Thursday, October 26, 2006
The SIAO is a huge event here in Ouaga and will consume my life for the next ten days.
It happens every even numbered year here in Burkina and as it's been going on for 20 years now, you wouldn't think it would catch anyone by surprise. But somehow it does. When I went to pick up the ID badges for us Papiers du Sahel folks, I saw trouble looming on the horizon. Only three days left before the big event and NOTHING was ready. The workers looked very relaxed and leisurely, but even I could see that the pace would need to pick up dramatically to be ready for the vendors to set up on Thursday....And, as I predicted, NOTHING was ready today. I knew better than to show up this morning, but in a fit of optimism, I loaded up the truck (with lots of help, of course). The Land Cruiser was loaded to the roof rack with shelves, boxes and metal chests full of recycled paper. But it was a waste of time. At 4pm half the stands weren't even built yet and the ones that were ready weren't numbered yet. So, soldiers guarded the doors and the crowd in the courtyard grew and grew as arrivals from all over Africa tried to access the site. I waited for about two and a half hours and there was no sign of progress. I finally lugged everything back home, feeling even more sorry for all the vendors stuck out there. There were hundreds of people camped outside on piles of masks, bronzes, fabrics, beads....It was quite a sight. Most of them have nowhere in Ouaga to store all the stuff, or even a means to transport it if they did. (Most arrived by bus) They will have to stay there all night, guarding their goods.
I plan to get an early start tomorrow. With Valentine helping out, Eugenie and I should be able to get the stand looking good in a few hours. I will be sure and post some pictures.
It really is an amazing event. Wish you were here!