Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I went shopping today at the most tasteful and expensive shop in all of Burkina. It’s always a bad idea, as it just accents the fact that I am decorating-impaired. At K-lala, everything is perfect. ( check out There are lavishly embroidered tablecloths that make perfect backgrounds for the Limoges china painted with zebras. There are great old antique colonial beds that look very romantic with a mosquito net and an intricate batik coverlet. Our mosquito nets at home don’t look romantic. They look like something to keep mosquitos off of you.
And I have no antique anything, except for possibly our car, but that probably doesn’t count.
I have the good taste to admire the stuff at this shop and I love the houses that they decorate.
But the fact is, I wouldn’t be able to stand living in a “decorator” house.
On one wall of our living room we have a crazy-looking Dodo dancer mask that Valentine won in a Halloween contest a few years ago. Beside it hangs a vibrantly detailed watercolor of a horse that she did. Farther over, there is a painting by a friend of JP’s that visited Burkina a while back. It was directly inspired by her stay here, which is a little disturbing, as it is very chaotic-looking, all in black; brown and gray with weird, demonic little animal faces peeking out. She SAYS she had a good time here, but I don’t know…..
Another wall holds yet another work by Valentine ( a brilliant sketch of a horse’s head) and a painting of Burkina street scenes done by a friend that used to live here.
Most of our pictures are matted on Papiers du Sahel paper, of course.
In the picture at left, you can see a shelf in the Jacob house. (Most of the are full of books, of course) This one holds a bronze antilope that we bought at the camp while we were on safari in southern Burkina, some beads that caught my eye at the market and a wooden statue of an earth priest and a Winyé mask-dancer that was carved by a mask-maker in Boromo that JP knows. Behind these things is an embossed picture made out of recycled aluminum cans. It’s by an artist from Nigeria. I met his daughter at last year’s film festival here,, as the paper project had a stand near hers at the craft market there. I stared at the pictures for the whole week of the festival and had to buy some on the last day.
I guess my point is, I can’t have a “decorated” house because all of our stuff is too meaningful to part with. There are no doubt design elements and accessories that would look a lot more elegant, but they wouldn’t make any sense to us. So, maybe our place is cluttered and looks like it was decorated by a dyslexic, color-blind pack-rat. (I think that is JP’s considered opinion). I think it looks like home

Monday, April 24, 2006

US citizens can be divided into two types of people: those who own a hot glue gun and those who don’t. It’s maybe not a statement you hear every day, but I can back it up.
I imagine that many of you in the second category don’t even know what a hot glue gun is. You are thinking that maybe it’s some kind of sick armament that sprays burning adhesive at people. Actually, the HGG (as it will be referred to in the future) is an electric tool that melts plastic and oozes it onto surfaces that you want to bond. It’s the weapon of choice for all serious craft-y type people.
I had been hearing the siren call of the HGG for years. They are terribly good for gluing together just about anything. If you need to, for example, stick bits of broken costume jewelry all over a basket (been there, done that), the HGG is definitely the way to go.
But I only recently acquired this oh-so-useful item. Why? Because I knew that the majority of HGG owners are "different". For example, they decorate their homes with a “country” décor. Strange, but true. This means that they see teddy bears as a legitimate ornamental element and favor gingham upholstery. I was a little afraid that if I bought a HGG, I’d have an uncontrollable urge to take down my funky African wall hangings and put up landscapes painted onto rusty old saw blades. My lamps would be made from old milk cans and our end-tables from butter churns.
It’s a weirdly American problem. You don’t see French people decorating their homes with churns and milk cans- unless they actually have cows and make butter at home.
And you know-the Americans that decorate this way tend to have voted for Bush in the last election. And we ask ourselves- are these sick decorating and voting patterns being CAUSED by hot glue-gun ownership?
Also, could this explain the close links between the Republicans and the NRA??? They fear stricter gun-control laws will limit their God-given right to glue!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

I had to quit reading the book. Acually, I might have to burn it and then devote the rest of my life to hunting down all the other copies in the world and destroying them as well.

