When people find out that we've moved to France from Burkina Faso, I frequently get this remark, or something very like: "Well, this must be a big change for you."
I guess it's one of those conversational space fillers, because I doubt they're really expecting me to say "No, actually France is just like West Africa. Except for the cheese. You guys have way more cheese here. But other than that, life is exactly the same. Yup. Amazing but true."
The reality is, that besides the fact that you breathe oxygen in both locations, life couldn't be more different, at every level.
Some examples, taken from daily life:
1. In Ouagadougou, most people don't have septic tanks. And even latrines are considered pretty fancy stuff. Most folks just find a corner, more or less secluded, and squat.
In contrast, here in France, the Septic Tank Inspector comes around and checks that everything drains where it should. One came to visit me today, in fact. His verdict? Spend money, much money because it's wrong, all wrong. And in the immortal words of the Terminator: "he'll be back".
2. Everything I own isn't covered with fine orange dust.
3. Burkina is full of black people. Rural France has none, as far as I can tell, unless they are out there hiding behind the cows.
4. I mention the cows because they are enormous here. They are like elephants with nose jobs and fuzzy jackets.
African cattle are lean to skeletal. They are the cow version of marathon runners. They look desperate, joyless and in need of a good meal.
And we musn't forget:
5. In Burkina we were never in any danger of freezing to death. This is in direct contrast to life in the French Alps in the autumn. There is already snow on the nearby hillsides and each night the temperature here at the house hovers around freezing.
To help stave off the cold, we ordered some firewood last weekend. We all had to work like mad to get it stacked up under shelter before the rain started up.
Note: in nine years in Ouagadougou, I never, ever had to haul and stack firewood.
Here's the Frogman and Tya, nearly done with moving the first half of the load.
This is the wood for the woodstove and had to be stacked up in the garage.
The immediate danger of freezing now neutralized, we've moved on to other tasks. One has been to scrape the moss off the roof tiles. This is yet another thing that we never, ever had to worry about in Ouagadougou. We occasionally paid someone to go up on the roof and brush off the dead leaves and cockroaches, but that was about it.
The garage needs to be cleaned out now that the Great Septic Tank Crisis has passed. And I haven't done anything in the yard in ages, despite promising Mal that we could plant some bulbs for the spring. So, this should be yet another busy, non-African week here in the Haute Savoie...