Monday, 29 November 2010

The Perfect Pass

I don’t feel you need to be a football lover to understand this, but, if the sight of 11 boys kicking a pig-skin makes you feel nauseous, then feel free to either look away now or find the nearest bucket.
I love a game of football now and again. Perhaps a contender for the 2010 ‘Understatement of the Year’ competition.
So, on the way to work the other day, Antoine needed to pass by the local photocopier shop near the University to copy out some notes for his impending exams. As he spent five minutes in the ‘copy-shop’, I went to stand under the shade of a tree to watch a game of football between approximately 20 or so locals. Bricks for goalposts, a dusty surface and a notable lack of footwear on show. I stood there in my shades in the background, doing my best impression of a sleazy scout from some second-rate European club, ready to prize away any African talent. Ever the ‘know-it-all’ when it comes to football, I thought there was clearly some skill out there but, even in the mid-morning heat, it did seem like some energy and running was lacking – along with sweat – which I would provide in bucket loads (“No skill and little quality – but Chris likes to run a lot” – even in Burkina Faso, the sound of former teammates nodding in agreement is deafening). The truth be told, I wanted to be out there to prove to Africa that England’s dismal display in the World Cup was, of course, down to my absence. Then - my chance. The ball trickles into my path from a wild shot by a young striker, who misses the breeze blocks by some distance. A casual jog over to the ball, I realise the nearest player is about 30-yards away. 20 pairs of eyes glaring and in shock at the sight of a ‘le blanc’ coming out from the undergrowth to meet the ball.  
I absolutely nailed it. Spot on. To the guys feet. An arrogant swagger to finish off the pass. Antoine comes out with his copies. “Allez Chris”. “Ok Antoine, my work here is done”.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Kettle: Part 2

I often wonder whether people read this and think I am a fabricator, an embellisher of the truth.......a total and utter liar. If only it were true, because as you will read, I could really murder a brew right now.
After ‘kettlegate’ (see ‘The Kettle’), I decided enough was enough and went out into the manic suburban chaos near my hotel to buy a kettle from a local vendor. The biscuits I brought over here were just looking far too lonely without something to be dipped in, and, after going to all the effort to bring my own Sainsbury’s coffee, as George Best probably said on one more than one occasion, “it would be rude not to”.
Now, something I’ve learned from my brief time in West Africa, is if you need to buy something in particular, you needn’t go to an actual shop which sells it. Merely trot off to a shop which vaguely resembles what you are looking for, and if they don’t have it, I guarantee the shop keeper will know a man who does. Not only will he/she know somebody, but the chances are they are in close proximity and can even be called upon with a loud ‘shout’. Indeed, my guy didn’t really know what I was asking for, nevermind sell the item, but alas, in 10 minutes his friend was over with a choice of 3 plastic kettles. Each looked a bit ‘Blue Peter’ for my liking with Chinese writing scrawled over the front. I was assured however, that two were definitely better than the other – so I went for the other; a slightly cheaper option saving about a pound. In hindsight, I regret my decision.
The next night, I opened a packet of Custard Creams and went to make a cup of coffee. After unearthing the Plastic Chinese Electric Water Boiler (to call it a kettle would be offensive to those kettles more deserving of the title), I plugged it in to see if all the adapters worked in harmony. I could hear a faint hissing noise. Nice one. Bingo! And then.....BANG! Two minutes later, after wiping the Chinese kettle gunpowder from my eyes and emptying the contents of my now rather nervous pants, I realised that perhaps these things weren’t designed to be switched on empty. Maybe the Chinese writing really did mean something after all?

