I fell in love with Ouagadougou. It's West Africa, but the pace is slower than in Abidjan, the people are nicer, the streets are straighter, the weather is drier. I described it as the Midwest of West Africa, which means it felt like home.
The thing I REALLY wish I had gotten a photo of is the number of women on scooters. Old women, young women, women in both modern and traditional clothing, women going to work or market. My favorite was on my taxi ride from the airport I saw two women on a scooter, each of which had a baby strapped to their backs, West African-style. I loved it.
I don't know if it was the dry heat, the calm, the hours and hours of movies, the fact that there's fewer foreigners there so I got bothered less, but I would move there if I ever found a reason to.
Also, Burkinabés have a sense of humor, when it comes to their politics:
On a whim, just hearing about FESPACO, the Pan-African Film Festival held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, I decided to go if I could. There's a few direct flights from Abidjan, I had nothing concrete planned, and a friend was thinking of going as well, so I'd have a bit of company. So I bought the plane ticket a few weeks ago, got my Burkina visa last week, and hopped on the plane without knowing much about Ouaga or West African films.
Verdict so far? Amazing. I love Ouaga with its desert dry heat and its ladies of all stripes driving scooters; I love the film festival for being unapologetically African in its outlook and sentiments. There's been films that I've really enjoyed (Des Étoiles, Four Corners) and some I haven't (the series of shorts almost entirely about women's victimization/rape). But people's enthusiasm about films from their country or neighboring ones, their cheering for when the bad guy gets got, the big deal that is FESPACO, even if few others outside film or the African arts scene even knows it exists).
I was uncertain if I would be needlessly spending money for an excuse to visit another West African capital city when I'm not much of a film buff. But for both Ouaga itself and for the film festival, it's totally worth it. This bit of vacation is doing something for my psyche and my cultural and French-language expansion.
Travel and research notes
Fieldwork and travel in Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Mali, as well as Burkina Faso, Morocco, Tanzania, South Africa, and wherever else I end up. Plus occasional research-related thoughts. And now ... Teaching!