23 Aug 2009 Day 6 Burkina Faso

We did not want to leave Banfora but our visa were for only 7 days and expired on the 25th. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to mess with expired visa’s in a developing country. I figure that can at the best mean money at the worst ….. So we needed to move. I had hoped we could travel from Banfora East into the Upper Western Region of Ghana. I discussed the possibility with Daniel, APCD Burkina, and he said yes it looks like that on the map but you might get stranded between Banfora and the Ghana border. Stranding almost as bad as staying beyond my visa. So we had to head back to Bobo. We had enough time to overnight in Bobo to get a feel for the city then on to Ouaga and Ghana.

Doada, at the Hotel de Comoe, told us today was Banfora market day. He said we should go it was a very big market. We hailed a taxi into town . We dropped at the bus station and purchased tickets for Boboduilasso on the 10:30 bus. Then we asked directions to the market.

Banfora is a mid-sized town with a city sized market. We walked through bicycle parts, automobile parts, wooden furniture, household good, hardware, beauty product it was all there up and down the streets of Banfora. Unlike the Grande Marche we were not harassed by the traders. They did not ignore “les blancs” but greeted us in a friendly not predatory manner. They gave up pretty easy when we said we were just window shopping. I think perhaps the multitude of shoppers kept them busy enough not to have to chase a sale.

Then the food section. It was packed. I mean like the bus going to Bolga on Bolga market day. There were sections where Lenore and I sucked in our guts, ok I sucked in my gut Lenore does not have one, and flattened our bodies like a cartoon to get between people. It is at times like these that I wish I had a small pocket digital camera. My camera is too big and noticeable to use in a crowded place like that. Oh but the scene was calling out to be photographed. The royal purple eggplants, the dark green zucchini, the bright orange carrots, the pale green lettuce and the way the traders had laid them out on their tables or ground cloths. The color started on the ground with women who didn’t have tables to sell their produce. It moved to hip level on the tables with other produce and even was above our heads with colorful plastic sacks.

We bought some fried cakes made with millet. They were very similar to cosi in Ghana but lacking the peppe. I didn’t mind. Oh if I were living there or even if I access tosomewhere to cook I would have bought an eggplant just to have that deep purple in my possession. I would have bought a zucchini because I haven’t seen one in over 14.

Lenore tried to take a photo of some veggies laid out on a cloth. The purple eggplant, the green zucchini and the red tomatoes were beautiful. The trader had displayed her wares to an advantage. Alerted to the photo by a fellow trader the woman held out her hand and said “L’argent”. Lenore refused and walked away. I agreed with Lenore.

It was time to catch our bus. We got on without incident. By now the ontime departure was routine. We were in Boboduilasso for lunch. A PCV who live in Bobo had recommended the Casa Africa as a good place to stay. We headed there. It was a good choice price wise 4,000 CFAs but they didn’t have a room with toilet or even a shower. But since it was 1/3 the price we had been paying at other hotels we decided it was fine.

We ate lunch. something yummy I am sure but since I am writing this more than a week later I have forgotten. While we were waiting for lunch to be served Morgan Freedman stopped by our table to greet us. Honestly I swear it was him. Lenore even thought he looked like Morgan Freedman. But he wasn’t. His name was Jamile. He was a very pleasant man. Well traveled. He shared his photo album with us and he had traveled to many other countries.

He left and returned with wood carvings. They were made of ebony. At least I think it was ebony. I didn’t know ebony had lighter streaks in it. This wood was black with tan/yellow streaks in it. His carvings were fluid. I saw the life in the people he carved. My favorite was a woman emerging out of a piece of wood. It made me feel transformed to look at it. It spoke to me of possibilities and new beginnings. She was graceful and elegant but not fully human. Jamile of course wanted us to buy his work but he was not pushy. He recognized our appreciation of his artistry. I am sure he could tell how wonderful we thought they were.

When lunch arrived he removed his carvings from our table. When he came out again he had a cora, like a guitar. He sat down with some friends to play and sing. We enjoyed the music as we ate.

After lunch Lenore wanted to go explore the old mosque and walk around. I considered going to the music museum but there were live musicians right out side my hotel room. Why not stay here and learn something about Burkina music. I could also rest and read. I needed some down time. So Lenore went on her way to town and I stayed behind.

Jamile was playing the cora with his friends. I walked over and sat down with them. The cora is like a guitar because it has a neck, a body and strings. But the strings are not flat against the body instead they rise in two rows above the body. They are held apart by a piece of wood. It has 8 strings. There are no frets on the neck. The body is have a globe; made from a calabash.