The exploding kettle. The translation of the Chinese text reads, 'Buy this kettle, and the only mug around here is you'

Sunday, 21 November 2010

It's Election Night in Burkina Faso

Thousands of voters lining the streets, throngs of supporters, a swing-o-meter, constant political debate on TV and the air of suspense at a new dawn in Burkina Faso’s history.
Not here I’m afraid.
November 21st. Election day in Burkina Faso. When I was told the Presidential elections were this weekend, I genuinely felt a twinge of excitement thinking I would witness something remarkable and unique for someone from my part of the world. To understand my disappointment, you need to understand some history.
1987. Thomas Sankara, nicknamed the ‘Che Guevara’ of Africa, was ousted in a military coup. ‘Thom Sank’ is famed for changing the name of a country previously known as Upper Volta to Burkina Faso (‘Land of the Incorruptible’), introducing literacy, giving the country some financial grounding and ridding it of corruption. I see his name scrawled on a brick wall on my way to work every day. It simply says, “Thomas Sankara est en vie”.
Introducing Captain Blaise Campaoré. The captain led the military junta and in 1991, was elected as the sole candidate and President on the back of low voter turnout. 19 years later he remains President with little opposition, some controversy and consistently over 80% of the vote.
Today, Burkina Faso is 161 out of 169 nations in United Nations (UN) Human Development Index (a quote I have yet to see omitted from any article about BF). In other words, it is a very poor country, even by Sub-Saharan Africa standards. So why will Blaisé still be President when I wake up tomorrow morning? It may be a poor country, but Burkina Faso is also one of the most stable. Remember, we only hear the bad stuff on BBC and SkyNews and this is probably why many of us have never heard of Burkina Faso before. Blaisé is seen as a peace moderator in a region of Africa where countries seem to ‘love a squabble’. I read one voter say, “we don’t have anything, but we have peace”. I asked Antoine’s friend, Fernando, why he was voting for Blaisé. He just said, “C’est Blaisé”.
It’s not all ‘familiarity breeds content’ however. Others feel ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. But, no one can decide what to do about it. There are in fact six other candidates, but the chances of seeing an election campaign poster without President Campaore’s face on it, are about as good as finding a white guy in a red and white hooped jumper in Ouagadougou called Wally.
My biggest disappointment. As I write, Reuters are reporting a trickle of voters as the polls close. Only 3million out of a population of 16million are registered to vote; and of these, with the result a foregone conclusion, people are simply not bothered. If you allow me to saddle my incredibly high horse for one moment (the only time I promise), this is a real shame when you consider the effort put into and lives lost to get that vote. I went with Antoine to cast his at a local primary school this afternoon. I think the parent’s evenings see more action. Blaise was urging people to get out and ‘rock the vote’ this afternoon (he didn’t actually say ‘rock’ but you know what I mean). He needn’t bother. He won’t be phoning up the local estate agent tomorrow to move out of his big house in central Ouaga.  
Whatever the outcome, I was ready to take my camera out on to the streets of Ouagadougou today and capture democracy in Africa, in action, and tell you all about it. More fool me. I had a Sunday afternoon snooze instead.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Strangely Familiar

As the last blog highlighted. Few things change. And during my first day back in Ouagadougou, it seems nothing changes in Burkina Faso, except for maybe my room. I now reside in A11 instead of my previous home, room A2, which has experienced a small but significant natural disaster. The toilet has flooded. No you cheeky wasn’t me!
There was something almost cocky about my entrance into the country yesterday. I breezed through passport control and then just sat at the back of the terminally ill-looking terminal, waiting, as the herd flocked toward the comically dumped bags on the floor. A few of the other Europeans on the flight looked a little lost. I took my bag and waltzed though customs (not literally – wonderful image though).
The same hotel. The same lack of towels. The same friendly faces at work. The same “Ca va, Chez toi?” and then blank look on my face as the art of conversation moves on from mere greetings. I even knew the little lad who served me my sugary yoghurt in the suburban mini-mart (wow, ‘mini-mart’, since when did I become American!).  I even seamlessly went for a plate of oil with a splattering of spaghetti on top at Madamme Claude’s round the corner. I guess, with a touch of exaggeration, it’s like going to the Moon and just going back to the same crater. What’s the point?! I’m in danger of making Burkina Faso ‘a familiarity’.  So, I’m not going back to Mdme C’s tomorrow, or any other day for that matter. Plus, I did once see a stray cat crawl over the kitchen tops precariously close to the spaghetti bowl.
I feel like I owe an apology. I promised last time to describe a country which, lets face it, not many of us had heard of previously. All you got was tales of lizards, crap French and avocado sandwiches. Well, what better way to start discussing the history and a bit more about this place than with the Burkina Faso Presidential elections this Sunday. Blaise Campaore, the incumbent President has over 20 years of office and is set to win again this weekend. Did someone say, “Strangely familiar”?
Now I know how the locals feel.

