Friday, October 2, 2009

Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, Bobo-Dioulasso, July 17th-24th, Sept. 20-23rd, 2009

I went to Burkina Faso primarily to get my visa stamped for another two months. I had to leave Ghana after being there for six months, and I was curious about Burkina. If I had more time, energy and resources, I would have loved to look around more and go to Mali as well.

Burkina Faso is a French speaking country and its "Frenchness" seemed very apparent from the sidewalk cafes with baguettes, bowls of cafe au laits, wonderfully sweet and fresh yogurts, and the scooters and bicycles zooming by with many stylish, colorfully dressed women wearing sun glasses. And then there's also the ever present prevalence of les cigarettes which is a rarity in Ghana, at least smoking en publique.

I walked around Ouagadougou(pron. Wuagadoogoo), the largest city in Burkina Faso, and the architecture frequently caught my eye. There were many unique styles evoking mid-century modern, sixties Vegas to architecture that reflected the landscape which reminded me of architecture from New Mexico in the U.S.; adobe styles with curves much like the buildings in villages. The photo below is an example that also reminded me of Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York.

On the way to the STMB bus station, I came across this avenue lined with carved trees that were a visual treat. I wish I could tell you who did them and how they came to being. There must have twelve trees in the area with different carvings of people, animals, and sayings.

Near the STMB bus station, I also come across a restaurant/bar called Baratapas. It is full of junk metal scuptures and paintings. I meet the owner from France and he tells me he commissions some of the pieces and also lets artists store their work there. I enjoy looking around and he says it's okay to take pictures. I drink a bissap, which is a non-alcoholic drink that tastes like a sangria.

I return in September just for a couple of days and come across an artisans shop for people with disabilities called Tigoung Nonma. Tigoung Nonma ( is also connected with Handicap Solidaire Burkina ( I walk in and a man shows me some of the jewelry and other craft items he has made and I get a couple items. The artisan's name is Dabre Issa Guerrier. He's very enthusiastic about the center and wants me to meet an English woman who is volunteering there. I end up going to the main shop and get an motorcycle crafted out of metal and Nescafe cans. The woman working the shop is practicing her English and does quite well because my French is so poor. It was quite the creative place with a great spirit. I talked with the English woman for awhile and she told me how many of the people at the center had their houses destroyed by the recent heavy flooding. She and her organization were able to raise some funds to help them out, but it was a devastating summer. After visiting in the shop, I drank a coffee at their little cafe outside and then moved along.

In July, I also went to Bobo-Dioulasso for three days. Bobo is southwest of Ouaga about a four hour bus ride. The European Union help fund the highway and it was very new and smooth riding. Bobo is smaller and quieter than Ouaga and I spent a lot of time enjoying bakeries and cafes. It was a nice place to relax.

I came in to this Total gas station in Bobo-Dioulasso to buy some water and thought she was the most elegant gas station attendant I had ever seen, so I asked her if I could take her picture. Her eyebrows are also the fashion of Burkina with some women having even more pronounced and darker lines

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