On page 41 there was a SEX scene and Mr. Darcy's penis is referred to as "his torch of love".

The ashes will have to be scattered in the desert and I'd better have an exorcist present, just in case.
Then, I'm afraid I'm going to have to track down and kill Ms. Berdoll to prevent her from writing any other books.

Friday, April 21, 2006

I like to read a lot. I mean REALLY a lot- probably an unhealthy amount.
I read every day and it doesn’t much matter what. Mostly, it’s novels. Bad or good, it doesn’t matter. The good ones I admire and the bad ones I have great fun tearing apart and grumbling “My GOD! How did this ever get published!?”
You can have a look at my Profile on the right side of this page. There is a list there of stuff I have read and enjoyed lately.
There is also a great link over there to a site by a guy called Mark Longmire. He has done an amazing, hilarious job of remixing actual romance novel covers. He adds appropriate snarky titles and captions. Try this at home, kids!

What brought on today’s blog subject is my current reading material: "Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife" by Linda Berdolll. It’s supposed to be a sequel to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I should have known better. What was I thinking? Get this: the author wrote the book because she saw a mini-series version of "Pride &Prejudice" on A&E. And within a few pages, I realized that the author has obviously not only never read the original, but has offered an unedited first draft of her sexual fantasies about Colin Firth and charged the public seventeen dollars for the privilege of reading it.
Poorly written and completely unresearched it’s an anachronistic literary disaster. The scene where Lydia imparts the “facts of life” to Jane and Lizzie is excruciating. No….just….no.
Note to all future writers of P&P pastiches: The fact that you have peppered your dialogue with the words “whilst” and “exceedingly” does not mean that you “write like Austen”. Sorry.
As I said before, I’m not picky about what I read and I can enjoy bad books, in a sick, twisted kind of way. It can be hard to get reading material here in Burkina, so I have learned to take what I can get. But I am on page 40 of this thing and I’m just not sure I can go on.
Have any of you tried to read this, or any other P&P “sequel”? I understand there are several. Do they all suck so wretchedly?
Chime in down in the “Comments” section below.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Here’s a photo of Valentine just before she left for her first school dance. Doesn’t she look sweet? It’s a shame that she (and all the rest of my kids) will probably soon be taken away from me because I am an UNFIT MOTHER!!!!!!
Yes- it’s true. Here’s my sad story- I spent Saturday night helping Valentine get ready for her first ever “bal de lycée”. We curled her hair, then gave her a tousled upsweep. When she put on her new white dress, she looked like a particularly sweet-natured angel (as opposed to the kind that goes around with a flaming sword scaring the heck out of people).
Her friend Shen came over at about 8 o’clock, ready to go. Shen is a lovely girl, but was channeling the 80’s that evening. The side-of-the-head ponytail and white socks with high-heeled mules gave me quite a start. Or is all that back in fashion now? I knew the 1970’s were back. I’ve seen the ugly evidence ( Gaucho pants. God help us all) , but I didn’t know that the 80’s were already back to haunt us. Live long enough and you’ll see everything,- including giant shoulder pads and pinstriped jeans, apparently.
But I digress, trying to put off the moment where I reveal my crime. Let’s get it over with…
Jean-Pierre drove the girls to the dance. MY job was to pick them up when they called later in the evening. Valentine had her cell phone in her purse and promised to call sometime before midnight. “But I might call a lot sooner, if it’s really boring” she added.
So, I watched a film with JP and the other three kids (“Valiant”- the WWII pigeon cartoon, for those of you unfamiliar with the latest in children’s films). By the time it was over, it was around 10:30. Everybody was yawning and heading for bed and I am nothing if not suggestible- especially when it comes to having a little rest. We had turned off the air con in the living room, as it had been on all day. But it was nice and cool in the bedrooms. So I laid down on my side of the bed. In my defense, I was fully clothed, on top of the bedspread and had NO intention of sleeping.
