Friday, December 19, 2008

At the Airport

Last night, we waited outside Ouagadougou International Airport for Josh & Melissa to arrive from Canada to spend the Christmas holidays with us here in Burkina. Ouagadougou International is not big like Lester BP in Toronto or Charles DG in Paris. And it is currently undergoing some major construction work. But even without that, we would have been required to wait outside. There’s just not enough room inside.

In addition, it is the time of year when the Muslim faithful return from their pilgrimage to Mecca. This meant that there was a larger than normal crowd of family of friends waiting to welcome them back, a colourful assortment of men, women, and children all chattering excitedly and straining to catch a glimpse of their loved ones when they come out through the airport doors.

After nearly an hour of waiting, they began to appear, many dressed in Middle Eastern garb and headgear, carrying souvenirs of their time in Mecca in their hands or around their necks. Family members rushed to receive them, hugging excitedly and hurrying to help carry their baggage, often just a big bundle wrapped in a sack and carried on the head or shoulder. Some even tried to run into the airport, but security guards held them back and ordered them to remain outside.

At one point, the crowd began to press in so closely that the guards began physically shoving people back en masse in an effort to clear a path for those trying to get out of the airport. Some of the young men in the crowd got angry and began pushing back or arguing with the guards, provoking an even more violent reaction. We were right in the middle, shoved back and forth with everyone else, and for a moment were afraid we were going to become part of a riot! However, things managed to calm down and, apart from a few more efforts by the guards to keep the crowd at a proper distance, there were no more problems.

Each time some traveler of note from Mecca came out, he would raise his hands in the air and the crowd would erupt with cheers. When the pilot of the Air France flight saw this as he was coming out, he too raised his hands in the air, causing the crowd to cheer him too. He really hammed it up, keeping his hands raised, smiling, nodding, and thanking everyone for their accolades as if he too was a celebrity. Everyone had a good laugh at this :)

Finally, Josh & Melissa came through the doors. One time of excitement was over. Another was about to begin.

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