Saturday, January 2, 2010

Christmas With Burkinabe Friends

Last week, we celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with expatriate friends and colleagues, both by going to their place for activities and a meal, and by having them to our place for the same. On the weekend, however, we got together with several Burkinabè friends. It was a very different experience.

Aristide and Desiré are two friends I made when we first arrived in Burkina in 1997. Since then, both of them have gotten married and started families. Earlier during Christmas week, Aristide, Desiré, and I met for a drink together downtown, something we do about once a month, but hadn’t done since Kathy & I had returned from Canada in November. As we were talking, Aristide suggested that our families get together for a meal one afternoon.

So last Sunday after siesta, I drove downtown to pick up Desiré, his wife and son, and then Aristide, his wife, twin daughters, and baby son at the west end of the city. There wasn’t enough room in the cab for everyone, so the women and children squished in there, while Aristide and Desiré sat in the pickup bed on a board I’d placed across the wheel wells for a seat. From there, we drove all the way back to the east end of the city near to where Kathy & I lived, where Aristide knew of an outdoor restaurant that he recommended.

This meant a lot of time was spent driving (I had to bring everyone home again afterwards), but fortunately the traffic isn’t nearly as heavy on Sundays as it is during the rest of the week. However, there was still plenty of dust and exhaust from vehicles on the road, and I felt badly for Aristide and Desiré having to breathe that stuff while riding in the back.

The restaurant was a typical Burkinabè one: tables and chairs arranged in the open air or under straw-roofed hangars. It was a few kilometres beyond the Ouaga city limits, so at least, unlike the situation with similar restaurants within the city limits, the dust and exhaust at this point were negligible and we could breathe freely.

We began by choosing a place to sit (they had to bring more chairs to accommodate all of us, and ordered drinks. Food items, if they’re available at all at these kinds of places, are usually limited to some kind of meat and a starchy vegetable like rice or fries. Here it was grilled chickens and French fries, so that’s what we ordered. Unfortunately, we assumed that chickens would mean regular sized birds. They turned out to be little bigger than pigeons, so we were a little short on the meat. And we didn’t feel like ordering more because it takes nearly an hour to prepare them. But there were plenty of fries :)

While we waited for our food, we had a pile of fun taking pictures of each other. All three of us men brought along a camera, so each group picture had to be taken at least three times. Candid shots, of course, were a free-for-all. It was riot taking pictures of different people in different arrangements, with different poses, and with funny expressions on their faces! I don’t think I ever realized that taking pictures could be so much fun!

The kids were especially entertaining. Although shy at first, they soon lost all inhibitions and ran around like crazy, burning off energy we wish we still had. At one point, one of the twins came to tell me that she had to go to the bathroom. I decided it would be best if I handed her off to her mother!

All too soon, darkness fell, the bottles, glasses, and dishes were empty, and it was time to go. We drove the families home again, me driving, the women and children squished in the cab, and Aristide and Desiré in the back. One of the girls asked why they were back there. I was preparing to give a humourous reply about them not behaving themselves, but Kathy beat me by saying there wasn’t enough room in the front. Then the girl asked why I was allowed in the front. I guess at four years old, she hadn’t figured out what I was doing there yet :)

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