“Are you even going to hear the office phone from here?” asked JP. “You should at least bring your cell phone in here.”
“I’ll hear it”, I said confidently “ The cell phone has been broken for two days, so that’s no use. Anyway, I’m not even going to sleep. I’m just resting” (Here the phrase “Famous Last Words” comes to mind.
Well, I laid down and the next thing I knew, I was waking up in a complete panic. As I bolted out of bed, I could feel that it was late already. I hoped it was 11:30 or so, but I knew better.
As I ran through the living room, I saw the clock. 2 AM!!!!!! Oh. My. God.
I frantically dialed her cell number. As it rang on my handset, I heard a weird little electronic tune come from the living room. Valentine’s cell phone?!?! Did she forget it at home? No, I saw her put it in her purse.
I threw down my phone and tracked down the source- Valentine’s purse laying on a chair.
I ran into her room, and there she was, sound asleep! To say that I was very surprised and VERY relieved is a great understatement, but the best I can do.
I went back to bed planning my acceptance speech for the “World’s Worst Mom” award I would no doubt soon be receiving
Valentine slept as late as she could on Easter Sunday, but we had to be to church by 9, so I had to wake her up. “Where WERE you, Mom? I let the phone ring and ring and ring and you didn’t answer. I was scared!”
I felt like I had just used up every “Good Mom” credit that I had previously earned in my life. She told me that she had tried to call around 11:30 several times. Luckily, a friend that lives near us was a chaperone at the dance and offered to bring her and Shen back home.
We talked about it a while and I explained what had happened. I never realized I was such a deep sleeper. As I spent several years being woken up approximately every half-hour by babies and small children, I figured that I had a good internal alarm system already in place.
Finally, I said jokingly “Gee, Valentine, you could have gotten up to anything and I never would have known! I would have slept right through. You could have gone somewhere and had a party!”
She got right into the spirit of it. “Yeah! I could have gone over to Camille’s house! We could have stayed up REALLY late and then…..and then….” She searched for something appropriately crazy….“We could have gone to bed WITHOUT brushing our teeth!!!!”
There it is, Valentine’s idea of the ultimate decadence. What you do when you really want to get all wild and rebellious: You don’t brush your teeth before bedtime.
I hope her foster mother reminds her to floss.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Perhaps the Easter Bunny left goodies in your basket, or the Bells of Rome dropped a pound of chocolates on your head, or maybe you just slept late and no supernatural events whatsoever occurred in your life ---- whatever went on yesterday for you, I hope it was good.
We here had an interesting day. It started with a service at the International Church of Ouagadougou. It’s an “interdenominational” church, but it is just like a very lively Baptist church in Missouri inexplicably transported to Ouagadougou. HIGHLY entertaining and GREAT music. The kids loved it. This may have been partially due to the fact that everybody got a free Coke and snacks after the service.
Our activity afterward was somewhat less fun- an Easter “picnic” out on a farm. Outside. In April. In Burkina. At 2pm. It was really not one of the more comfortable dining concepts ever dreamed up. We sat under straw mats in what was until recently (to judge by the feathers) the chicken coop. The cows watched us with a very puzzled air. I think they were wondering what happened to the chickens. But we got through it with only sub-clinical signs of heatstroke, so it turned out all right.

Today was the Easter Egg hunt for the US citizens here. The kids had a nice time running around looking for plastic eggs. By 9:30 the eggs were all filled with foil-festooned puddles of melted chocolate, so they were only safe to open after a long stay in the fridge at home. But that’s only to be expected when Easter falls at the hottest period of the year.

