Monday, November 14, 2016


I ended my day in Casablanca by returning the airport to catch my flight to Ouagadougou. I was excited, feeling buoyed by my successful day, but as it grew closer to boarding, i started to get nervous. This happens sometimes, when i am about to go somewhere strange and i am happy about it but also apprehensive. Like, "What am i doing? Why didn't i just go to [insert pleasant and easy to visit country]?" I remember having that feeling on the flight to Tel Aviv, the bus to Cairo, the flights to Moscow and Addis Ababa. It happens at times when i realize or believe that i am the only traveler on board, that no one speaks English and my words learned in the local language are totally inadequate. It always turns out great, but in those moments i do feel a bit nervous. I wanted to mention that because sometimes i feel like my travel accounts neglect to mention the hard parts about traveling. 

But, as i said, it always turns out well.

I arrived in Ouagadougou at 1:30am, shuffled off the plane, onto the tarmac and into an airport that was on par with a small town 1980s bus station. Got my backpack and spotted a guy with my name scrawled on a piece of paper (i try not to mess around with hailing cabs in the middle of the night) and was at my guesthouse shortly thereafter. Sleep.

The next morning i was able to take in the overwhelming charm that is my accommodations - Chez Giuliana - a guesthouse owned by a friendly, older Italian lady. It is a riot of color, with nooks and crannies housing welcoming seating areas and African art. And there is an excellent rooftop patio for breakfasts and cigars. 

At breakfast i chatted with a young woman here from New York doing research for her PhD in theatre (with a special interest in puppetry, which is right up my alley). We commiserated about the Trump election victory.

I then took a taxi downtown to explore on foot. 

Ouagadougou is busy, dusty, underdeveloped, and fascinating. The streets are often unpaved and are without sidewalks. Motorcycles, bicycles, and beat-up green taxis are everywhere. Lots of roadside markets, hair salons, cell phone stations, gas stations (read: petrol sold from wine & soda bottles at wooden tables), open fires for cooking chicken, fish being gutted, coffee being sold. Women walk in that eternal magic trick of being able to carry huge bundles or baskets of papaya or carafes of water on their heads. People speak French and Moore, very little English. 

I definitely stand out, but there is little of the hassle of other places where everyone wants to sell me souvenirs or act as a guide or ask for money. There just isn't much of a tourist trade here. In the sprawling market there were some craft and jewelry stalls which i was invited to look at, but there wasn't too much pressure to buy. There were some nice carvings and textiles. As i left, men had put out carpets and were facing east to pray. 

I visited le Grande Mosque, a few street side cafes, a closed museum, and found some salvation from the blazing heat at a leafy, courtyard restaurant where i bravely (stupidly?) ate a salad (stupidly because lettuce is almost certain to make me sick, but there was little else vegetarian).

I took a taxi back to the suburb where i am staying. Ice cream for dinner (again, a serious lack of vegetarian food, or even restaurants in this neighbourhood). It is dark now and still very warm. I can't believe that just yesterday i was cursing the cold in Brussels. 

1 comment:

Melinda said...

I love all the colour you are surrounded by on your travels. Our little bubble of the world seems so grey next to it.