Oct 3, 2010

Life in Ouaga

One month has passed since I’ve been working and living in Ouagadougou. It hasn’t been long, yet one phrase always seems to come to mind :
« Toto, I don’t think we’re in village anymore! »

In Pobé-Mengao, the way of life is so different. Its difficult for me to compare village to the U.S. because they are like living in two different worlds. In the capital city of Ouaga, it’s easier to compare. It’s strange because to me, Ouaga is in this weird time zone where they want to have all the technology and luxuries of developed nations, yet aspects of the city make me think of the United States…200 years behind:
You’ll see a state of the art cyber café complete with 25 computers, all hooked up with high speed internet, scanners and fax machines at your disposal. Right in front of the cyber, however, will be an old man sitting in front of his wooden table, struggling to make his living selling cola nuts for 20cents each. (Just the fact that I'm writing this blog post from home after buying a USB internet connection key yet still have to wash my clothes and dishes by hand...it's just wierd).
Or the one section of Ouaga where several major roads meet, so this huge, freeway-like concrete overpass was built…yet the vast majority of streets in Ouaga remain unpaved and unrepaired, with the dirt roads full of bumps and pot holes. The middle aged man in his 3-piece suit, waiting at a street light in his silver BMW, while next to him a young mom with a baby attached to her back sits on an old bike, using her feet to stop because there are no brakes. Or Ouaga’s ‘waste management’ system that includes having old women hunched over their backs all day with nothing but a handle-less broom, and the young man who goes from house to house collecting garbage…with his donkey cart. The huge three story mansions right next to the tiny mud brick houses with a family of 8 living inside. The juxtapositions go on forever.
It's not the extreme difference of the rich and poor that surprises me. It obviously exists in the U.S too. But in the States you have your rich neighborhoods and your ghettos and they are very much apart. Here, they live side by side.

While living in Ouaga is definitely a change and adjustment, I already enjoy it. Even as a volunteer I’m one of the lucky ones that can enjoy Ouaga’s luxuries. In village, spending hours under the hot sun with nothing to do were some of the worst parts of my PC experience. In Ouaga there are so many different things to do. Boredom doesn’t exist. Feel like eating out? How about French? Lebanese? Chinese food? I go running in a beautiful nearby park for the ridiculously cheap entry price of 20 cents. I can play pool at a bar where they play jazz music. I can go out dancing at a club, workout at a gym, play basketball, swim in a pool, I can even go bowling! So much to do...so little time

Where I live

Our living room/dining room

Now that Charley and I finally have some furniture, I can describe where we live. We live in a neighborhood called ‘Wemtenga’ and I’ve already come to love it. The people are friendly, the area is quiet, and so far I haven’t gotten too many ridiculous “Nasarra prices” when I purchase things. In front of our house is a small maquis where we can sit down for drinks. We’re right around the corner from a big road where we can find nearly everything we need: street food, local stores, tailors, furniture makers, hardware store, etc.

My room, Charley's is directly across the hall

Our house is luxurious compared to my previous home. Tiled floors, painted walls, furniture that includes a couch and dining room table. Charley and I bought painted masks to decorate the walls of the living room. Our bathroom is incredibly small but has a sink, mirror, toilet and shower. It may be tiny but the way I see it...in what bathroom in the States can you pee, shower and brush your teeth at the same time, without having to move? That's mutitasking at its finest!

Work has been busy and a bit chaotic but it's just a matter of me getting back into the work scene. A lot of interesting projects are comingup and if all goes well, Charley and I will be heading to Ghana next week to visit the FAVL libraries located in northern Ghana.