Ouagadougou? I asked the air hostess.
Yes. She replied, with a slight smirk, surprised by my question, however absurd it may have seemed, there was a reason.
I had slept through the second part of my journey you see, another transit, right through the landing and was only awoken by the sounds of shuffling feet and hand luggage being thrown around. All airports look the same from inside the plane, particularly at night, and if I’m honest, I thought we were still in transit. Once I gathered my belongings and stepped down, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We all had to go through the formalities, immigration, customs, baggage collection etc, but once that was over, and I walked through the doors of the airport, the many people waiting, at 6am in the morning, was quite a surprise. I quickly realised that most were vendors, trying to sell what they could in order to survive.
I sat down in the waiting area and was approached by two young men, who were also vendors. We ended up sparking a conversation, which developed into a Moore (the local language) lesson on his part, and a history lesson in my part, Sankara, Kingdoms of Africa, and so forth. He helped me a lot this young man, I ended up buying a sim card from him for way more than the asking price, knowing that I would not need it, all the while hoping the small sum would at least help him along his way, as he had helped me along mine. It was more of acknowledgement than an actual payment.
‘Look, the day is coming’ the young man said. As the sun stretched its arms across the horizon, sweeping away the darkness, it dawned on me, that this was the first sunrise I had seen on the beautiful continent ever since I was young enough to be held in my mother’s arms. Life was not so certain then, sadly, not much has change, particularly for those children who are now where I once was. Good fortune is recognised either much later or not at all, and in my case, I am pleased to say it is the former.
My time here will be spent working on a development project, with a local grass roots organisation, and as I would be leading the team, I arrived a week in advance in order to prepare and organise the project. (You can find out more specifically related to the project here http://www.internationalservice.org.uk/). A lot of time was spend in the office, and making field visits, however, there were moments, really poignant moments when I had travelled, and wandered around during my free time and made observation.
Ouagadougou is the same colour, all throughout, a reddish brown colour – by default, not by design – barring the occasional 4 story house, with a white picket fence and neatly trimmed hedges belonging to the successful business man.
I was walking by slowly, when I noticed an old woman, she was searching through the rubble in the middle of, what seemed to be, a makeshift trash site in the road in between the houses. What she was searching for, and hoping to find, would probably be enough to feed her for a day, if she manages to sell it. At that moment, someone in a BMW X6 drove by. My heart sank. At that point, I really struggled to identify with human nature.
The contrast of rich and poor rarely cross paths so visibly, in such extreme circumstances, but when it does, it is enough to leave your faith in humanity outlined in chalk, if you’re not careful.
Burkina Faso had already captured my heart from the moment I took my first breath with my feet planted steadily on its ground. At this moment, I could speak of much more; however, beautiful moments often render me speechless, so I am surprised to have even said so much. I hope to share the beauty of Burkina with you, so that you may, as I have, find a little place for her in your heart.