Friday, 19 November 2010

The Kettle

I can’t quite recall which general, admiral or famous leader (or was it Shakespeare) said the words as his troops went into battle, “once more into the breach dear friends, once more”, but those words certainly ring true when asking for a kettle to boil some water in the Hotel des Conferences. Yes, I’m back in Burkina Faso. Let’s do away with the pleasantries.
I prepared my ‘pre-match’ speech in my room and gave the hotel the respect to look up ‘kettle’ in my mini French dictionary (bouilloire). I even took a final swig of water so my palate and French were in harmony. No point. On delivering the game plan, the receptionist maintained a look that rather suggested I wanted to pour a kettle of boiled water over her head, rather than just hand one over. After some confused chatter and on realising Plan B wasn’t working (hot, chaud + water, l’eau), she called over some colleagues to join in the fun. Finally, we got there and a kind hotel clerk offered to bring some hot water to my room so that I can enjoy a cup of the Dairy Milk hot chocolate I remembered to pack.
He’s just knocked on my door with a jug of water. It’s cold. And there’s no cup.
Bienvenue a Hotel des Conferences

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Burkina Faso Top 5: Part 1 - Food

As some may know, I love a top 5 (except with Bealtes songs – it is impossible to have a top 5 so don’t even try to tell me you have one). For the next few posts, I’ll give you a few top5s of Burkina Faso and hopefully it will show just what I really like about this country. There is very little not to.

Today’s topic. Food.

Missing out on the top5 is this plate of caterpillars served with a helping of rice. They tasted of wood.

5) Ragout et pommes de terre. Its meat. Its potatoes. Could almost be in Yorkshire. What more do you want?

4) Yaourt et sucre. As I said in my last post – this is a delicious desert after a huge lunch. More like a shot of sugar.

3) Chicken and chips. If you’re Western and don’t fancy dipping your toe into the luke warm bath of West African cuisine, I’m guessing you’ve ordered ‘Poulet et des frites’. Its usually covered in oil but this is the best thing about it. Naughty but nice.

2) Riz et sauce. Burkina’s favourite. The legend Seydou’s favourite. With ‘sauce tomat’ or ‘sauce feuille’ (quite nutty that one). At 80pence in one of the countless Madamme’s restaurants – a steal. And the portions are huge!

1) Advocat sandwich for breakfast. My favourite Burkina Faso dish for my favourite meal. Sound strange? It did to me at first but since I discovered this delightful little stand near work run by the evergreen Dauda, it has become my staple meal to get me pumped up for another day in Burkina Faso. It has got to the stage when Dauda doesn’t even ask me what I want. I’ve watched him make it so much, here’s the recipe.

• 1 advocat

• 1 small tomato

• 1 small onion

• Loads of oil

• More than a pinch of salt

• A fresh baguette.

Take the advocat and remove the stone. Scoop out the inside and chop up in a warm pan. Finely chop an onion and a tomato and mix in with the advocat. Throw as much oil as you can into the pan (Dauda doesn’t use Tesco’s finest I’m guessing?) and a fairly kind helpful of salt. Mix together and spoon into a baguette. Serve with a ‘voila’.

Just don’t order Cafe au Lait with your sandwich. Dauda serves his coffee in a bowl with a spoon.

Friday, 3 September 2010

He ironed my boxer shorts.....

