‘According to the tradition of the steppes, in order to live fully, it is necessary to be in constant movement; only then can each day be different from the last. When they passed through cities, the nomads would think: The poor people who live here, for them everything is always the same. The people in the cities probably looked at the nomads and thought: Poor things, they have nowhere to live. The nomads had no past, only the present and that is why they were always happy…’ Paulo Coehlo
I say that I always have a difficult time accepting change, but something in my subconscious continues to push me there- into a new transition. The transition forces me into places where I am challenged, uncomfortable, broken down to my basic elements, and from where I can rebuild with a new orientation and understanding. At some point it ends, things become comfortable, ordered and I’ve grown a little more. I’m stricken with the difficulty in knowing where to find my peace, and discovering the balance between a mental and physical nomadic experience…
Closing in on the end of the second week, and lots has changed since the last post. I feel that I have to express the other side of life here, which I’ve found this week. After a rigorous weekend of researching all the tourist sites, blogs, guidebooks etc. on Ouagadougou, I was able to get more familiar with my surroundings (at least on paper) and make a plan (see, engineering brain). Not to forget, some incredibly timely phone calls and emails provided the necessary encouragement for my first week on my own. I set up all the safety precautions for the week (drivers etc.) to suppress any (real or imaginary) dangers, and set aside any embarrassment that I had over seeming too powerless. The bottom is a good place to start, no? 🙂
So the fun stuff:
I found some African dance classes! 3 nights a week in a local theatre building. Strong powerful dancing and beautiful to watch. My class mates are all local males… I’m the uncoordinated white girl flapping around like a chicken in the back row. But they are receptive and respectful- so I take it seriously but think of Rebecca’s wise words to me last weekend, “Be gentle on yourself”, and try to bring in some humor when I’m completely lost. The drumming is live and you can’t help but want to move with the rhythm. The guys are truly incredible to watch, and I’m very happy to get a look at this part of their culture.
Met another foreign worker at the hotel this week. A hilarious Frenchmen working on water wells and reservoirs (everyone here seems to work with access to water or electricity, for obvious reasons) who spent a year at UQAM in Montreal. So once he caught my Canadian French accent, we hit it off. He has quite a network here and Thursday evening I was fortunate enough to be invited along to the over-the-top French embassy for a reception for visiting economics students from France. Rubbed shoulders with some interesting ministry workers here, drank a few glasses of French taxes, and chatted with the students about their week in Burkina. Turns out they thought it was neat and all, but will stick to their European investment banks…
And all this set me up for my biggest challenge of the week- walking on the streets. I went to bed on Thursday night setting the intention to walk to work the next morning (when the streets are pretty quiet at least). I had gotten a ride (for the 2 minute trip) all week, and was not happy with this. So indeed, on Friday I walked 20 minutes to the office! I felt so liberated. I will certainly still be driving around with people but now I’ve definitely overcome this mini obstacle. Hurray!
Some other impressions of Burkina Faso:
I’m slowly starting to understanding a little more of the mentality here. I get the impression that there is not much going on in general- people are just hanging around everywhere. But beyond this, the people here have developed something special. And as many foreigners keep telling me, Burkina is very different from other African countries, in a good way.
For one, there is a huge artist community! There are multiple buildings and organizations dedicated to theatre, music, film, painting, sculpture etc. Ouaga is the cultural capital of West Africa and has annual festivals that draw international performers and audiences. So I’m hoping to catch a few shows and the big artisan festival at the end of October.
There is also an amazing religious tolerance here, from what I have heard and perceived. With about a half Muslim and quarter Catholic population living in harmony (the other quarter is traditional faith), the cathedrals and mosques are without conflict.
And even with one of the worst scores on the human development index (177 out of 182 most likely due to the low literacy rate, Canada is number 4, Switzerland 9th), the streets are peaceful, and I have not heard of any organized crime or anything of this nature. It’s an interesting place, and I’m definitely beginning to enjoy it here. The journey continues…