Saturday, April 19, 2008


At about 7:45 on Saturday morning we were headed over to the convent of the nuns of Our Lady of Consolation. The twins were in the backseat with their little friend L, who had spent the night. They were busy chatting away about the great time they were going to have spending all day with the Sisters. The kids had apparently been promised lots of art projects and coloring. Very Vatican II.
But they were distracted, as we all were, by the huge crowd gathered along the Charles de G Boulevard at the Babanguida road intersection. There were plenty of police and a few stopped vehicles almost blocking the road.
I knew it was probably an accident, and from the quiet gravity of the crowd, I was guessing it was a fatal one.


Sadly, really terrible accidents are a daily fact of life in Ouagadougou. Bicyles, handcarts, donkey carts, motorscooters, pedestrians and cars are all competing for the same roadspace and it just doesn't work out well. Add to that no helmets and little respect for and/or knowledge of traffic rules and it all combines into one big, deadly mess.

My children, of course, spend their days in school, not tooling around the roads of Ouaga. I, on the other hand, do lots of errand running and have passed by many serious accidents. And I have learned not to look. I say a prayer for the people involved, but I don't look.

How do I know the accidents were serious? Our driver, Mahama, told me. He is a serious rubber-necker. Even when he's driving, he can't resist looking. Even when I tell him to pay attention to the freaking road so WE don't end up in a bad way.
So, there I was, once again telling the driver to please keep his eyes on the road and not rear-end the folks in front of us.
And then I hear Mallory say in a horrified whisper "He's dead! There's blood around his head!"

I was pretty horrified myself. The crowd was SO big, I had figured that any possible view of the actual accident would be hidden. But I guess people had left a large clear space around the body as they waited for the ambulance to arrive.

"Somebody put a handkerchief on his face. His bicycle is by him. He was hit by a car."

Oh boy.

A block further on, we had turned left towards the convent. I reached back and held Mallory's hand and we all had a talk about the difference between stopping to help someone and slowing down to gawk at misfortune -the latter being a very common human reaction. We are curious to see what hideous fate that we have been lucky enough to avoid. But when there's already a crowd of people helping out, there's NO reason to slow down for a look.
The girls understood -now if only I could get our driver to understand, too.


Mal and the other two girls sat quietly as we pulled up the the high convent gates. As we got out of the car, she asked if she should ask Sister Perpetua to have all the children pray for the man.

I told her it was a brilliant idea, gave her a hug and sent her off.

She seems to have dealt with it all pretty well. This morning, she was awake early and all ready to go on an outing. We were going to vist the new house of Aisha and her family. Thanks to help from MLW, Babzee and my father, they now have a little home out in the suburb/village of Saaba. (Thanks again! ) . This was a project I'd had in mind for some time and I'm SO pleased that it has really happened. Aisha is now 20 years old and supporting two sisters, a brother and their mentally ill mother. Owning a home will get them out from under paying rent and worrying about being homeless. The money she earns from sewing can go right to paying for food, water and school for the three younger ones.
It's a simple one-room mud-brick home, but they are thrilled.

In the photo, Aisha is the smaller one. Her sister Mariam is 12, but much taller. And of course, there's Mally in front.

1 comment:

babzee said...

As every day unfolds, a horrible tragedy like a traffic accident is a little offset by some stupefying miracle. This day it is disparate foreigners scraping together pocket change to buy a young family a house. Thank you for weaving the pieces together. May Aisha'a joy and dazzling smile outlast the grief and pain of the bike rider's family.


OTOH: Sister Perpetua of Our Lady of Consolation? You can't make this stuff up!