Monday, March 19, 2007


I think I have already established my «AdventureGal» credentials beyond a doubt. I live in a place that most people can’t pronounce and have fought off malaria in the hospital no less than twice. I got through the riots and car-burnings when we first arrived here and have been to no less than seven Winyé mask festivals. Did I really need to see another? What did I have to prove?
Well, what I did prove was that huge amounts of dust do make asthma worse (I’ve got to remember that one) and if your car is a piece of crap, you should maybe not drive it through the less inhabited expanses of West Africa
After last year’s fiasco, I had no great desire to go back. I even started getting sick with a bad cold on Tuesday. It seemed like a message from the mischievious bush fairies. "Stay away or you're in for a replay of last year, you miserable loser" was their exact wording.
But a nice Fulbright prof staying here for a few months wanted to experience a mask festival with her two daughters. These are the American twins that are in school with my twins….So, I thought it would be “fun” to go together. Even my pal Tony from next door decided to come along and bring his three year old.
So, we set off on Saturday morning at about 7am. My car took the lead and Tony was right behind us. His truck needs a repair to the steering and tends to shake distressingly when forced over 100km per hour. (Why not repair it? Good question. The part has been ordered for months and just never shows up) And my Toyota? Well, I have a deep and not completely unfounded fear that the left front wheel might just fall off at any given moment. It happened once already, on a trip back from the north of Burkina. The thing is supposedly repaired now, but that is a term used very loosely here. It wasn’t exactly the blind leading the blind, more like the badly injured leading the grotesquely maimed. But we figured that the odds were low that both cars would break down. We took it slow and the trip up went quite well. The four twins sat on the back bench seats in the Land Cruiser and had a great time. They like to play lots of role-playing games (not like their big brother’s D&D) more along the lines of: “Let’s all be orphans? Like really, really poor? And we have no home, just an old blanket?” If the tentatively proposed scenario is accepted, they all rush to assign themselves good parts. Mallory invariably complicates things, as she almost always insists on being some kind of animal. In this case, the others maintained that the tragic orphans were much too impoverished to care for a pony or even a smallish cat. Mallory finally gave in, thought a moment, then announced: “My name is Amber. I’m nine months old. And I bite!”. She sounded disturbing- just like a child in a 12-step program for demonic offspring. Next up would be the little boy from “The Omen” saying: “Well, I’m Damien. I’m 10. And I’m the Antichrist”

G. and I chatted, the girls played. We stopped once near some shrubs that had more than the average amount of leaves for this time of year. Little Zoe needed the cover, as did G. Then we went on another hour towards Boromo. This part of the trip Zoe spent in a complete, frantic panic. Tony later told me that he had quite a time trying to drive and decipher what his over-excited three year old was trying to tell him. He finally worked out that she had seen G. get out of our car, but hadn’t seen her get back in. She didn’t know Gina well, not even her name, but was quite beside herself that we had just taken off and left some poor lady stranded out in the bush. Maybe Zoe thought it was the start of some sinister trend. Who knows who would be left behind next? Makes a person think about drinking a lot less water, that’s for sure.

We got to the small hotel in the center of town at about 10am. This year I had reserved early, so we weren’t forced to stay in the nightmarish place that we did last year. To our surprise, we found that the old Relais Touristique had made (gasp!) improvements! The rooms all have air-con now!!!! And (get this) the rooms all have a TV! Granted, it only gets two channels. And the channels mostly seem to play cheesey music videos. But still!
Now, I’ll admit that the bathrooms still close with just stained curtains, rather than doors, and the rooms are still only about 9’ x 9’, and the water is still cut most of the day. But at least they provide a bucket now, so you can keep a reserve on hand. So, it’s actually quite improved. It’s now achieved the level of a very scary, extremely primitive Motel 6. But for the middle of Burkina, it’s pretty great. So, we happily and quickly unloaded our suitcases and got ready to head over to the small village of Oullo, which would be the site of the day’s ceremonies.

More to come……..

2 comments:

MLW said...

Okay, I know that the story is going to turn ominous when the bush genies' warnings are materialzed, but for now, I am SO jealous! You were actually in Oullu, and all I got was the Brooklyn Museum last weekend, in the African section, watching a videotape of a Bobo mask festival, and being all, "Oh, that's the antelope! And that's a moody buffalo!". Nobody in the museum was kicking up dust. Maybe next time I'll bring some and try, and explain to the curators that if somebody doesn't leave with a respiratory infection, it's not a real mask festival.

oreneta said...

So looking forward to the rest of the story. I do love that you are living such an adventurous life, and yet it is so normal too. Screaming three year olds, car games where one child always causes problems...the juxtaposition of the two are fun to read.