Saturday, February 23, 2008


Last night, "Radio France Boredom" turned into "Radio France Stardom"! JP came home from work and told me that an RFI journalist was doing a phone interview with him at 7pm. The reporter had been given JP's name as an authority on social issues in Burkina, so JP was to give his opinion on the latest unrest in Burkina.

I couldn't hang around and listen in, as our family had tickets to see the school musical (Grease!) over at the International School. So, I rushed the kids out the door and JP stayed to take his call. It will be broadcast on Monday morning.

The city is calm today. I didn't see any soldiers as I came into the center of town today.

No real news, so here's a bit more of the continuing saga of last weekends events. Warning- it's all about the Carnival, nothing about Nanou yet. Be patient.

Saturday’s Carnival experience didn’t turn out half bad. The advantage was that this was my NINTH one at St Ex. I’ll admit that in the early days I could get quite worked up at the bad behaviour of the parents as they stampeded to snatch a prime seat under the awning. And even more annoying were the ones who, in their quest for the best possible picture of their offspring would stand directly in front of the seated crowd, blocking others from seeing the show. In fact, for me, one of the “traditions” of the school Carnival was the part where I would decide to strike out in the cause of justice and yell at these anti-social morons, telling them that (and this is a quote from three years ago): “I am really not interested in viewing your butts. So why don’t you freaking move? Thank you.” This would get cheers from the crowd and the offenders would often slink off in shame. But fairly frequently they would just give me and the rest of the resentful crowd a bored glance that said “Oh. Roaches. And they talk. Whatever.” and not move. I guess sociopaths have kids, too.

Now, maybe it was my annual rage-fest that diminished the problem over time. But it was probably the letter that the principal of the school has sent to the parents for the last two years, warning them to back off, threatening that cameras would be banned at events if folks couldn’t control themselves. At any rate, that problem was greatly reduced this year. There was still lots of pushing and seat-snitching going on, but no blatant butt-blocking, so that was nice.

I really didn’t have much to complain about. As I was a classroom-helper mom, I got to go down before the huge crowd was allowed inside the gates, so I snagged a good seat in the second row. Why not the first row? Sure, those upholstered seats looked way more inviting than the rows of sharp-edged metal folding chairs lined up behind. But the comfy seats all sported big white signs saying “Reserved for Guests”.

Now, as I am not a student, teacher, administrator or part of the janitorial staff, I am a “guest” at that school, am I not? But I knew that the signs didn’t mean me. In the great French/Burkinabé tradition of elitism, the school always reserves the front row for the “important” parents. That means high-up government and embassy persons, and the owners/CEOs of big business concerns. That way, Mr. Big Deal, the CEO of a big cell-phone company here, can come in late, but still enjoy a perfect view of his child in the show from the vantage point of a fluffy cushion.

Now, I’m used to this, and all the anger has yielded to mild bemusement. But my pal C? That’s a whole different story. This is only her second year here, so she got pretty riled up. C. is French, but raised in the USA. She looks like the stereotypical Frenchwoman: small and delicate and so well-groomed it looks like it hurts. You’d think she has nothing in common with an amiable slob like myself, but we are actually spiritual sisters. Her years in the States (and subsequent life working with other Anglophone people) have made her very anti-elitist and very ready to express her opinion when things are unfair. While not building up the US as a paradise, she clearly has some issues with how the French (and French Africans) do things. The French motto is: Liberty, Fraternity , Equality. But at school it’s: “all parents are equal, but some are more equal than others”. And this got C. quite angry. She had the very American sentiment that the so-called “elites” should be treated just like all the other parents. And she’s right, of course. But that’s not how they do things here. The VIPs are entitled to their perks, even if they’re not all that VI.

C. and I chatted. Well, she ranted and I nodded sypathetically. She even got some of the French couples behind us involved in the discussion. They were very nice folks who all completely agreed with her. Or they were scared of her - I’m not sure.

We were further entertained by the fact that the “reserved” seats began filling up, but not all of the people were VIPs. Many were just folks that thought the seats looked good. They’d come in late, notice a couple of empty chairs in the center of the very front row and head straight for them. “Wow! Perfect seats left empty! I guess the people sitting behind are so moronic that they didn’t notice them. How lucky I am!” and they’d sit down right on top of the “reserved” signs taped to the seats. And when the Principal would come to make them move, they looked deeply shocked.

