On Tuesday morning, I had an early meeting with the head of a major French NGO here in Ouaga. She was interested in ordering Xmas cards for the organization. She’d seen Papiers at SIAO and asked us to work on a special design for her. None of our usual designs would do. We have 30 different ones, but they weren’t quite right. So, Valentine and I spent Monday afternoon working up four new designs for her. The new designs were good, but she ended up choosing one of our old ones…And she only ordering 100 cards, rather than the 200 she had mentioned. And she is being very fussy about the colors (we have to mix special ones and she has to approve them) and bargained the women down to their lowest price. I find it is typical that the smallest clients are the biggest pains in the rear.
(Contrast that to this morning, when I met with the head of the Swiss Cooperation and she ordered 200 cards withou any fuss. She even accepted the first price we quoted her. Nice doing business with you!)
Anyway, after Tuesday’s first meeting, the project cell phone rang. It was the Village Artisanale of Ouagadougou (VAO)! They said that the jury would be passing for a site visit sometime between 9:30 and noon. We were very excited. Maybe it’s really going to happen!! We’ll really get a place at the VAO!
We settled down and got to work on greeting cards for a normal client ( not Ms. Hard to Please) Right then, a small film crew showed up. A Burkinabé NGO in information technology is making short digital films about local projects of interest. We had been recommended as real showcase of Burkinabé creativity! We thought it would be fun and useful- we’ll get a free copy of the film to copy and distribute as we please to potential clients. So, we all worked gluing paper camels onto their dunes and got interviewed.
Time passed and soon it was noon! The VAO hadn’t come and I needed to pick up the kids at school and run to the grocery shop. I was already late. Well, it’s not like I’m indispensable. I had wanted to be there, as it was going to be a historic moment for the project, but the women don’t need me. They are perfectly capable of showing off the project to a jury…. Besides, I figured that the the VAO had too many site visits planned and would put us off until another day.
Well, I was just in front of the US Embassy when Awa called my cell phone in a panic. “They’re here!! I showed them around, but they insist that they have to see you! Please hurry! They say they have to leave soon!”
I told the driver to turn around and head back. We were back at the project in about ten minutes, but there was no sign of any vehicles parked outside our site.
“They left!” Awa wailed. “They said you should go to the VAO right away and wait for them.”
I was pretty angry, which made it hard to think fast. I grabbed a scrap of recycled paper and made a quick grocery list. I gave my driver all the money I had (only about $10) and told him to get the kids and take them shopping. Arouna left.
Then I realized that I should have gone with him in order to get dropped off at a main road. There was no chance of getting a taxi in the quiet neighborhood where the project is. Plus, I had no money now. Right. I asked the women to lend me a bit of money out of the cash box. They figured I was good for it.
Then I called for a taxi. None available. At all.
I started walking. It was pretty hot. I stopped in at the restaurant over at the orphanage just down the road. I greeted everyone there and asked advice on getting a taxi fast. The orphan girls that run the restaurant had no clue. Guess they don’t take many taxi rides. But I was overheard by a very good-looking young guy with a very new, good-looking motorscooter.
“I’d be happy to take you out there to the VAO” he said “but I haven’t much gas left.”
Luckily, I had the 500cfa the women had lent me and we had a deal! I jumped on the back and we sped off.. Taking back roads, we got to the VAO faster than I ever have. Let me add here that there is an art to riding on a scooter while wearing a pagne. It's easy to end up with bared thighs. But as a seasoned Burkina resident, I managed to keep my clothing intact, even at high speeds.
Fifteen minutes later, we had arrived. I thanked my hero profusely and ran into the admin building.
The jury wasn’t there.
I ended up reading old newspapers for half an hour. They finally showed up in huge black four wheel drives.
We all went into an air-conditioned office and I was asked to give a short explanation of why Papiers should be at the VAO.
I was puzzled. I raced here like a crazy woman for this? Why did it HAVE to be me? Awa is the Vice-President of the group and speaks perfectly good French… I guess she can be a bit shy around groups of “impressive” people, but the only way to get over that is by taking on the challenge. Anyway, I did my best and think/hope that I was very convincing.
They said we would hear from them “soon”.
After all that I went through, the answer had better be "yes"!