 | Views [408]

The night before I had made an off-hand remark to Annette, kind of assuming that she would not be at my hotel exactly at daybreak, that before her arrival I might go to „Marina“ supermarket to buy some food and drinks for the trip today. We had discovered this supermarket just two blocks away from the „Belle Vue“ hotel. It obviously catered for European ex-pat community in Ouaga, a growing Chinese diaspora, and well-to-do locals, who, as expected, were in minority there. The goods on the shelves were mostly European, notably French, and prices often proudly exceeded those in European supermarkets. But same as I for the duration of my trip, all those with well-lined pockets in Burkinabe capital didn’t seem to care how much it cost them. They simply shopped where they knew they could get things they were used to buying back home. Or in case of Africans, maybe, things that would set them apart in one more way from the vast majority of those who could only dream of affording ice-cream, a bottle of champagne or Emmentaler cheese.

But Annette was nearly horrified at my suggestion.

„No!“ she had exclaimed. „Wait for me!“

Again, she was clearly afraid. According to her, precisely that area was very dangerous.

I had promised I would wait for her, then. And I did. With shopping, that is. But truth to say, I saw absolutely no reason why I would have to be afraid of anything in Ouaga. I had my inner voice and my hunches, and they clearly told me I was perfectly safe in this country. So, undaunted, I grabbed my camera and took a walk round the block. Not knowing when she would arrive, I didn’t dare stray too far. I simply hated to leave her waiting. But I considered a half an hour away from the hotel a safe bet.

And safe bet it was. I went in the direction of the supermarket and realised that it was located next to the Ouagadougou Grand Mosque. The mosque looked quite imposing, particularly when compared to the low rise character of the rest of the city, with the Avenue Kwame N’Krumah as sole exception of what I’d seen so far. Unfortunately, I knew nothing about the mosque and „Lonely Planet“ people evidently hadn’t lost much sleep over providing any information about it. But it was there, and the least I could do was take some pictures. And then I roamed the neighbourhood a bit, all along receiving calls and invitations to take a look at „this“ stall. Blanking them all, I eventually returned to the hotel.

At some point Annette and Mr Walter, her father, arrived on their bike. He stayed around for not more than five minutes, whishing us a safe trip and then left.

Right after that, we first went to the „Marina“ supermarket again. Well, it was again for me, but first time today for Annette. There we bought a few things to munch on and drink along the way and then we were all set to go. So we took a taxi and started towards the SKV gare routière internationale, or SKV international bus terminal.

But another thing had to be done before that and for me there was simply no way of getting around it. From the taxi I spotted a guy dressed in my country’s national football team’s jersey, by now the world famous red-and-white checkered shirt. Well, world famous for those who follow international football, at least. As soon as I saw him, I jumped on my seat and asked the driver to pull over for a minute. He did. I just had to take a picture with the guy.

Annette, predictably, was less than thrilled about my idea. But I would miss this photo opportunity for nothing. I all but dragged Annette out and asked her to explain to the guy that he was wearing my country’s football jersey and that I wanted to have a photo with him. She did that. To underpin my request, I produced my passport and showed its cover to the guy. The passport cover, of course, had a similar checkered coat of arms. Hence, in my mind it should have been enough to prove I was telling the truth, showing that my request was genuine, and making connection between the two clear. The guy agreed to the picture with me.

But the expression on his face clearly told me he had no clue whatsoever what on Earth I was on about. By now I was ready to bet my bottom dollar that, for all Annette’s explanations, he still didn’t know the first thing about whose national jersey he was having on, nor could see for the life of him any connection between it and my passport.

We went back into the taxi.

It seems to be a custom in African countries to show up in front of your bus well in advance of your departure time, like one hour or so. I don’t know exactly why, because even if giving them names the day before made sense now – for some reason they made a roll call of all passengers today, and only once you’d confirmed your presence, you could stow away your luggage into the storage space and get aboard – it all still hardly took more than fifteen or twenty minutes. With all that African propensity for slowing things down.

Be it as it may, Annette didn’t seem to be in much of a mood for action. She just took a seat in the shadow of the sheltered waiting space, where most of passengers were sitting as well, content to spend all the time there until we received a call to get aboard. As for me, I left my stuff with her and then roamed the compound and its immediate vicinity with the camera in my hand, prowling for things to take picture of. And as ever in Ouaga, every way you look, there are things not to miss. So that’s how we basically spent our time until the departure.

Then the roll call came and soon afterwards we were aboard. Our ride to Bobo-Dioulasso was just about to begin.

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