The show was pretty cute, so I watched quite happily, despite the fact that I had no kids of my own performing in the first few scenes. They start with the preschoolers, which makes sense.

Soon, I started getting nervous that Tony wasn’t going to show at all. C. kindly offered to lend me her camera during the scenes that the twins would perform in. So, I was sitting there holding C’s camera when Tony squeezed in beside me, handed me his digital camera and disappeared again, like some kind of audiovisual superhero.

Alexa’s strange little vignette was up next. As I reported previously in my blog, it was the story of a President being kidnapped and then rescued by some MIB-like secret agents. Alexa had snagged the very small, yet vital (well ok-not vital, just small) part of one of the three evil waitresses that serves drugged drinks to the bodyguards of the imperilled President. She looked very stylish and carried off her role with aplomb. It seemed very plausible that she could persuade a young man to accept a nice glass of spiked fruit punch from her. (Check out the photo at top of this post for proof.)

Her moment in the spotlight was very short and she watched the rest of the show from the sidelines with her two fellow waitresses. After the poisoning and kidnapping, the storyline became less clear. The whole thing was mimed to music, with no narration or dialogue, so the comings and goings of the different groups of armed and sinister looking persons were a complete mystery. In the end, the President was rescued, though, and waved to the crowd with his proud wife (mistress? bodyguard? cleaning lady?) beside him.

Next, it was time for Mal’s show. First, big easels were brought out. Then the groups of subjects arranged themselves. Finally, the painters trooped out. And it just so happened that Mal’s group set up at the back of the stage area, as far from me as possible. Even worse, my view was completely blocked by the kids on bicycles posing for one of the other artists. And the crowded audience meant that there was no hope of moving and jockeying for a better vantage point. By the time I made my way to another place, the show would be over. So, I watched the show. It went like this: kids posed, other kids pretended to paint them. Then, each group paraded around with a big poster of the famous painting that they had just “created”. Each was labelled with the title of the work and name of the artist. But as I wrote in my previous blog entry on the subject, I am an Art Dolt and hadn’t heard of any of the paintings.

Anyway, all this meant that I got no pictures of Mal at all- which was a shame, as it’s her last Carnival here in Ouagadougou.

That was the last scene. The show was over and I rushed over to the school library. That’s where the ticket sales windows were set up. I had volunteered yet again to sell refreshment tickets, which isn’t as altruistic as it sounds. Yes, it’s lots of work and you don’t get to enjoy the eating and socializing that follow the event. But there are many, many advantages: 1. You stand in an air-conditioned room, selling tickets through the window. This is less important at the Xmas Market, but gains in importance as the school year wears on and the weather heats up 2. You see all of your friends and acquaintances. In fact, you see everyone , because everybody needs tickets if they want to drink or eat anything. 3. There’s also a nice ‘esprit de corps’ among the ticket-sellers 4. Plus there’s the fun of being an ‘insider’, rather than one of the milling crowd. 5. Add to that the fact that I really hate wandering around in a huge crowd, trying to ‘socialize’. Quelle horreur! It’s SO much nicer to have a useful job and not be out there trying to have ‘fun’.

That's it for now. I'll post again on Monday with an account of the big birthday bash scheduled for this afternoon. Should be fun!

2 comments:

MLW said...

Happy Birthday, Mallory and Alexa, you evil waitresses and skilled artists!

Loving the detailed mix -- soldiers, skits, interviews, air conditioning.

Niger also had these strikes and shutdowns "contre la vie chere" last year, and I don't remember hearing of much violence (though look where they are now!). I hope that it can all work out -- that protests can be peaceful, and that something is done to keep prices stable. Really welcome these reports.

babzee said...

Your Fandom cheer that you are continuing to find fun in chaotic climes, but at least one of us mourns at not having your shoulder upon which to unburden herself. The days speed by: Peanut has been neutered and thereby is also in mourning, Roxy has become absolutely goat-like in new-found spunk and conniving. I spent a long day on Lake Rabun with Anna the Blood Type Goddess and the Silent Cancer Patients. The canonization of St. Barack goes forth despite FACTS and I wonder again if you'll need a live-in gardener and massage therapist at Maison du Jacob when you get "home".