He ironed my boxer shorts. There are three possible reasons for this:

a) He thought it is what us white folk do.

b) He was in a really good mood.

c) Its how Burkina men roll. Pressed.

Anyway, after two weeks of wearing the same trousers (I was considering a trip to the local hospital for some surgical removal) and coming scarily close to that ‘inside-out’ tactic, the guy at the local laundry has quickly risen up my ‘favourite people’ chart.

If only I could say the same about some of the shop assistants and waitresses in Burkina Faso. It is an irony I can’t get my head around. The Burkinabe have to be the cheeriest and most pleasant people on the planet. There isn’t a five minutes which goes by when someone doesn’t say, “Bonne arrive”, “Bon appétit”, “Ca va bien”. Regardless of wealth or status – everyone is the same. It makes you feel good about yourself and is my favourite thing about Burkina Faso. So when you go to get some food or buy some soap, someone definitely switched off the ‘happy tap’. An example. Today, Antoine drove me to the local bus station to check out the times of the buses for my weekend adventure (to be revealed). Anyway, minor details. On the way back, we stopped off at a typical ‘grocery store’ for Antoine’s weekly shop. As we were leaving, I realised I wanted a ‘Yaourt de sucre’. This little packet of sugary yoghurt has become a firm favourite following a recommendation from a friend. So, as I approach the counter, the man with the frown told me to go the adjacent counter. A normal request, if only the woman behind that counter wasn’t a sleep. “Well, can’t you serve me?”, “No, she will serve you”, “But she’s asleep?!” ......shrug of the shoulders. She awakes at this point and gives me a stare the Wicked Witch of the West (Africa) would shudder at. “Je suis desolee madamme pour reveiller” (bad French for Sorry to disturb your sleep). What am I doing?! I’m apologising for buying a yoghurt and waking her up at 2 in the afternoon! Its the same at the local cafes/restaurants. Sometimes you’d think that instead of asking for ‘Riz Sauce’, I asked, could I punch your mum.

So the Burkinabe. Nicest people on Earth – except in Tesco!

Friday, 27 August 2010

"Tu es anglais?"

I think I look and sound quintessentially English. I have pasty white skin, which, when exposed to the sun for about 5 minutes, turns bright pink. I have ginger hair – a prerequisite for most Scots and Irish but reserved for those few lucky Englishman. And I speak French as if I was saying, “alright mate, hows it goin?”, down the pub.

So, stood outside my favourite restaurant in Bobo Dioulasso, Dankan (not least for the free Wifi but they also do a mean ‘Riz et sauce’), I’m approached by two young lads. In the knowledge they will be trying to sell me something, I prepare my best and fastest English speak, a tactic I use to get rid of people quite quickly (my French also does this anyway so I don’t know why I bother). They are ‘artisans’ looking to sell their latest ‘African’ t-shirts. Not interested. Anyway, they ask whether I am ‘francais’, “No”, I reply. “Belge”, “No”. “Swiss”, “No”. “Canadienne”, “No”. Ok, so we’ve been through all the Francophones. “Allemagne”, “No”. “Italien”, “No”. Ok, we’ve removed the other obvious European countries. Looking increasingly frustrated, one of them asks, “Grec”. Greece? Come on mate, try harder. And I am not kidding, his next question........“Chinoise”. Sometimes I despair.

As you can see, it is the little things in Burkina Faso which tickle me most, none more so than this warning sign.

What I would give to attach this to the front of my house
PS –can those of you with a decent grasp of French not be too harsh on the spellings of the countries above. They’re better than the guy’s grasp of my nationality.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Paula Radcliffe

My mum hates Paula Radcliffe. I never really can understand why, but she does, and often vents her ‘Paula-fury’ with some vigour. She isn’t the only one. The English press shower her in the very stuff that Paula herself, has a tendency to produce, during her marathons.

Athens, summer 2004. Paula Radcliffe breaks down during the Olympic marathon, exhausted, and clearly in distress. Cue the tears and the trauma of a failed attempt to win gold. Loser. Failure. Briton hasn’t got talent.

