Burkina Faso — Congé solidaire
Only one word can express what I felt during my first day in Ouagadougou: WOW! Although I had prepared myself for a culture shock, I did not expect this.
The environment is completely different here. Driving up to my residence at night, everything seemed eerie. Even the location of my hostel seemed questionable. But as soon as the sun came up, everything that appeared to be dark and rundown was actually quite lively! The city of Ouagadougou is filled with large infrastructure mixed with smaller shops and kiosks which you can find on every street selling everything from food to cellphones. An extraordinary number of cars, bikes and motorcycles drive on both paved roads and red dirt paths at various speeds and based on what seems to be unofficial driving rules (to give you an example, there are no lines on the road… people seem to just go with it). This little Canadian girl made up her mind: while she’s here, she’ll stick to taxis and will in no circumstance take the wheel!
The team at the organization that is leading my fellowship engagement, the CECI, welcomed me with opened arms and made me feel right at home. It was so interesting to chat with them and I truly appreciate the work that they do for the country. At night, I spent a bit of time at the “Institut français”, a gorgeous cultural centre filled with African art and offering a number of activities, including international movies, theatre, music shows and art exhibitions.
The only moment that I was a bit uncomfortable was walking home after my dinner at the Institut. Here in Burkina Faso, nightfall comes around 6:00pm. Therefore, around 8:00pm, I hurried back to my hostel, only to be followed for two blocks by a young man who seemed to want to chat but actually just wanted to sell me cd’s. But what’s reassuring is that the Burkinabés that I have met are the nicest people. They love to chat, get your perspective on things, and wouldn’t hurt a fly. However, already, I’ve had to say that I’m married three times!
After a five hour drive this morning, I finally arrived in Bobo-Dioulasso where my work with the partner organization will start tomorrow morning. This city is charming and I’m told that it is the cultural hub of Burkina Faso. I’m looking forward to exploring it!