Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy New Year! It was a quiet celebration around here. Lots of people stayed home on the 31st, as the security situation is still not the best. The police are still not back in full force. In fact they are using the Gendarmes to direct traffic in the city.
On January 1st, we did go out in the afternoon, paying a visit to some old friends. M. is a big wheel in the Assemblé Generale (the Burkinabé equivalent of the Senate). His terrace was teeming with various local politicians downing impressive quantities of whiskey and very nice French champagne. Much nicer champagne than WE had at Christmas, I assure you. So, I took advantage and our hostess, D., regaled me with the story of how they experienced the pre-holiday CRS/Army clash. D and a friend had driven toward the center of town to join their husbands at a wine tasting, but then turned back when they saw soldiers “armed to the teeth” stopping cars and harassing drivers. Back at home, she phoned M., who told her to come anyway. “It’s nothing”, he assured her. She set out again and did get stopped this time. When the soldiers inspected her ID papers, I guess they saw she was someone not to mess with, but were not happy about it. They threw her papers at her and told her to move on. As soon as she and her friend reached the meeting place, they all left again for home. They got back with no major problems, but during the night the fighting was close to the home of the French couple. They got a round fired through the wall of their living room.
I found it interesting that M., as someone high-up in government circles, got no info or warning about what was going on. At least the US Embassy eventually got around to issuing a warning to citizens.

What I saw yesterday:
The guardian at the front gate of the ORSTOM (where JP works), wearing a crocheted scarf wrapped around his head like a turban. Multicolored. It looked like a Home Ec project gone very, very bad.
Our guardian, Salfo, bundled up in a long down jacket, with a ski hat pulled down nearly over his eyes.
Our other guardian, old Moussa, wearing something over his hands. “Are those mittens?!” I whispered to JP. No, they were socks. A pair of men's brown dress socks.
Next: A baby bundled onto his mom’s back in a bright red and purple cloth . The child was dressed in a pink winter coverall like I used to put on my kids during the snowy winters in the French Alps.
Everybody here is talking about the freezing weather! Yes, it’s Winter in Ouagadougou. The temperatures are below 90° F every day and plunge down to 60° at night. I guess you become accustomed to heat eventually, but even after seven and a half years here, I don’t find 84° “cold”. I am actually finding it very nice and wish it was like this all year long! I could do without the pervasive dust, though. The skies are a permanent yellow-grey haze. Out of curiosity, I googled to see what the world had to say about Ouaga’s weather. The BBC reports that visibility in Ouaga is “excellent”. I guess it is if you think visibility of about one city block is good.

Valentine has one more week to finish her art project for school: a patchwork quilt in the shape of a country. It’s about halfway done. I don’t know how people that don’t have a sewing machine at home are managing. I guess they have to take it to a tailor and have it sewn. Which sort of detracts from the learning aspect. I can’t imagine they mean for the kids to make them all by hand. That would take so long that they wouldn’t have time to do their other homework. Uh oh. I just overheard Valentine showing her quilt to Severin and his pal Daniel. “Umm….. It’s a chicken?” Danel ventured. It’s supposed to be the United States. I better go see if I can help her to get it looking less animal and more continental..

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