By the way, we ended up with considerably fewer than 89 kittens, so I’ll have to abandon my “kittens as door-prizes” scheme. There are only three, which will make it much easier to think up names for them. I’m thinking Patty, Maxene and LaVerne (after the Andrews Sisters). They already kind of squeak in three-part harmony, so it might work.
They were born two nights ago. Cleo (the mother cat) seems very tired. I hand fed her chicken at lunchtime. I think I’m projecting a little, remembering my own post-partum exhaustion.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The hot season is at its peak right now. Temperatures are up to 105°F/40°C each day and don’t go down that much at night. Last night, Valentine was looking wistfully through a world atlas.
“I’d like to live there when I grow up” she said, stabbing Greenland with her forefinger. “No, wait! This page! Iceland! That sounds NICE! Can we move to Iceland NOW?”
Her father suggested a tropical island, but even New Caledonia did not impress her. The beaches would be fine, but to hot in her estimation.
She is now planning her future career as either a sled-dog trainer or a geologist specializing in ice-core studies.
The rest of us are not quite so miserable as poor Valentine. Life goes on despite the heat. Well, maybe the cat looks a little desperate. She now about 149 weeks pregnant, awaiting the impending birth of approximately 89 kittens. She mostly languishes on the terrace and mews pathetically from time to time. She looks ready to move to Iceland with Valentine.

Actually, the weather has me contemplating a “Polar Fest 2006” celebration. I could put the air-conditioning on full blast and invite friends over to watch only “cold” movies, like “March of the Penguins”, “Shackleton”, and “ The Last Place on Earth”.
I’ll serve vanilla ice cream and give away kittens as party favors.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

There was a full eclipse over the desert on the 29th of March. Mary Lynn saw it in eastern Niger. I had thought of getting her on here as a guest blogger, but she had so many emails to catch up on, I didn’t have the heart to ask her to do any more work.
So, you’re stuck with me.
She signed up for the trip over a year ago. A hard-working lawyer with a passion for travel, she knew she’d better stake out her claim to some quality vacation time. Perhaps March in the Teneré was not the ideal choice, as the temperatures are at a maximum then, but there was an interesting expedition being planned to get a good view of the full eclipse. She’d gotten a taste for the African desert two years ago on a visit to Burkina and decided to really experience it.
Chris, who was leading the expedition, is an experienced adventure traveler and had managed to gather a group of 12 from all over the world- South Africa, Italy, England, Poland, Mexico……..Mary Lynn was the only one from the United States.
This diverse group set out from Agadez in early March with their Tuareg driver/guides and 3 four wheel drive Toyotas. They spent 15 days making a big loop around the Teneré. They drove long distances frequently punctuated with stops for digging out a vehicle, changing a tire or making some other repair.
The photos Mary Lynn took show a surprisingly varied landscape: huge dunes of pale yellow sand, featureless plains, forests of eroded rock arches, hills of white marble streaked with blue, and rock formations covered with prehistoric paintings.
The eclipse itself was very dramatic--as the sky got darker, the temperature plummeted. Then one by one stars became visible and the moon became a black disk in the sky surrounded by the thin yellow rays of the solar corona.
About five days later, the desert phase of her trip was over, and Mary Lynn caught a bus down from Agadez to Niamey. After a night there, she got another bus to Ouagadougou.
Her stay here was pretty calm. It was a chance for her to unwind, and enjoy sand-free food. She was quite a good sport and very gracious about following me around as I took care of my daily stuff- Papiers du Sahel, school runs, grocery shopping, etc.
I also took Mary Lynn to visit Yvonne, a woman that I have known for a few years. She has had many trials in her life- crippled by polio at age three, orphaned shortly after and left to live in the streets alone at only eight years old. She now has twin babies, just born two months ago. You can see them in the picture with Mary Lynn. They are called Jacob and Elisabeth.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Fabric is an addictive substance here in Ouaga. I have seen a number women become “fabric junkies” here - each with a closet at the back of the house stuffed brimful with lengths of the evidence of their guilt.
It’s true that the fabrics here are very beautiful and relatively inexpensive. Glossy bazin for elegant boubous, linen for smart shirts, bright pagnes for wrap around skirts…
My current addiction is the batik cotton from Ghana. There are several women’s’ cooperatives doing this work there now and the Burkinabe have lost no time importing it.
I bought some last week and went back for more today with Mary Lynn. She loved it and bought two different patterns.
I have bought quite a bit, as I am starting a small business making girls’ dresses. There is a young woman we have known since she was 12. We paid for her school and she has become a seamstress now at age 18. Aisha doesn’t earn much in the workshop where she is employed, so I am going to get her started sewing dresses aimed at the upper-scale clientele here in Ouaga. I think these batiks will really appeal to the cooler Europeans and Americans. Not so much the Burkinabe. They vastly prefer the “made in Europe” label and tend not to like the African styles.
At least with Aisha, I know it will be easy to have the work done well. It is often a big hassle to get things sewn here. And it’s the only reasonable way to get new clothes, as there are few shops and the prices are very high. Custom-tailored clothes may sound great, but after you’ve been back for the fourth fitting and it STILL isn’t right, it can get a little frustrating. Or they’ve sewn it with the butterfly pattern all upside down. Or they fully lined the nice breezy gauze tunic you wanted them to make, turning into an object of suffocating heat-retention and defeating the whole purpose..
Mary-Lynn is having some things sewn by a another local seamstress. I am hoping that it goes smoothly, as she goes back to the US on Tuesday. Not much leeway for misunderstandings. But as they are simple shift dresses, not too much can go wrong.
We hope.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Two major events in Ouaga this week: one is lovely and the other is not so nice. The lovely event was the arrival today of our pal Mary Lynn. She is an intrepid world traveller and has just blown in from an exciting camping adventure in the mountainous desert of northern Niger. She'll no doubt be the subject of a few blogs during her week here with us.
Now- the not so nice event is revealed: H5N1 (the Bird Flu) has officially arrived in Burkina Faso, 6 miles outside of Ouagadougou.
Actually, I call it "Mad Chicken disease" to get my kids to laugh.
There are 32 million chickens in this country and I feel sorry for them. They already have a hard life- just check out the photo up on top there. Those are live chickens catching a ride to market. Also check out the fellow clinging to the back of the van. The people here don't have it so good, either.
I don't know how it's going to be handled. The resources here are already so stretched. The meningitis epidemic this year has already killed 750 people- that's twice as many as died at this time last year.
The US Embassy is doing a Town Hall Meeting for all US citizens on the 11th. It should be interesting to hear what they have to say. We had already been warned by email to keep a one to two month supply of food and water on hand in case of a complete quarantine. It seems very unlikely it would ever come to that here. The only African human fatalties have been up in Egypt. But I have to admit I have laid in a months' supply of non-perishables..........

