Friday, April 3, 2009

April Fool's in Burkina Faso

Do we play April Fool’s jokes in Burkina? Sure we do! Not just us expatriates either, but the Burkinabè themselves. For instance, on the front page of one of Burkina’s newspapers on the morning of April 1 was a headline that said (translated into English): Blaise Compaoré Visits Mrs. Sankara. Mr. Compaoré is the current president of Burkina Faso. Mrs. Sankara is the widow of the former president killed in the coup d’état that brought the current one into power. However, when you turn to the page referred to by the headline, you’re greeting with a big picture of a fish! April Fool’s! (April Fool’s is called “Poisson d’Avril” or April Fish in French, thus the picture of a fish).

Okay, maybe that wasn’t so funny, so let me tell you a few of the tricks that were pulled on our Centre here in Ouaga.

One of my colleagues, Mary, is writing a thesis based on her work as an ethnomusicologist. She’s been working on it for months, resulting in a document many pages long. On the last day of March, she had our computer services person, Mariam, install a new printer driver for her. Then on the morning of April 1, Mary called Mariam to her office, frantic over the fact that her thesis seemed to have disappeared. When Mariam arrived, Mary showed her the thesis document. It consisted of page after blank page.

“This happened since you put that new printer driver on my computer,” cried Mary. “What did you do?”

Mariam was practically beside herself with worry, scrolling down through the document, desperately looking for any remnant of the former thesis. When she came to the last page, guess what she found? A big picture of a fish! April Fool’s! Mary had set the whole thing up, creating a blank document and giving it the same name as her thesis.

In another case, a colleague stopped to talk to one of our night guards who had just come on duty. “Have you gone to see Adama yet?” (Adama is our administrative services director and in charge of employees). “No, why?” asked the employee. “I don’t know,” said my colleague. “I just heard that he’s looking for you.”

On his way by a little while later, my colleague asked him again, but this time added that he’d heard something about someone taking a picture of the guard doing something... The guard began to look worried.

At this point, Adama, who was in on the joke, called the guard into his office, spoke with him briefly, and handed him an envelope which he said appeared to contain a photo of some kind. Nervously, the guard opened the enveloped and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. Opening it slowly, he stared at it. Guess what it was? Yup, a picture of a big fish! April Fool’s! Whew! You should have seen the look of relief on his face!

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