Monday, December 7, 2009

Hobnobbing With Diplomats

On Friday evening, I did something that I’ve never done before. I went to the Canadian ambassador’s place for an informal gathering of expatriates and Africans. Apparently they have these little get-togethers once a month here in Ouaga, providing people like me with an opportunity to touch base with fellow Canadians and other invited guests. However, this is the first time that I’ve received an invitation to attend. Kathy would have come with me, but she had another function to attend that evening.

The Canadian ambassador’s residence is in a ritzy new area of Ouagadougou called Ouaga 2000. There was a map attached to the e-mail invitation, but I ended up finding the place more by accident than design, driving around where I thought it appeared to be on the map (road signage leaves something to be desired here). After some time of doing this, I finally pulled up at a place that had a few vehicles parked out front and security guards at the gate. “Where’s the Canadian ambassador’s place?” I asked one of them. “This is it,” he replied. How often does that happen, eh? :)

Within minutes, I was inside the courtyard and made my way around to the back yard with its lawn and swimming pool. I purchased a booklet of tickets that would enable me to get drinks and food (hamburgers and shish-kebabs were on the menu that evening) and soon found myself talking to none other than the ambassador himself. I always find it interesting that here in Burkina, we can talk to diplomats and other highly placed people that we normally couldn’t get to within half a mile of back in Canada!

As I was getting my shish-kebab, I noticed a gentleman beside me struggling to understand what the lady behind the serving table was saying to him in French. Seeking to be helpful, I translated for him and a few moments later discovered that I was talking with the Australian High Commissioner for this part of Africa. He was up from Accra for a meeting with the president of Burkina that day. We ended up having a good little chat since he was familiar with the work of SIL in Australia.

I spent most of the rest of the evening talking with several folks from Quebec. It was a touch of home to hear that québécois accent again. Then it was time to go back to our humble hovel in one of the lower class suburbs of Ouaga. It might not be a big, fancy place, but it’s home sweet home to me.

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