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I spent much of yesterday morning steeped in the ambiance of the national Burkinabe telephone company, known to us all as “Onatel”. You’d think it was a fabulous place, considering that so many people spend so much time there- a regular sub-Saharan Disneyland. Alas, no. The fact is, they have a monopoly going, so nobody has a choice- you HAVE to be there.
“But, ”you may be thinking to yourself by now. “If you hate it so much, just mail in your bill each month and avoid the place. Quit whining.”
Love to. But there’s a small problem: IT’S NOT ALLOWED!!! It’s true! You are obliged to pay your bill in person each month. It’s pretty crazy and you can imagine what a zoo it is at the end of the month. It can take hours of waiting to get to the head of the line. The only time-saving innovation that anyone has come up with is to pay someone else to do it for them. If you can, you send a member of your house staff to do it. So, actually, the waiting room is mostly crammed with relatively poor people and the servants of richer ones.
We are no exception. It’s typically Celine that goes to pay it. But this month, we had a problem. Our bill was twice what it normally is. We decided to get an itemized bill so that we could see all the calls that had been made….So that meant that I’d have to go request it.
The waiting room of our local Onatel office had improved since I’d last been there. There was a little “take a number” machine and a light-up message board with an assortment of messages to entertain all the bored clients.
One said “Pay your Onatel bill…….”
I thought it was going to say ‘by mail’! I was so excited! Praise be!
But the second half of the message flashed up “ at any window”. Yeah, right. When 3 of 5 are closed, how meaningful is that, anyway?
My business was more specialized, so I was quickly steered toward a small dusty cubicle containing two desks, a very slim elderly gentleman and a very hefty lady. There were also lots of old, dusty paper folders stacked in piles everywhere. The two agents were both laboriously writing out entries into huge ledgers. So much for the computer age.
I explained my problem to the gentleman. He told me that a printout would cost about seven dollars and could be done in about four days.
“My God” I wondered, “Do they hand write them? No- he said printout….”
He wrote my name in one of the huge ledgers and sent me off.
I came back Friday. I waited about 20 minutes in his office, only to be told that it was not ready yet. I pointed out that my bill was due on Monday. He assured me it would not be a problem.
I went back on Monday and waited around. Still no itemized bill. He said they’d call. Right. I waited all last week for them to call. Nothing.
I went back yesterday. The gentleman assured me it had come! He rummaged through some stacks of paper. Nope. He’d thought it was there, but it wasn’t and wouldn’t I just have a seat and wait a bit? This is Africa. No use complaining. I sat in the chair in front of his desk and shamelessly eavesdropped on the problems of others as I sat there for an hour. The most illustrative one was "The Case of the 49,000cfa Bill".
A young Burkinabe man came in waving a bill for 49.000cfa, claiming that his phone didn’t even work, so he didn’t see how he could have a bill for services. Plus this was so expensive! That is the equivalent of about 100$ and would be a VERY expensive bill for the average Burkinabe family.
The hefty lady grabbed the bill and gave it the once over.
“The phone obviously works,” she said. “And that’s your bill.”
Well, that problem’s solved. What a relief.
The man got it back from her and tried to show it to my gentleman friend. He tried to explain, telling a long story about changing his phone number at the request of Onatel and since then the phone hasn’t worked and…… Well, the two agents weren’t buying it.
“Fine,”, said my pal “ We’ll make you an itemized list so you can see the calls charged. Seven dollars.” He began writing the man’s information in the dreaded ledger.
“You have to pay 7 dollars”
The man was completely desperate “I don’t want to pay seven dollars! I don’t need that list! There were no calls at all!”
“Well, then,” said my friend “Your only option is to pay the bill,”
