Thursday, October 30, 2008

An Evening With A Friend

My Burkinabè friend and I sat in plastic chairs before a low, dinged up metal table at an outdoor eating-place just off the main road near our home. He’d come for an unexpected visit and now it was suppertime. I decided to take him out to eat rather than having Kathy cook something last minute for all of us.

Although it was dark outside, traffic still moved busily along the main road: big transport trucks, smaller SUV vehicles, cars, and taxis, as well as people on motos and bicycles. Exhaust fumes hung in the air and swirled under the glare of the streetlights. Fortunately we were back far enough from the road that, except for an occasional whiff, they never reached us. We weren’t so lucky when it came to the odours from the nearby ditch that sometimes doubled as a public bathroom. But these were mostly covered over by the smell of grilled food from nearby vendors.

We had a choice of grilled fish, grilled mutton, or rotisserie chicken (poulet télévisé for those of you familiar with Ouaga). We chose the chicken. While we were waiting for it, we sipped on cold Cokes and talked.

He told me about one of his sons that had decided that things were not to his liking at home. Some time ago, he had taken off for Ivory Coast to look for work and make his fortune. Unfortunately, he soon discovered that there’s a vast difference between the dream and reality. He found no real work and ended up with someone who was exploiting him as virtual slave labour. So he wrote to his parents, saying that he wanted to come home, but didn’t have money for a bus ticket.

His parents made arrangements to borrow money from an acquaintance in Abidjan. She was to buy the bus ticket and give it to him. Instead, she gave him the money directly! The boy spent it on new clothes, going out with his friends, and who knows what else. He certainly didn’t come home! His parents were furious. Not only did their son not come home, but they are facing increasing pressure to pay back the loan they took out for his ticket. It’s almost a month’s wages for the average labourer. Ah, the joys of parenthood…

Guess that means I should pay for the Cokes and chicken, eh?

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