Burkina Faso

I wake up at 5:30, still a little groggy from Fire Festival last night, but I’m determined to make it to the border and into Burkina Faso awith enough time to explore around. After I rinse off and brush my teeth I get the realization that gives me the energy of travel and I’m off. I wake Spencer up to let him know that I’m leaving and tell him to thank Emily again for me. As I get on the main road the sun is just starting to rise and my plan is going perfectly so far. I didn’t want to walk on this strange road in the dadr, but I also wanted to leave as early as possible, so this is me meeting in the middle.  I start walkilng down the orad back in the direction of Deare, the town on the main road. It’s a long walk, but there are no cars on the so road so I start the journey on foot. In the back of my mind I’m hoping that a car passes, but at the same time I’m determined to make the walk if I have to. After about 10 minutes of wlaking, a motorcycle stops next to me. They’re called motos here. I’ve only been a passenger on a dirtbike once and never ridden a moto and that isn’t just a coincidence. I think riding a moto is a stupid risk to take, especially at speeds that exceed 30 miles an hour. I don’t care where I am or where I’m goin there is no way I would ride a moto on the highway. My life is too precious and there are plenty of other stupid risks that I take, I don’t need to add that one to the list. I’d much rather jump out of an airlane, with a parachute of course, than ride a moto on the highway. Anyway, the man is calling me over in Dogbani and I immediately revert to asking hi mif he speaks Twi, then when that fails I revert back to English, and finally just saying “naaa” and get on the moto. I get a surge of adrenaline and I’m ready to start my first moto ride. Before we take off I start to feel a very sharp pain on the inside of my right calf. I look down and realize that my leg is resting on the exhaust. I quickly pull it off as we start down the road. I don’t bother to check how bad the burn is. I’m a little occupied with keeping my attention on the road so we don’t crash and fly off. The road is dirt ,so we aren’t going fast, but we’re approaching my limit at about 30 miles an hour. I sit back with good posture so I don’t’ destroy my back and try to keep my weight as centered as possible. My back pack is heavy and I’m already bigger than this guy, so I don’t want to throw things off. We pass thourgh the next few towns no problem, except each time we go over speed bumps. I hold my breath and they aren’t that bad, especially since we almost come to a stop as we go voer them. Then we pass through the last few town and there are a bunch of goats in the raoad. By a bunch, I mean there are probably 50 goats scattered through the road. At some points it’s even hard to see the dirt anymore. He doesn’t seem to be phased as he doesn’t even slow down a bit. I squeeze my knees and brace mys elf as we fly by these goats that are despretly trying to get out of our way. Some aren’t fast enough, so now we’re swerving in between the animals. Some of the animals are even dumb enough to run in the direction we’re turning to get around them and we nearly miss a few. He honks his horn and that doesn’t do much, expect scare the enxt group that we are heading to. We finally pass the goat maze and I’m able to relax a bit and I immediately notice the wind blowing on the burn on my calf. I make a note to check it as soon as we get off the moto at the main road.

 We make it to the main road and I’m already quickly calculating my strategy to hitch a ride to the border. As I hop off the moto I thank him in Twi, English, a naaa, and even a gesture with my hands just to put some icing on the cake. For all I know saying naa in this situation is like insulting his mother, so I quickly get on my way as I have this realization. Emily said it would be easy to hitch a ride on this road because she has done it before to get to the boarder. Gee, I can’t see how it might be easier for her to catch a ride then it would be for my ugly mug. However, that tells me that is she felt safe, then so do I.

