Sunday, May 11, 2008

The men in our family are holding out against the African Doom Virus. The girls and I, on the other hand, are hacking away and the house sounds like a TB ward on a particularly bad day.

Yes, I know that people the world over get colds and flu. But at least if I have a bad cold in the US of A, I have the choice between several fluffy and soft brands of tissue, some with soothing lotions. Here in Burkina we only have what is apparently very thin sandpaper , cut to size, shoved in a box and marketed as a Kleenex-substitute.

And of course, there aren’t all the great medications to keep you up and running and then put you to sleep. I know that I always say DON’T bring medications to Burkina when you come, but I lied. There’s an exception: DO bring Nyquil or whatever brand of cold remedy that you swear by. There is only one kind of cold medicine sold here (Fervex) and it is as nothing compared to the might of Nyquil.

Also, there’s the fact that it’s just so darn NOT comfy here. Burkina is a nice enough place, in it’s way…but it is NOT a place of comfort and rest for a body, especially a sick body. The heat and dust wear you down. And even if you are wealthy enough to have a home with glass windows and electricity, you will be foiled in your efforts at comfort by the constant power cuts.
And those of you arriving soon don’t have any improvements to look forward to. On the contrary, far from getting better, the power cuts will be a fact of life. The official word is that Sonabel has scheduled rolling blackouts daily into 2009. Yup. They even have a published schedule so you can know which neighbourhoods will get cut if the city demand for power gets too high on a given day.

Anyway, this cold has four out of six of us down. Not like we’re really able to rest. Yesterday we were forced to drag ourselves out bright and early to get ready for the big ISO Garage Sale. We were onsite by 6/30 am, organizing the mountain of junk I wanted to sell. Hey, like they say- “one person’s cumbersome eyesore is another person’s bliss”, and I was betting a 25 dollar table rental fee that this was true.

It took us over an hour to get even half the stuff out on the six tables. There wasn’t even nearly enough room for all the old Barbies, baby board books, half-use bottles of perfume, old clothes, etc. The crowd surged in at 8am and we stood, coughing and astounded, watching the wave engulf the ISO basketball court. The Garage Sale is an annual event, well-known in the Burkinabé community. American expats, in particular, are known for having amazing amounts of stuff for low prices. I was no exception (even though I’m French, too).

The crowd was huge. I’m so lucky that I had all four of my kids helping out. There’s no way I could have managed otherwise, because of course, even though the prices were clearly marked in magic marker on masking tape labels, haggling was inevitable. Even the little toys in the basket marked “100 fcfa each”(25 cents) were not exempt, as people would ask if we couldn’t sell them for 50 cfa each instead.

It was more than a little crazy-making, as no transaction with a Burkinabé was ever a simple “look at the price tag and hand over the money” type of thing. I can usually face this fact of life here, but my fever of 4O° C and miserable cough made me feel unusually unable to deal.

But deal I did- we sold a mountain of stuff and made quite a bit of cash. On the other hand, it was hard-earned, as we sold no big-ticket items. The most expensive thing sold was for 10,000 fcfa. Most of the money we made was in increments of 500 cfa or less- so it was many, many transactions and tough, tough going.

I let the kids keep the money from any of their own toys they sold, so they’re all feeling quite wealthy. And JP and I made some money and got rid of a bunch of stuff that did not need an all-expenses paid trip to France.

After the sale, Valentine and I came home and slept a few hours. The twins, apparently made of sterner stuff, were quite perky. Mallory even persuaded her Papa to take her and her beloved pet goat Aslan for a walk in the park. Report has it that a good time was had by all.

But while Aslan has a fun day yesterday, today was another story. There was a particularly bad dust storm at lunchtime today. Rain threatened and there was some thunder and all three goats were terrified. Mallory and I had to go back and talk to them. They were so relieved to see us and quieted right down. But, of course, they didn’t want to stay outside and made it clear that they thought the kitchen would be the best place for them to ride out the spell of inclement weather.

But the storm died down and right now it is relatively cool and pleasant outside!!


Bridget said...

It all just goes to prove that it takes tough stock for pioneering (profiteering??).

Benoit Lescarbeau said...

Hope you get well soon! Sadly, we haven't brought any cold medicine.

We arrived last night in Ouaga, if you still have stuff to sell and you feel better by then, maybe we could drop by next week-end.