A quick look at the BBC website weather section and Athens is currently about 32-34C daily. This is roughly the same as Ouagadougou right now, although it is a lot more humid here. Furthermore, from what I understand, Athens, like Ouaga, is quite a polluted city during the summer months.

Now, if you allow me a little bit of modesty, I think I am a semi-decent runner. After a few days of settling in to Ouaga life, I decide to brave it and go out for a run. This is more out of necessity since I am running the Berlin marathon next month and my training has been akin to a three-legged elephant with gout.

I go out for 12 minutes up and down the street and back. The next day, 17 minutes around a football pitch. This isn’t very long for my modest self. There are stares, shouts and hissing from the locals, presumably because they think I’m a lunatic, but I can deal with this and on the whole; it is all good fun and banter (except for the kid who threw a pentanque ball at me – I’ll get you next time - punk!).

The heat, however, is unbearable. And this is at 8am. Honestly, if I was on the menu and you ordered me, I would come back ‘char-grilled’. Perhaps my decision to leave the water behind was slightly naive, but if after 12 minutes you’re running top turns from ‘traffic light red’ to ‘dark mauve’ through pure sweat, there is a serious health issue to be addressed here. Plus, I probably breathed in enough soot and ash from the bikes to make my lungs look like that of a ’60-a-day’ smoker.

The point of my ramble, and there is one, is this;

1) Running in Ouaga is not healthy.

2) Mum, go easy on Paula.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

The lizard

There are certain things in life you must not do. Add trying to urge a lizard from your hotel room to that list.

After a couple of beers with Antoine and Seydou, I returned to the Hotel des Conferences to find a small lizard perched precariously near the biscuits I bought earlier in the day. For some reason, and I guess this was in large part due to the ‘Brakina’ beer, I decided that I wasn’t prepared to spend a night with this lizard – I have standards. I tried as many tactics as possible. I threw my shoe at it. I threw water at it (bottled water – strange choice given this actually costs money – but that’s how I roll!). I tried to blow on it (don’t ask why). And I tried to put in it in my trainer so I could throw it outside. Nothing worked. All the lizard did was scurry off with most probably a heartfelt chuckle. At one point, the lizard moved over on the ceiling directly above my bed. I don’t care how good he or she is at climbing walls, I’m not going to sleep with this thing hanging above me. So, I climbed onto the head board behind my bed, only for the lighting in the room to cut out. My guess is the wiring runs through the head board and so now, I’m stuck in this room in the dark, wondering whether to call the hotel manager to get it fixed or simply move to another room. The latter would indeed mean that I get to have a fresh towel.

The lizard still roams free.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Bobo Dioulassou

John Lennon once famously described there being ‘four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire’, after reading a local newspaper report about the number of potholes peppering the local roads. Well John, there are four thousand and one holes on the road and Burkina's main highway, from Ouagadougou to Bobo Dioulassou (Burkina Faso’s second largest city). The trip is about 200 miles and our driver, Sadu, clearly knows which holes to avoid judging by his slalom at 70miles an hour. I call Sadu, “Voila Sadu”, after his endearing habit of saying “voila” at the end of every sentence. Sadu is the kind of guy you need in an emergency or indeed, if you need a Land Rover driving across mud, water and.....errrr, some holes, in West Africa. We get a puncture 10 minutes into the journey on the way back from Bobo. Many of us I’m sure would simply call the AA but Sadu and the rest of our crew change the tyre as if it were as easy as spreading butter on toast. I just stand in awe, looking like a ‘pleb’ pretending to help. Lads, I think that if you want to impress the ladies, then learn to change a tyre – there isn’t a more manly function. Sadu. Great guy.

It’s nice to get out of Ouaga. This part of Burkina is just a wallpaper of green and not like the dust bowl I thought it would be. Lovely! Although, occasionally spoilt by the sight of a lone man, standing up straight and relieving himself, free as a bird. P****** in the wind?