He played it very differently than you play a guitar. He put the body in his lap with the strings facing him. The neck was pointing to the sky and tipped slightly away from him. He placed his fingers on two bars. They were attached to the neck and body near the base of the neck. The instrument is played by plucking the strings with the thumbs.

I wanted to play. When I made my wishes known he gestured that we should move away from the group and sit under a tree in the courtyard. He then played the scale and handed the instrument to me. He helped me place my fingers on the bars then illustrated the movements I should do with my thumbs. I then played the scale.

Then took the cora and played a short phrase. He gave it back to me and moved closer to watch as I tried to repeat the phrase. He is a very patient teacher. I would try. He would play it again. As I played he hummed the phrase softly by my ear. I think one reason the music was hard for me to play is because of it’s foreignness. Later on when we took turns playing tunes his sounded very African but mine sounded western. I need to get an ear for the tunes and rhythms that make African music. Another reason was he was very close to me. Very close. I was sure he was just being helpful but with the Morgan Freedman look alike dis ting and the French language dis ting my heart was beating just a little too fast.

With both of those problems I managed to play the phrase two or three times correctly. I was proud of myself. I gave him the cora and he played another short phrase. I tried and tried to copy it but was failing miserably. I finally just handed the cora over to him. He began to play the phrase and added more until it was a tune. Then he began to sing. He was smiling at me and then I thought I heard Vicky and tres belle. Oh there it was again! I was blushing.

I remembered I had a colimba in my room and wanted to know how to play that as well. Diversion to the rescue! I rose and said “Excuse moi une moment” and rushed to my room. I Shut the door. Got the colimba and told myself to stop imaging things. We were just playing some African musical instruments. That’s all.

When I returned I asked “Savez vous?” Do you know? “Oui” he replied in the affirmative and took it out of my hands. It is made out of a gourd. Half a globe with a hole in the center of the flat side. There are 7 metal teeth you pluck to make the music. Jamile checked to see if it was in tune. It wasn’t so he showed me how to tune it. He played almost the same phrase on the colimba as I had learned on the cora. I was a quick study this time. As I got comfortable with playing he picked up the cora and we played together. I played the phrase I knew and he improvised on the cora.

Then he taught me another simple progression on the guitar like instrument and he took the colimba and improvised as I played the progression on the cora.

Then it was his turn to leave and say he would be back in a minute. He returned carrying a white bead necklace. Oh oh he’s going to give that to me I worried. Oh he’s going to give that to me I joyed. Yes. He sat down and quickly put it around my neck then leaned in and tied the string of beads in a knot at my neck. “Por vous Vicky vous et tres belle”. I thought there was electricity when the lightening storm hit my house! I moved back small small. I protested that he could not give this to me. I couldn’t take it. But he decided he couldn’t understand my English. He said he wanted me to have it as a memento of the afternoon. I protested again. He explained a lot I understood little. I think he was trying to say that because I enjoyed his art and music so much he wanted to give me something.

I took it. We played the cora and colimba some more. Then he asked me if I would go hear some True African Music at the Coconut tonight. I said if my friend wants to then we will come. I was full of so many silly emotions. It was time for me to go rest and read. I made my excuses.

When Lenore came back to told her about the necklace and the invitation to go hear some music. She said she would like to. It was time to go to dinner. We ordered our meals. Morgan stopped by the table to ask if we were going. We said yes. It took a very long time for dinner to arrive. It was after 7:30 by the time it came. I think we both were thinking about the fact that we were still going out. I know I was a little worried about getting there then getting home in the dark etc. Lenore said I only want to stay a little while then go. I agreed. At last dinner arrived and we ate.

We finished. Lenore went to pay. When I got up from the table I had a very bad cramp at the top of my left thigh. I almost fell down. Lenore and Jamile both came to me. He was very attentive. They decided I should sit down and rest for a short while. Jamile went back and sat with his friends. Sitting for a bit did not help so I asked Lenore to help me back to the room. I hobbled with an arm around her shoulder and her arm around my back. At the room I lay down. I could feel a tight knot in my groin. I did some stretching and small movements of my leg. I wasn’t walking or dancing that night. As I was apologizing to Lenore someone knocked on our door. Lenore answered it was Jamile. He asked about my leg then asked to come in. Lenore looked at me I shook my head. She said i was laying down resting.

I was sure I would see Jamile in the morning before we left. It seemed like he worked there or was at least very good friends with the owners. I wanted to thank him again for the music lessons and the necklace. I did not see him again.

-vc

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