Friday, December 22, 2006

Things here are quite calm. As I wrote to a friend earlier today: “you can unbate your breath now”.
Yesterday the curfew went into effect and the city shut down. The first things to close were all the gas stations, so lots of people got stuck without a means of transport. And a taxi ride that normally cost 30 cents cost $1.60, a huge price for the average Burkinabé that lives on a dollar or day.
But the curfew was lifted early this morning and the gas stations reopened. So, I went out on my day’s errands. My first stop was out in the shanty town at the east end of Ouaga. I visited my friend Yvonne there. I mentioned her a bit before in this post. She is a parapelegic widow with three small children. She is a really interesting person and amazingly cheerful in the face of her very difficult life. I stopped by to bring her a few things for Christmas. Last Christmas, all she could give her son as a gift was a bottle of orange soda. Kevin was really happy, as that’s a special treat to him. But when you think about the shower of gifts so many wealthier children get……..Anyway, thanks go out to my father and my pal Barb for their contributions. I was able to give Yvonne some fabric, a few toys for the children, some money and a bag of candy. I also had a sack of rice for them. Seven year old Kevin got the biggest smile on his face. It still amazes me to see a child get so happy about a bag of rice. It brings home so clearly how well they know what it is to be hungry.
In asked Yvonne how things had been in her neighbourhood during the attacks. She said that they hadn’t heard a thing, as they are so far from any police station or public building. But many of the escaped prisoners came to the area, hoping to hide and steal from easy marks. As the homes are just flimsy huts and there are no electric lights, the population is very vulnerable to crime. Yvonne was very worried, as she is alone, can’t walk and has young children. If you are the praying type , please pray for her and especially her younger son (just 1 year old), Jacob, who is ill. If you don’t pray, just send generic positive vibes. Can’t hurt.
Then I went to the VAO to check on things and then on to the Papiers workshop. Business taken care of, I went downtown. I got some food shopping done without the place being evacuated, so that was a nice change of pace!! But the normal food shipments have been delayed, so the shelves were pretty empty and many things are scarce. There's not much in the way of dairy products around, for example. I did manage to get some butter and sour cream, which was quite a coup.
But we still have a problem here in Ouaga. All the police have gone into hiding. I did not see a single cop the whole time I was out. What I did see (and feel, unfortunately) was huge traffic jams. And even worse, there is also that problem of those 600 prisoners lose on the streets. The word is out to be on the alert, as crime is exploding. Many motor bikes have been stolen and houses robbed, as my friend Yvonne mentioned. It hasn't been too bad here in the Zone du Bois, though. I guess it's harder to steal from rich folks that have cement walls, guardians and
electric lights in the street. The criminals prefer to steal the cooking pots and meager pagnes of the poor, as it’s less risky.

Just about an hour ago, I heard a series of loud bangs and ran out of the house with my heart pounding. “They started again??!!” I thought to myself. I listened and the sound repeated. Fireworks. Who on earth wants fireworks now?? I would have thought we were all fed up with explosions by now. I heard enough to last me a lifetime. I guess I have a mini-post traumatic stress thingy. Loud noises make me very jumpy today..... I am NOT looking forward to New Years’ Eve this year, when the Burkinabé love to light firecrackers. Luckily, they are too poor to afford many!

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