We were on a ‘mission’. The centre I am working with officially declared it a ‘mission’ – it says so on the paperwork - which I think is wonderful and made me want to buy some kind of hat. About 20km south-east of Bobo is the village of Soumousso. I am guessing the locals didn’t expect to wake up for the past two mornings to the sight of a pasty white, ginger male stood over a puddle of water, a ladle in one hand and bucket in the other. I’m also guessing you’re not so clear on this either. There are five of us – Me, Antoine, Voila Sadu, Eva and Vallia – the ‘A team plus one’. We’re here to collect mosquitoes for the project we’re working on – the actual point of my visit. Soumousso is rural so it is very poor, but every single local (with the exception of the donkeys) has a ‘ca va’ for you and this makes you feel really welcome. No shortage of mossies so once they’re caught we’re off back to Bobo for the rest of the day.
The entrance to the Grande Marche, Bobo.

Bobo is nicer than Ouaga. The locals say so. Lonely planet says so. I say so. It’s not that Ouaga is particularly bad, but Bobo just feels a little more hassle free, less motorbikes and a load of decent cafe’s lining the streets. Except the market (la Grande Marche) – but I knew this before I braved going in. If you get the chance, experience a West African market. I don’t mean go out and buy a bunch of bananas and a dodgy washing machine, just sample the atmosphere. It is so intense and loud. You will get hassled but the banter is all part of the fun. Some guy told me he was from Mali, how he wanted to be my friend, could he have my address and that it was his first day out of prison – I told him it was my first day out too – he seemed a little perplexed by that one and left me alone. On the last evening, I am on the phone when I see a white guy in a car coming out from the sports centre outside my digs. It took two, looks, and I’m contemplating going over and looking like a complete idiot to see if it is a guy who I met and spent many happy and hazy drunk nights with in Benin four years ago (yes, another obscure West African country – go get your map again). So, I go and look like an idiot. “Is that you Cedric!!!” It is! Small world isn’t it? Anyway, Cedric knows Bobo’s ‘cool’ places so we go off for another hazy night. Mission complete.


Cedric and I reunited in Burkina. I've just realised how drunk I look in this picture - I wasn't that bad......

PS – It took 6 days and approximately 10 hours. My gung-ho approach to sampling the local delicacies has well and truly, and quite literally, backfired.......

Monday, 16 August 2010

Top10 things to bring to Ouaga.........

It has been five days now and there are clearly some items you must bring out to West Africa if you ever find yourself staying a whole month and like me, have plenty of time to kill. I am slowly beginning to regret not packing my suitcase to the brim with them. Top 10:

1) Chocolate. Plenty of it. I brought four boxes of jaffa cakes and have munched my way through three boxes already. Perhaps bring some will power with you to!
2) Coffee/Tea. If you’re like me, and like a decent brew, trust me, there are no Starbucks in Burkina Faso (I’ve looked!).The little packets of Nestle coffee topped with a sprinkling of powdered milk (which never dissolves no matter how vigorous your stirring ability is!) will not do the trick.

3) A good DVD box set. The one item I did bring. Sopranos. First time I’ve seen it. Immense.

4) Light long sleeve shirts. Forget fashion. Just stay cool!

5) Your work. Yes, I am very busy at work during the day but if you’ve got some work left over from home then bring some. My most productive evenings ever cooped up in les Hotel des Conferences. The thesis is nearly nailed!

6) Football shirts. And wear them! Nothing gets a conversation started better when you’re French Make a great present too.

7) A hat. Simple. Yes. For me. No. What an idiot!

8) A towel. The hotels des conferences clearly seemed taken aback by my request for another towel after my 17th shower. You will sweat a lot.

9) An instrument. Sounds daft and yes, I know it isn’t essential, but with so much spare time, a great chance to, I’ve already requested a trip to the nearest music shop in Ouaga.

10) A ‘Ca va’ and a ‘bonne journee’. Every local appreciates a good hello, how you doing? And you can pretend you know some French for a few minutes..........