This was clearly not going his way and he looked miserable. What a situation. He’s got a bill that he’s contesting, but to even start to resolve it, he needs to pay out seven dollars. That is a huge amount of money to most Burkinabe. An average phone bill is about ten dollars. So, his only option is to pay a bill that he knows is wrong. What if he gets the printout and Onatel STILL insists he’s in the wrong? He’d have paid the seven dollars for nothing.
Heads they win, tails you lose.
Amazingly, help arrived! A white knight in the form of a sharp-looking Onatel agent who breezed into the office looking for a scrap of paper. He caught the tail-end of the dispute and told the woman to hand over the phone. He made a quick call to the Onatel technical service and asked if the man’s number was out of order. “Oh….It’s not been hooked up at all. I see. ………It hasn’t been on all month, then?…… Thank you.”
You could see the young man’s shoulders get straighter and the grey tone left his face.
The other two didn’t apologize. My friend just dragged out yet another ledger and began writing again.
I sat there a while after that, observing many what would be called fire-code violations in any other country. There was some very scary exposed wiring over some of those dusty paper towers….I mentally mapped out my escape route in case of a conflagration. It kept me busy.
Finally, the word came. STILL no itemized bill for me! And the bill should have been paid on the 27 of March. Hope they don’t cut off the phone!
He said they’ll call when it's ready. Right.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Another attraction of Ouagadougou is the American Embassy Employees’ Recreation Center, more commonly known as The Rec”. It’s name is misleading, as it is open to anyone who pays a membership fee. It boasts a pool, tennis courts, fitness room, video club, bar (open only sporadically) and a video rental club. There is also a restaurant that features creative re-creations of American-ish food: cheeseburgers, pancakes, taco salad and all that exotic fare. You can see JP and the kids in today’s photo patiently waiting for their food to come- a necessary virtue at the Rec Restaurant. Fast food it ain’t.
My favorite feature is the lending library. It serves as an informal book-exchange for the English-speaking community.
I think the kids enjoy the movie afternoons on Sundays. The Rec tries to get a recently released film to show for kids at 2pm on Sundays. They get them through the Embassy- they are tapes for the US military bases. Every once in a while “NAVY” shows up at the bottom of the screen in huge letters.
Today’s film was “The Chronicles of Narnia”, which we had all been looking forward to. All my kids love the books by C. S. Lewis and we have had a dvd of the BBC version for a long time. Cheesy as it is, we are actually pretty fond of the 1988 made for television production. It was done on the cheap, but so earnestly and faithful to the books. And we get such a laugh making fun of the beavers’ costumes. They look like giant, furry Tootsie Rolls waddling around. It never gets old. But I guess we are pretty easy to amuse..; don’t get out much.
That said, I also like this new, splashy version. I had read that Lewis deeply wished that his books never be made into a plays or films. But as I watched, I kept thinking that he would have been so very pleased with this movie. I think he had been afraid of how talking animals and mythological creatures would look in a film- very fake and silly looking with the technology that existed in his day! But the animals in this film were all fabulously realistic, even while speaking. This CGI stuff is amazing! Anyway, I left thoroughly convinced that Lewis’ fears would have been laid to rest after seeing this film.
Now I’ve got five kids out on the terrace near my window acting out their own version of the film. It sounds pretty good, but noisy! The evil White Witch has just commanded that prisoners must eat a fluffy bunny rabbit! She demands that King Peter chose the victim for slaughter. Luckily, the forces of Good have risen up against this outrage and the fighting has begun in earnest!
Are French people allies of the White Witch? They do eat rabbit……

