Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An Evening at a Neighbourhood Diner

Darkness had just fallen when the call came from the guard at the SIL Centre gate that my friend, Aristide, was at the gate. He’d called me earlier in the day to say that he had a friend that was planning on going to Canada. Could he bring him by to talk to me? No problem.

Shutting down my computer and locking the office, I headed out to meet them. We decided that it would be best to go somewhere for something to drink and a bite to eat while we talked. Since there was a place just a short distance from our centre (which I’d been wanting to try for some time now anyway), we walked there and grabbed one of the many tables that had been set up along the side of the road. A waitress came by and took our drink orders. Vehicles and motos driving past kicked up clouds of dust and exhaust, but fortunately the breeze was blowing it mostly away from us.

Hundreds of such places spring up like mushrooms every evening all over Ouagadougou. During the day, most of them are empty space. But as darkness falls, cheap plastic or metal tables and chairs are set up to welcome clients getting off work or going out for the evening and looking for a place to socialize with friends and acquaintances. Most just serve drinks. But some have fast food vendors associated with them.

In our case, a young man was grilling small 100 franc (about 20 cents) shish kebabs nearby. These turned out to be beef and onion ones, for which I was very thankful. Many such grillers often include what I would consider less savoury animal parts in their kebabs. My Burkinabè friends seem to like them well enough, but I’ve just never gotten used to chewing on bits of intestine, stomach, and who knows what else!

We ordered 2,000 francs worth, and after a short while a pile of kebabs arrived on a platter, along with a couple of dabs of mayonnaise and a couple of piles of a spicy & salty powder in which to dip the meat to give it a bit of a bite. The light from the multicoloured bulbs used to decorate the area did not illuminate much where we sat, so I had to pull out my cell phone and use the flashlight on it to see what I was eating and where to dip it. I have to admit that the kebabs were good, good enough for a return visit sometime.

In the meantime, I was quizzed about how to go about applying for a visa to go to Canada. I had to admit that apart from advising my friend’s friend to go and make some inquiries at the Canadian embassy, I had no idea of what the correct procedure was. After all, this was not something I was ever required to do! I also emphasized that I didn’t know anyone at the embassy personally. I’ve sometimes had people ask me to help them get a visa by intervening with someone at the embassy. This is not something I want to get involved in!

In the end, I don’t think I was much help. But it was a great opportunity to spend time with a friend and unwind after a long week at the office. And much to my surprise, I didn’t even have to pay for the drinks and kebabs!

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