 That also brings me to my next rant. You can skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to hear it. I completely understand. Hoever, I need to get this out and welcome any enlightenment anyone want to share. I’m not picking on Emily when I say this, she’s really very good person. But, that’s one thing that I’ve noticed most women do. This isn’t an attack in any way because it happens with males too, this is ust simply an obersvation, in rant form. I wish we could all observe both sides of this issue and have compassion when people have to struggle more than you or me. My observation is that women tend to be very vocal about their short compings in society, or things that might be more difficult fo them than for men. There’s no arguing the points are valid. Points such as it being less safe to travel along (especially at night), there are more single mothers than fathers in the world, more women are victims of harassment by the opposite sex, and the list goes on. Again, all of the points are valid and definitely should be openly discussed and brought to our attention. My problem is the other side of the coin that seems to be lost somewhere in the deck. Benefits including that women have a much higher chance to be bought a drink at the bar, help with a broken down vehicle, leanience of the rules with something as simple as surface-level flirting, a lot of time it is assumed that their dinner/date is bought, they get a big fat diamond as an engagement ring, getting a ride somewhere at no charge, and many more. I think I’ve made this point and it can be made positively and negatively for males as well. My wish is only for people to try to put themselves in other’s shoes and have some compassion when they can’t understand why they spend so much at the bar, they can’t just ask for the rules to be bent or for a ride, and have it granted. I’ve gotten these questions genuinely from many women before and I just want to start this rant that it’s just not how society works for men. All I hope is that maybe a woman offers to pay for a date or when their granted a ride or a broken rule they are grateful and they understand that it might not be as easy if they tell their male friend to do the same. Instead of just thinking they should be able to accomplish the same, they could share their concern that there’s a good chance that it won’t happen and that another solution should be sought out. On the other side of the fence I hope that some man offers to escort a woman at night or organize a neighborhood watch group to escort women hoem in place with a high risk of crime or is grateful and more responsible when they realize that they have an easier time traveling to places at night alone, they might think twice before they impregnate a woman, even though it will be easier for them to just walk away from the situation. All I’m asking for is a little more compassion for the other side. Oh gosh I could get into this whole issue with politics and much more, but I promise I’ll spare you, at least for today. Alright, I’ll step off my soap box before some angry people come after me.

 So I’m walking down the main road now and I want to get to the end so it seems like I’m in the middle of no where or at least appear to have given up and decide to walk the long road. I’ve gotten pretty good at hitch hiking since being here. To try to continue with my last rant I’m also grateful that I have a much easier time hitch hiking than any of my friends who don’t happen to have such light skin. I’ve heard my friends complain many times that someone with an empty car will just pass another black man on the side of the road, probably for many reasons, some good and some bad. Well, my strategy works and I get a ride in a very nice pick up truck. I greet them and they tell me they’re not going to the boarder, but will give me a lift to as far in that direction as they are traveling. We drive down the road for about 45 minutes and we seem to be going very fast because we’re passing most cars on the road. Then the time comes and we pull over in between town in front of a truck. We get out and I greet the people sitting in front of the truck, who are elated that a white man is speaking Twi with them. I thak them all and start walking to the next town. The road is very visible and I even pass by a pllice training camp with some walking about in the street.

 I get to the next won and use the same strategy by getting gto outskirts of the otherside of the town. Again, the strategy works when a big truck carrying oranges stops to invite me in. THey’re about 100 yards away, so I start to run to not make them wait. When I’m almost there a man jumps out and invites me in as he climbs the back of the truck to grab a bunch of plastic bags filled with oragnes. I hop in the truck and greet the friver and passenger. The passenger seems much more happy to talk and the driver much more happy to just drive and concentrate on the road. Fari enough, I ask the passenger if he knows Twi and he chuckles as he tells me they’re from Kumasi heading to Burkina Faso. I don’t think I could have found a better ride to hitch. We continue down the road and share some more small details about our selves and I even get the driver to speak up some. Then we hit some customs or police check points. At each point we have to stop and the passenger gets out with their papers and a large bag of oranges to bribe the police. We must have gone through 30 of these stops before we noticeably get close to the boarder. A few times during the ride we all bgot out of the cab of the big truck so they could fill the oil. The passenger pulled a lever and the entire cab that we were just in tilts forward like it’s some kind of model car. I’m not sure that only a small lever causes the entire cab to do that… Getting in and out of the truck I absently mindedly scrap my left show on my calf wound. After the pain alarm was sounded, I refuse to check to see how bad it is. There’s nothing I can do to clean and treat it now, so there’s no use in keeping it on my mind. That sees to work as I forget about it once we started back on the drive.  We get to the boarder town wehere there is a crockodile pond. Tempting, but Burkina Faso wil be much more exciting. As weird as that sounds, I’m much more interested in new cultures and food then I am with seeing animals at a zoo. After a few hours of driving we arrive at the boarder leaving Ghana. They pull the truck over and I thank them for the ride. Then I get a sudden idea to ask them if they’re going to Po, the first town on the road north into Burkina Faso. They say yes, but they won’t be leaving for a few hours. I tell them I’m leaving ofr the customs desk. In my head I think my plan to continue with them won’t work because I want to leave much sooner so I can get as much time to explore Po as possible. Spencer and I agree before I left that it would be best to only go to Po and spend the night there before heading back to Kumasi the next dy. I go over to the office that I think is the right one even though my gut tells me o go to the big building labeled Ghana Immigration. The only problem is that the building is on the other side of a big barbed wire fence with a small opening for people to pass. After some time waiting the man ushers me out of the building to he exact one I was hesitant to go to first. As I cross the line with one foot, I stop for a half second and check my flanks to see if an guard dogs are coming or Burkina Faso assassins. I’veclearly been reading to much of my spy books lately. Literally no one is watch8ng me as I cross and enter the building.