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The French cultural center here in Ouagadougou (aka the CCF) has numerous facilities open to everyone. You can hang out at the outdoor bar and drink Flag beer or Pernod, you can see a depressing French film, you can see the myriad of strange ways that the Burkinabé have interpreted "Hip-hop"- mostly, it is boring and noisy, so I guess it's the same everywhere. You can also experience the finest in Modern African dance. None of that old-fashioned stuff of our ancestors! This stuff is cutting edge! I took my mom to see one of the shows when she was here. At one point, one of the dancers just stood there looking down for rather a long time. I though she was being contemplative. Silly me.
Mom whispers to me "Look...I think she's spitting!"
"No way!"
"Yes, way! Look- that's strings of saliva! She's drooling!"
"Oh, God! I see now! It's going to hit the floor!"
We were quiet again and glanced around. We seemed to be the only ones in the audience amazed by this. Everybody else acted like they saw this kind of thing every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
"Beth! Look! Look!"
My head snapped around just in timeto see our star danseuse and one of her lucky cohorts rolling on the floor, right through the saliva lake!!!! And they rolled and rolled in it. (As Zoroaster is my witness, this is the truth and not an April Fools joke!!)
I am not sure what the heck that was supposed to be, but it sure made a person long for a couple of djembés and some nice, rythmical stomping around.
But the CCF is so much more! Besides seeing saliva-covered people writhe on the ground, you can ALSO visit the very nice little library. It can be hard to get books here in Burkina. There are only a few bookshops and they are quite expensive compared to USA. So, the CCF has a small air-conditioned library. There aren't that many books and you can only borrow two at a time, but it's better than nothing. I took the girls there this morning and you can see them reading comic books in the picture I took. You are not allowed to check out comics and magazines, but must read them there.
Severin refused to come. He had missed out on our Thursday trip to get English books at the ISO library and was still fuming. "French books? I don't want crummy French books! I wanted to go to ISO!"
I would have taken the poor child, but the ISO isn't open on the weekend.
Actually, he reads really well in French, as do all my kids. But I think they all prefer reading in English (which I taught them to do at home) Maybe French reminds them of school?
All four of them read a great deal in French and English, which is my idea of what "good" children are like!
Yes, it's true- EVIL children vivisect puppies and don't like to READ!