Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Last night, following a long day of meetings and other activities, Kathy & I decided to go out to see a movie. The French Cultural Centre in downtown Ouaga has a decent air-conditioned cinema where they show a variety of films from time to time. No blockbusters. Mostly foreign films, the kind you have to pay extra for in the foreign film section of Blockbuster or other video rental places back home. Here, however, for a couple of bucks, we can sit in plush theatre chairs in air-conditioned comfort and watch some interesting movies on a big screen. Sure beats the little TV screen we watch videos on at home!

What we neglected to take into account was the fact that last night was also the occasion of a World Cup soccer match. My first clue was the sound of people shouting in my neighbourhood when I arrived home after work. “Soccer match?” I asked our night guard. “Yup,” he replied. And went back to glue his ear to his radio.

The second clue was the crowds of people we saw gathered around the TV set of every little outdoor cafĂ© and eatery along the road as we headed off. When we finally got to the cinema, there was not another soul in sight apart from the parking guard. I wondered if I’d made a mistake in the date. But the lobby doors were open and there was a lady sitting in the ticket seller’s booth.

Purchasing two tickets, we headed for the theatre entrance. “Hang on,” said the lady. “It’s not open yet.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, glancing quickly at my watch. “It’s show-time.”

“Yes, but the soccer match isn’t over yet,” replied the lady, turning back to read her newspaper.

Great, I thought. I should have known better. Soccer is a national obsession here in Burkina. What I hadn’t fully realized is how much of a priority it took over everything else. I couldn’t help but wondering if they would even delay flights at the airport so air traffic controllers, baggage handlers, police, and immigration and customs officers could finish watching the game!  (“Ground control to Air France 359, ground control to Air France 359, please be advised that... GO, GO, GO! KICK IT! KICK THE BALL!!! Um, please be advised that we’re still experiencing technical difficulties here... Please keep circling...)

We took seats outside and waited. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long. I was just beginning to consider asking for our money back and heading home to watch an episode of “24” instead when someone arrived to open the door. Within seconds, few more movie-goers showed up from the nearby restaurant to purchase tickets for the show.

In the end, there were only about a dozen of us in the cinema. The movie? An Israeli film called “Jellyfish”. It’s a drama about several inhabitants of a beachside community in Israel trying to deal with the differences between expectation and reality in their lives. Most of the time, they are like jellyfish, pushed and pulled along by the current, by circumstances beyond their control. Hey, wait a minute... this sounds kind of familiar...

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