 I’m in the immigration office and I respectfully follow their direcitions and fil out a form as they lok over my passport. After a few minutes they lead me to a room with official looking military men stamp my out of the country. I take the passport and as I’m leaving the room I drop the “yebe shia” Twi bomb and no noe in there makes a sound. They either were silent in shock, or they didn’t care. I hope it’s not the latter. I leave the office and some Ghanaian woman asks me to marry her and I tell her, that maybe when I come back from Burkina and learn French. Then I start walking down the street of the territory between countries. I think at this point I’m in a land controlled by no one. There seem to be a lot of vendor though selling things and all trying to exchange Cedis for Cfa (pronounced Ceefa). That stands for something in French that I can’t pronounce or spell. I think it is closely related to the Frank. I know that they use the same currency in all of the French dominated countries in West Africa, which is pretty much all of them, expect for Ghana. On the other side otf the road there is an other building for entry into Burkina. I enter and they’re all speaking French. Great, here is my first immersion into hand waiving. Luckily one man speaks, or at least is willing to speak, English. I quickly handle my business and get stamped in. I leave and sit on a bench with two men to exchange my Cedis for some Cfa. I’m pretty much just right out in the open as they’re waving all this money around. It’s not exactly the most ideal way to handle money, but I missed my chance big time in Kumasi. I think I would have gotten a better rate there too. Se la vii. I clearly don’t know how to spell French words and probably use them wrong. As I cross another gate I’m officially in Burkina Faso. My first country in Africa outside of Ghana. As I’m walking down the road my friends in their truck yell to me as they are passing. They tell me they are going to go up and park ahead of us somewhere. I continue to walk and try to watch around my surroundings for anything noticeable. It seems pretty bland and quite small. Then I reach a big truck station and another gate. Okay, maybe I’m not in Burkina yet. I don’t the culture starts until I actually reach one of their towns. I find the truck guys and walk up to them. I tell tem I’m trying to find something to eat. They tell me if I will wait small, they will take me to the net town up the road. I agree that it will probably be the best plan since the exchange rate bit me in the butt a little bit. He tells me to follow his friends to a place where I can get some food. He leads me around a corner and behind a building where I sit down at a table. I tell the friend what I want in English and he translates for me in French. Then he leaves and tells me he’s going back to work. The waiter comes out and asks me something about the food. I shake my head and try to say “me don’t compre parle” I think that was a combination of English Twi and horrid French. I’m not very good at this. He leaves defeated and I follow him into the kitchen. I point to some tings I want including rice, stew and some meat. They put it in the bowl and ask me something else that I can’t understand. Another woman walks over from behind the counter and tries to help. She starts breathing in and out really fast like she’s trying to hyperventilate or… wait she telling me that they’re asking if I want something hot. That must mean they’re asking if I want peppay. I nod and say oui oui, The one French I know. I go and sit down and the waiter brings me my food. Having no way to figure out how much the food costs, I just accept the damage and scarf down the food. I’m much hungrier than my traveling nerves let me feel. I go to pay and realize that I’m paying the equivalent of 5 cedis for a small bowl of rice, some stew, and a small piece of meat. I’m hoping that it’s just more expensive because we’re at the boarder and it’s just not that way in all of Burkina. Right when I finish paying, a man walks up to me and tells me that my friends at the truck are asking for me. Hmm I haven’t seen this man before, I wonder how he was able to pick me out of the crowd… It must be because of my amazingly good looks.

