21 August 2009 Burkina Faso Day 4
We spent the day traveling. Today we learned the joy of Rakieta buses. The on time departure from Ouaga to Bobo was our second in a row. Three will be a pattern. They also called us by name to board. We found our assigned seats. Then put or packs on the overhead shelves. After the bus left the station the mate walked up the aisle leaving small plastic wastebaskets. Then within the hour he came back through offering cold drinks for sale.
We stopped about half way through this short trip for a food and toilet break. Again I squatted over a square hole in cement and rinsed my hands and feet with water from a plastic teapot.
Oh but the vendors were vicious. The minute we got off the bus at least six preteen girls were in our faces with sesame biscuits. Half a dozen more women with arachide, salted and sugared were all vying for the ‘blanc’s’ sale. As we walked around the swarm followed. I felt like we were famous and had a posse. When we made a purchase a cry went up from the swarm weather in joy that we bought anything or distress that we didn’t buy from them I could not tell. With our people all around I am not sure how we found the yogurt (yaourt) but we did! Amid comments from the peanut gallery we added it to our purchases.
We returned to our journey. On the bus we broke out lunch. We had purchased a baguette I had Chocodelight (a spread like Nutella only the it’s chocolate and ground nut paste.) opened some sesame biscuits. The biscuits tasted like that hard honey sesame candy except they binding ingredient was softer and made of sugar and water. They were more like a cookie than a hard candy. Then we opened the yogurt. We bought it in small white plastic jars that looked like mini milk jugs. Oh it was creamy, sweet and tart with a nice vanilla flavor. Lenore kept moaning dairy, dairy, dairy.
After lunch we settled back to watch a Nigerian movie. We also read and did puzzles as the movie was playing. I won’t get started on the image of women in mass media but let me just say that it seems that no matter where movies are made they exploit the woman’s body.
Since the trip was going so smoothly. We would probably arrive in Bobo about 12:30 we discussed whether we should just go on to Banfora. We were both tired of the city and wanted to do some of the outdoor things that made Banfora popular. We also thought that we should go the furthest distance then back track. The only thing we had to do in Bobo was find a Western Union and pick up Lenore’s money. We decided to leave the option of going to Banfora today open depending on bus schedules and how long it took us to get the money.
As we entered the outskirts of Bobo we started looking for a Western Union. We didn’t see any. Then the bus slowed and turned into the station. Voila! there was a Western Union right next door. We disembarked and headed over to the Western Union. I remember at Barclay’s it took almost an hour to process the transaction so I was settling in for the long haul. Before I finished one game of snake, on my cell phone, Lenore was back with her money.
We headed to the bus station and bought our tickets for the next bus to Banfora. Then we waited.
Two buses came in at the same time. One began loading so I went over. I noticed the passengers on the bus that was boarding had different tickets from mine. I showed the mate my ticket and he said my ticket was for le bus bleu. He pointed to the blue bus closest to the station.
Three is a pattern. The bus began loading 30 minutes before departure time. We were called by name to load the bus AND the people still crowded around the door while waiting to be called. When we were called we boarded and headed to our seats. Oh no somebodies were in our seats. This can happen in Ghana even on buses with reserved seating and of course reserved seats are over sold in America. Why not here. They were soldiers. I approached with caution. I don’t like soldiers or police here in West Africa. I said in my best French and with my biggest smile, “Bonjour Cava?” We exchanged greetings Then I smiled again and said “Monsieur Nous sommes ici.” Then showed him my ticket. He spoke a lot of French very fast. I held fast that this was our place. We moved to the seats behind him and waited. He then showed me his ticket. It was the same kind of ticket for the bus that had already left for Banfora. When I saw this I said “Parlez vous avec le conductor” He talked more rapid French. I sighed and said “je n’comprend pa monsieur Parlez vous avec les conductor.” With apologies they left our seats and moved to the back of the bus.
I told Lenore that their tickets looked like the ones that the people had on the other bus and that was why I told him to talk to the conductor. I looked back. They had two seats in the very back.
Although the seats were comfy. Although we had a nice rest stop during the journey. Although Lenore is a great travel companion. Although I had a small nap. At the end of the day I was so stressed out. I think two things contributed to my state of mind. First I was still recovering from that bad flu I had the last day of training so my tolerance level was low.
The second thing is something Rakieta had in common with Ghanaian and other public transport I have used. The level of the noise. The movie and the music videos were just blasting. By reading or doing a puzzle I ignored it for a while. Yet it was still there in the background becoming more and more of an irritant. When the driver of the bus to Banfora honked the horn it sounded like someone was blasting a bull horn right next to my head. And a child was crying and crying and crying. On days when my tolerance level is not so low I feel bad for the mother. I have been there I know how it feels. But today I had no empathy I just felt bad for me.
At last we arrived. When we left the bus station every taxi driver wanted to give the white ladies a ride. I talked to one man. He knew where the Hotel de Comoe was. Offered a good price so I called over to Lenore that I had a taxi for us. When we got into the taxi the man who I talked to sat in the passengers seat and there was another driver. The man in the passengers seat talked to us and then handed us a paper business card. He was a guide.
