Sunday, March 09, 2008

We’d been in Ouaga about one month when I met the French aristocrats living down the street from us. Their kids rode horses regularly, of course. What else would French nobles living in Africa do for fun?

I was afraid that it would be an expensive hobby and and maybe the people doing it would be scary (“The Burkinabé peasants say they have no tô” “No tô? Let them eat rice”, etc…) But Valentine, just turned six, really wanted to try.

So, the neighbours took us along out to their club to check it out, as we didn’t have a car yet.

They brought us to the Oasis du Cheval –one of no less than three very good riding clubs located in Ouagadougou. The infrastructure was pretty basic, but the atmosphere and horses were both great, thanks in great part to the owner, Modibo Traoré.

The Oasis became “our” club, too. Valentine took weekly lessons. When the twins were about two and a half years old, they started riding, too. Over the years, we spent a lot of time at the place and I have mentioned it in passing several times in my blog.

The club improved steadily, as Modibo is all about the horses. He and his wife Valerie have spent lots of money to make the club beautiful and the horses more comfortable than any other animals (and many people!) in Burkina Faso..

The upsetting news that we got recently was that eleven horses from the club have burned to death in a terrible truck accident. I don’t know lots of details, mainly because I am not actively gathering info on this. The less I know, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

But here’s what I’ve been told so far:

Eleven horses were being transported in a big truck to a special riding event. Modibo was following in his jeep. And the truck caught on fire- I am told it was a “short circuit”. Whatever it was, it was very sudden. Modibo had to be held back and prevented from rushing into the flames.

I know that Jaguar, the twins’ favourite, is gone. He was a dappled grey stallion with lots of Arab blood in him. And Muffin, the horse that used to belong to our good friends Jo and Sophie, is gone, too. So are Diabolo and eight others.

Nobody is feeling very well today. I just took the twins over to the orphanage to help out with the babies there. I knew they were shorthanded today and figured it would take the girls’ minds off the horses for a while. It did. Though for me, it was a little more ambivalent. There is one toddler there whose case is being toyed with by the social services agency here. It’s a long story, but in short: the girl spent some time living with a lovely US family here in Ouaga that was going to adopt her. Then social services made them put her back in the orphanage. When I arrived at the orphanage, this child crawled immediately into my arms. I think it’s because as a tall, blonde white woman, I somewhat resemble her adoptive mother. When I finally had to leave, she cried and screamed and I felt awful. I almost felt like I shouldn’t have gone at all…Did I make her feel worse in the end?
But on the other hand, the caretaker there really did need the help with the smaller babies.

Rough day.


Cyndy said...

Hang in there Beth. Adoptions are rough on everybody, especially when things go wrong. No you you didn't make the situation worse. It is something the little girl will carry with her for her lifetime, but it is now part of her fabric. If anything, I think spending time with her will help her heal. After all she didn't just lose a mommy and daddy, she lost a family. By giving her one on one time you are helping her fill that hole in her little heart.

babzee said...

Can I second Cyndy's comment? The child who wails at your leaving is a child whose spirits have been lifted, and even when they are dashed again and again and again, lifted for any moment is always better than not being lifted at all.

As to the horses, you know my feelings there. It's amazing how one animal becomes dinner and another becomes a member of the family. Perhaps it is the most human phenomenon of all. May the horses, and eventually, your hearts, rest in peace.

BurkinaMom said...

I've worked in orphanages here in Africa before, but always with older kids. They don't trust the world and you can see it clearly in their eyes.

The babies and toddlers in an orphanage, though, are in the process of learning not to trust. You can see it happening. It sucks.

Yes, I'll go back.

Thanks, you guys.