Best wishes, Chris

Saturday, 14 August 2010

The Barack Obama

No, I am not referring to America’s premier black president, nor the symbol of ‘hope’ or ‘change’, but in fact, this is the name of Ouagadougou’s favourite motorbike. A black (naturally), 50cc mean machine. Now, in a city, where ‘le mobylette’ is king, this is no mean feat. You honestly cannot comprehend the number on the orange dusty streets, particularly first thing in the morning and during home time around 7 at night. Around 8am, Antoine (friend and colleague from work) picks me up on his motorbike (I joke with him that in our case it’s a push bike with a motor attached). The journey is not long but if the cartoon, ‘Wacky Races” was going to be made into a Hollywood smash hit then I’d look no further than Ouaga. The sheer number of bikes also makes the air thick with soot and ash so if you want to stop climate change Barack, nevermind getting a bike named after yourself, I’d start here mate.

Talking of bikes, I’ve just been to my first, and most probably, only Burkina Faso wedding (friend of Antoine’s – no, I don’t just go to random weddings for kicks!). The wedding itself was all pretty standard but after the ‘I dos’, everyone got onboard a bike and we all made way for more ceremony and food in a huge convoy, travelling purposely slowly and subsequently, causing gridlock throughout the city centre. Anyone up for this on the M25 at the next wedding?

Meanwhile, back at ‘les Hotel des Conference’, we have 32 ‘couples’ who have requested double rooms (i.e. two couples to a room) away from any other guests, according to the hotel marketing manager. The swingers are in town baby!


Picture: 'The mean machine'. Antoine or the bike?

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Ouagadougou: Probably the best baggage reclaim in the world.

The baggage reclaim at Ouagadougou airport is a lesson for all those breakdown prone conveyor belts and ‘let’s have another strike’ baggage handlers all around the world. Two guys. One big trolley. Mission: to dump and scatter the luggage on the floor in the most random way possible. Cue a massive passenger scrum. Job done! I am guessing the success rate of obtaining the right bag is significantly reduced but this is way more fun.

I email from ‘les Hotels des Conferences’ on the outskirts of ‘Ouaga’ city centre. I have a desk, a cold shower and an itchy bed. And plenty of flies to keep me company. It does more than a job although you would have to be a large giraffe, with an unusually long neck by giraffe standards, to see the ‘one channel’ TV from the bed (that is the view from my pillow). But hey, the WiFi works so whats there to moan about.........

Once settled, to the hotel restaurant. I am guessing I was barely three minutes into my rice fish supper last night, when something MarsBar sized and scurrying along caught the eye underneath the table. A small rodent perhaps? Oh no, not to worry, it’s only a cockroach. Now, if you’re in the Little Chef back in the UK (never mind somewhere with actual real food – I urge you to go to the Little Chef and have the scrambled eggs – might as well just eat some Playdoh) most of us would be storming straight over to the ‘Hot Plate’. It’s strange how these things simply make you shrug your shoulder over here. You’re in Africa now boyo – get on with it!

A demain..............

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

"Waga where?"

“Chris, where are you going?”, “Ouagadougou”, “Waga what?”, “Ouagadougou”, “Wag-ya-dodo”, “No, Ouagadougou!”, “Where’s that?”, “Burkina Faso”, “Never heard of it”.

I’ve had this roundabout conversation everyday for the past month now since I knew I was off to Burkina Faso for four weeks. So what do I know about Ouagadougou apart from it pretty much guarantees you a comprehensive victory in Scrabble. Not a lot to be honest. It’s in West Africa, its poor, it’s hot and wet (in August anyway – not the poor bit, that is an all year round thing) and their football team are affectionately known as ‘Les Etalons’ (The Stallions). So, sat in Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and full-up on a most expensive and anti-climatic ‘le ceaser salad’, I thought I should touch base back home with this blog and tell you about a country most of us have clearly never heard of. So go and look Burkina up on a map and until next time......