We arrived at the hotel. We gathered a baggage and headed in to get a room. Then guide from the taxi followed us in. I was tired. I wanted to rest. As we were checking in the guide kept talking to us. I was ready to tell him yes we would hire him, just to shut him up, but Lenore to the rescue. She said we needed to think about it. We left for our room.
Doada led us to our room. On the way he stopped at the toilet. It was a squatty potty but it was porcelain. There were two raised rectangles to put your feet on. The surface of the rectangles was not flat and slippery but had ½ inch ridges. I sure wouldn’t want to slip when I was doing my business. The rest looked like a sink basin with a very wide drain. There was a toilet tank on the wall up over my head. It had a long pull string to flush. The ever present plastic teapot was also in the room. It looked to me like the raised rectangles may decrease the amount of splash back on my ankles. Time will tell.
We had twin beds, a table and a combo shower and sink. But no indoor toilet. I used the shower and lay down for a nap. When I awoke felt refreshed and had a call to nature. As I suspected splash back was less with the raised rectangles.
We headed out for dinner. When we reached the entry way to the hotel who was there but our guide friend. We greeted him and he asked where we were going. We said to dinner and walked on by. He followed us. He said there’s a nice restaurant down here. We told him we knew where we were going. He continued to follow us. I stopped and looked at him and said “We will go alone! Nous sommes fatigue!” My English, French and body language got the message across and he stopped in his tracks.
Dinner was in a lovely outdoor restaurant called The Calypso. There were about 10 tables out doors. Some single tables under small summer huts. There were 4 tables in the open under the shade of some trees and 5 tables in a large summer hut. Although the ground was bare dirt they had done a lot of landscaping. There were small gardens with flowers and greenery. There were lights in the gardens with gourd shades. The multitude of trees made a natural roof, It was delightful.
I ordered steak and green beans. It was good. There were plenty of green beans. Cooked with butter and salt. The steak maybe a little tough but I forgave that because the place was so beautiful. We enjoyed a long dinner. I ended mine with strawberry glace.
When you travel with someone you begin to know all about their bodily functions and to share about your own. So on the way home from dinner I told Lenore “I am afraid I am going to have to shit on a squatty potty for the first time in my sojourn in West Africa.” She said the appropriate comforting thing “I hope you miss your clothing!”
We returned to the room. With minor preparation – I removed my panties, put on my flip flops – I was ready to go. I walked to the toilet. Opened the door.
Fade to black.
Next scene: Motel bedroom
Lenore: How’d it go?
After my foray in the toilet I lay down. Remember the question when I was applying to Peace Corps “How long can you squat?” The answer is “Long enough but it sure makes your thighs tired!” Then i remembered we didn’t have a guide for tomorrow. At that moment Lenore said
‘Did you get the name of the guide we talked to?” I said I had his card. She suggested I call him and see if he would come over tonight and talk about the tour. I did but he didn’t answer the phone. So I sent him a text. 30 minutes later no answer. Lenore decides to go to the desk clerk and ask if he knows of a guide. Thank goodness because I had no desire to do anything. She came back and said a guide was coming over to talk to us in 30 minutes. Voila! Thanks Lenore.
We met him in the hotel lobby. He had a big smile. Wore a khaki shirt and pants and a hat. He looked like a guide. Between his small English and our small French we managed to discuss what we wanted to do and the price. We started at 30,000 CFA for the car, the chauffeur and the petrol. He suggested motos but we said we Corps de Paix motos no no. He laughed and said Corps de Paix then pantomimed riding a bicycle and wearing a helmet! He knows Peace Corps.
I asked if that included the entrance fees to the three sites. Not that gracefully of course. I talked about billets pour le lac de hippo el les domes? No that was an additional 8,000 CFAs.
Then using L’argent and billets and voiture and por vous I managed to get the question across what will the fee for him be? 10,000 CFAs. We talked about the three places we wanted to go. What order we would visit them. Then I wondered about lunch. No we had to pay for our own lunch but could get sardine sandwiches to eat at the cascades. No Lenore c’est une vegetarien. Ok then advocat sandwiches. We added another 3-5,000 CFAs to the total.
Whew 48,000 CFAs and lunch. That would be 80 Ghana Cedis each. Ouch! Lenore and I talked about it. Then I pleaded Peace Corps volunteer petite l’argent. He agreed to reduce the price by 10,000 CFAs. Lenore expressed that we didn’t travel all this way not to go. I agreed. Sure it’s a lot compared to our PC stipend but luckily we were both using money from America. It came to be about 40 American dollars each. Seemed like a deal to us and we were going to have a PRIVATE CAR!
We agreed. I asked for the paper where we had done all the figures. But Ibriham said no. He was going to write us a contract. He did it right there in his notebook. The three of use signed it and voila! Un guide por les jour.
We paid our deposit. We said until tomorrow. Then Lenore and I returned to the room.
Ah heavenly a bed, a book and asleep.