 We walk out of the restaurant and the man leads me over to his moto that he took to get me. He tells me to hop and he’ll take me back to the truck. I hesitate remembering my leg, but decide to take the offer. As I’m getting on I’m keeping a good three feet distance between my leg and the exhaust as if the two have some magnetic attraction.After only about a thirty second ride I’m back to the ruck and the men invite me back in. They’re leaving much sooner than I though, so I agree to join them. This time, one of their brothers joins us, so now we’re four in a compartment meant for two or MAYBE three. I’m still comfortable , except for when he shifts the gears of the truck and pushes me leg out of the way. I feel bad getting in his way and I don’t want to get dumped half way in the middle of sknow where, so I try to pull my legs away to avoid getting in the way each time he goes to shift the gears. This wouldn’t be bad if he didn’t have to shift the gears every two minutes. I start to get in a rhythm every time I can hear the engine get ready to shift and I feel like I’m doing some sort of thigh burner tibow class. I even think I can hear the instructor yelling as the noise of the engine saying, Okay now lift up and down, lift up now down, lift up now down. As we’re driving up the road they’re asking me about why I want to go to Po. They tell me that Po is not a good place to visit because it won’t show me the culture of Burkina Faso and it’s just not a nice place in general. I ask them how much further they’re going and they tell me their destination is in Ouagadougou, pronounced wagadugoo. They tell me that place is much more interesting and culturally relevant because it’s the capital of the country. After they tell me it’s only 150 Kilometers up the road, I’m sold and plan to head up with them. We pass through Po and I can see they’re right. I would have had nothing to do in Po and it would have just been better to turn around at the border and save the money. After Po, there aren’t many villages along the road for a long time. They tell me that we’re going through a wild area where many big predators such as monkeys, lions, and elephants roam. Okay maybe an elephant isn’t a predator, but I wouldn’t want to be around one when it gets angry. For the next hour my eyes are glued out the window trying to catch a glimpse of some wild life. I don’t see any as we begin to approach civilization again I can tell I missed my opportunity. We drive through maybe five more customs check points and through a few more villages. The architecture is much more attractive than the architecture of Ghana. The walls on the outside of the houses look much smoother and less like they could fall apart at any minute. I also see a lot of donkeys running around. They look like the dominant animal in this area.

 Finally after a few more hours of driving I can see a big city in the distance and my friends confirm that we are now coming into Ouaga, or Waga, as it’s called. We drive down the main drag and they tell me they’re going to take me to their market where they drop off their oranges and then they will show me around a bit. We go down some side streets that we barely fit down and arrive behind a line of trucks and 100’s of people swarming around and collecting the fruit. We get out of the truck and the man tells me that this is a Ghanaian market and takes me around to introduce me to their friends. Everyone in this area is speaking Twi and I feel very relieved that I can actually communicate back to them. I get a weird comfortable feeling of being in a little slice of home, even though they are a completely different culture than I and speak a different language. I think this is good feedback that I’m assimilating well to the Ghanaian culture, or at least that I’m terribly afraid of the French one in Burkina. They lead me to a spot with some chairs and buy me a soda while we wait for the truck to be unloaded. These guys just keep getting nicer and nicer. Then they tell me they’re going to show me a place where I can stay for the night. We catch a Taxi and head to the main strip that we first drove through. They pay for the taxi ride and then we go into a hotel. The hotel desk person doesn’t speak a word of English, so the men translate for me. Now, I’m really glad they’re helping me cause I don’t know what I would have done otherwise. I get one night in the cheapest room they have, which is pretty darn expensive and go up to the room with the truck guys. They give me their numbers and let me exchange more Cedis for Cfas with their extra cash. Then, they walk me down the street and walk me to exactly where I need to catch the bus the next morning to make it back to the border. I thank them a few times and tell them that we should meet up again in Kumasi. We separate and I head back to my Hotel room to get situated.

 The sun is setting, so I get my money in order and quickly head back to the street to buy some food and do some exploring while there is still light. I’m not sure how safe this area is at night, so I’m just going to avoid it all together. I get my money in different pockets, like I do in Ghana, so that way I know which bills are in each pocket, so I don’t have to be shuffling through a wad of cash as I pay for something like a water. I get back down to the street and avoid going straight because that would lead into the street and probable death. I decide to take the next best option, a right. I want to head away from the main part to make sure I explore the entire main strip. As I’m walking there must be hundreds of motos and only a few cars passing. I thought there were a lot of motos in Northern Ghana, but this puts that number to shame. I get to the end of the street and don’t really experience anything except a string of vendors catching the stragglers at the end of the street. None of the food looks good, so I cross the street and head back for the meat of the street. It’s interesting because in the main part of the capital of Ghana, Accra, you can see some Obronis if you just watch the people for a little bit. So far, I have yet to see any Obronis. As I’m approaching the shops and vendors by the street I slow my pace down so I don’t miss anything. I want to make a sweep through once to the end and then on the way back I will start to buy little bits of all the food that looks good to try a little of everything. I walk up to a store to buy a water and end up just pointing at the pile of waters next to the building. He tells me that it’s some amount I cant understand. I pull out one of the smallest bills and he gives me an annoyed smile as he tells me just to take the water. I think I just tried to pay for water with something that could have bought the whole stack. After taking a look at all of the vendors I spot a woman selling a bunch of different kinds of food. I point to some of it and tell her all for 500 Cfa, which is about 2.5 Cedis, and $1.25. She gives me a big plate of pasta and some really good sauces. She speaks a little bit of English and is very nice to me. I thank her at the end and pay her as I’m leaving. I continue down to the end and then get my game plan for the way back. I stop by the first shop and buy some pastry looking biscuit things. I’m not sure how good they are, but they’re very cheap. Then, I keep going down and guy some good-looking fruit. It’s fried and looks like some kind of banana or plantain. She asks me if I want something in French and I just nod and say Oue, thinking that I want to try what ever people normally order to get the French flavor. She grabs a big bucket of mayonnaise and my heart sinks as she takes a big scoop and puts it on top of the amazing looking fruit. I nearly cry as she defiles the already amazing tasting fruit. I take the bag and continue walking down to more vendors. Spencer told me that they have good ice cream treats here so I stop am keeping an eye out in various shops for something close to the fan ice in Ghana. I see a shop and walk up, but soon realize that it’s not what I’m looking for. A man out front asks me something in French that I don’t understand and I horrible say in French that I don’t speak French. He calls someone over to translate for him and some young woman walks over. I look at her to tell her that I’m just look around and I’m caught by her stunning beauty. I don’t know if it’s the French or the Burkina influence, but this woman makes for some good competition for the Ghanaian women. After collecting my jaw off the ground I continue to buy some more food. I see something that looks like a mango and ask the woman for one. She starts to cut it up and I realize it’s a papaya, which are very common, and probably more fresh in Ghana. She already starting peeling it, so I just go with it and take the fruit. I go into the next shop and it’s a half little convenience store and bakery. Exactly what I’m looking for, some ice cream and good French pastries and bread. I look around the store and soon am dragged to the bakery. I buy a few pastries and what looks like the yogurt treat that Spencer was talking about. On my way out I buy a baguette and then decide I have enough food to enjoy a taste of all the different stuff I saw around the vendors.

 I head back to the hotel and get in my room. First, I eat the fruit because I don’t want it that to be the last thing I eat tonight. Then I move on to the small biscuit things I got in the beginning. They’re pretty good, but nothing unique to this culture. Then I eat half of the baguette and find exactly what I’ve been looking for this whole time. The bread is freshly baked and tastes like no bread I’ve had in a long time. I flip on the T.V. and continue to enjoy my treats. Then I take out the yogurt thing to make sure it’s still cold. Spencer was right, it’s much better than any of the ice cream yogurt treats in Ghana. It tastes like it actually has real milk in it and I’m in heaven. Naturally I go for the fruit with the…mayonnaise. I don’t even put mayonnaise on something as plain as bread, so putting it on fruit is blasphemy to the fruit gods to me. After asking for forgiveness I take a bit and to my surprise it’s not too bad. I wipe off most of the mayonnaise, but leave enough on so that I can still experience the French culture, or whatever cultures this awful creation came from. Then I move on to the best for last. The pastries. They’re so good and fresh that I can even sit up straight anymore. I have to lie on my side as I eat these amazing French pastries. This is something I’ve haven’t had in Ghana and not even really back home in the U.S. After finishing all the great food I realize how dirty and exhausted I am. I get in the shower to clean my self off. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve taken a real shower, I have to admit I really like the bucket shower. I can’t stop from thinking that I used four or five times the amount of water that I can use with the bucket and get exactly the same amount of clean. I get back to my bed and pass out before my head hits the pillow.

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