Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A window into my life in Fada

-“Fanda” : Goodmorning
-“Fanda, Aujioté” : Goodmorning, How is the day so far?
-“Bani” : Good
- “Dempoté” : And how is your health
- “Lafia” : I’m in good health
This is the first gourmantché conversation that I held last week with a new friend of mine Victor. He among many others are keen to help me learn the local language and now that I am more settled into my placement I am going to put a strong effort into it. My French has also improved, and I feel completely at ease speaking it, and using it on an everyday basis. It took a while to get used to the Burkinabé accent, but I think I’ve got it down now. I have been in Fada N’gourma for just over a week now and already it feels like home.

In order for me to have some time to adjust to life in Fada, and to find a family to live with, for the past week I have been living in the comforts of my office. The office is in a big house with 2 bedrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen and 2 offices. It's a bit weird living in the office because there's air co, queen sized beds, 2 showers, regular toilets, 3 security guards Mamadou, Hassan and Paul that take shifts and a maid…. It’s even fancier than my place back home!! Plus I'm by myself so I'm looking forward to moving in with a family tomorrow!! Christian couldn't understand at first that I wanted to throw all of this away, but I am eager to experience the real Burkina Faso and get immersed in the culture.

I am already making friends in the neighbourhood, and because of that, was able to find a very welcoming and friendly family. I was offered 2 different choices: the first was a family consisting of a mom and her 3 year old girl and the grandma who only speaks gourmantché. The mom's sister, Mariam Doussa, a friend of Christian’s, and her 6 month old baby boy, Yohan, have another house close by but visit lots. It seems like a great place to live and they had an extra room for me to stay in, but I was looking to live with a bigger family. I will definitely continue to visit the family since Yohan is such a cutie, and Mariam is a very kind woman that I would like to get to know better. The second option that I had and decided on is the family of another friend of Christian’s, Oumou. She is a very kind young woman who lives with her mom, dad, 2 little sisters, other sister and a friend Adjaratou. The family owns a local restaurant that I have been to many times, and is a very friendly and kind family. Oumou has been very welcoming, and even helped me pick out a traditional outfit to have made at the tailor’s. The integration is going well, and my coworker Christian says I have already become an African woman!! Everybody here is so friendly and welcoming, it's awesome. When I first went to visit Oumou's house, the family was all sitting out on the back porch socializing, and Oumou’s sister was making the Burkinabé traditional meal of tô.

This is a picture of tô with Okra sauce and some meat. Tô is the white stuff... a millet paste.

The family seems to know how to cook very well and is eager to share their talents. I am looking forward to learning how to make tô, hibiscus juice, peanut butter, peanut and tomato sauce, and lots of other family recipes that they have. I also would like to help out serving in the restaurant when I have time which will be quite the experience. The food here is great, but it’s definitely not as varied as I’m used to. It’s riz sauce (rice with tomato and peanut sauce and beef), riz gras, couscous with tomato and onion sauce, or tô with the same type of sauce. Also lots of chicken and fish roasted on the streets. Fada is also known for it’s honey and it’s yoghurt. I have been devouring both and even put honey on my omelettes in the morning. I have also been getting used to the fact that water is served in 500mL bags here that you bite open and drink out of. Other popular drinks are mango juice, fanta and coke.

In order to further my integration, and my independence, I bought myself a bike last week. It is a great bike that is called a “France Aurevoir” because it is a used bike from France. Once I move in with Oumou tomorrow, I will be biking to work in the morning which will be some nice exercise. I have been missing my exercise a bit here, but have prospect of joining a woman’s soccer team. Crazy, I know!! Coincidentally as we were driving through Fada last weekend to buy some bananas, I saw a small white paper ad on a tree on the side of the road with a picture of a woman playing soccer on it. I jumped out of the car and rushed over to see what it was. It was an ad for a woman’s championship soccer game at the Municipal Stadium of Fada the next day!!!! What are the chances?!?! I planned my entire Sunday around the game and it was well worth it. It was Fada N’gourma vs Ouagadougou.

Unfortunately Fada lost 5-0, but it was exciting none the less. There were about 100 supporters, who unfortunately jeered when any of the women made a mistake, but what an experience!! Christian happens to know the coach of the Fada team, so he is going to ask if I can train with them, or even play on the team. Nothing is decided yet though, so I will have to find some kids to play with in the mean time.

Another exciting experience was my visit to the church. We got to the church at 6pm for the service, and it was already packed!! It is an indoor/outdoor church, and we sat near the back on the outdoor part. It was a beautiful service with amazing singing and energy. I sang along with the songs, both the French and the lingala ones. Lingala is the language of the Congo that is often used in African music because it is so beautiful. It was starting to get dark so from our spot in the church we could see the beautifully star lit sky up above. At around 7:15, the winds started to roll in, and the power went out. The service continued in the candlelight which made the singing and drumming that much more amazing. Once the service was over, everyone dispersed before the storm hit. It was the most intense storm I’ve ever experienced in my life. We went out for dinner, but since it was an outdoor restaurant with a small little cover over top we started to get absolutely soaked. There was thunder and lightning and a downpour of rain. We ended up having to go inside this little office building that they had, and eat by the light of our cell phones since the power was cut there as well. Apparently Fada is known for it’s rain and storms which will be something to get used to even coming from Vancouver.

The day after my visit to the church, I went to explore the livestock market. A massive market that sells cows, bulls, goats, sheep and chickens. I felt like everyone in Fada was there, so it is quite a big deal for the community.

The best part of the market was on the way home we saw this man on his motorcycle with at least 10 goats. He's got about 5 that you can see on the back there, and another 5 attached around the front of his bike. The African way of doing things is fantastic.

There is also a big central market in town that is open every day and has everything from spices like sumbala, to plastic teapots that people use to wash their hands. At restaurants before you eat, your server brings 2 plastic teapots, one with soapy water, and one with fresh water and pours the water for you so you can wash your hands. I have not been to the market much since I work during the cooler hours, and during the hottest hours: 12-4 when I have my break, no one goes out because of the heat. I will explore more this weekend for sure.

Other things that I am adapting to are random power outages, interesting water pressure, the fact that 10,000 francs CFA is only worth $20, and geckos and lizards absolutely everywhere.

Details about my trips to Bogandé and Diapaga will follow soon, along with an update on how things are going chez Oumou :)


  1. Hey Anna!

    That is awesome that you found a home other than le bureau! Seems like it will be a very lively place with the number of people living there and also the fact that they own a restaurant! That is cool that you will be able to put some of your Hell's work experience to use down there. Loved the picture of the goat motorcycle man and looking forward to hearing about your trips! What do you do in your 4 hour break...just curious if siesta is an african trend as well?
    Buenos tiempos,



  2. HA! Go Ouaga go! :p It totally rocks that my team won, jk I didn't even know they were playing. But did you hear Barcelone won soccer last night? It was huge, my two neighbours are huge fans of soccer and the women was screaming all night it was crazy.
    As for the goat man, pretty cool lady. I'm looking forward to seeing more pictures of the sort during retreat.
    As for the cookies, I hope we find a way to actually get that done, I still haven't been able to find ingredients here, but I've been pretty busy trying to understand Moore and get immersed in the family. First phone call from home is scheduled for tonight! How are you doing with respect to Canada news?
    All my love sent east/north your way. xox

  3. Are you having any trouble changing your 10,000 CFA bills?


  4. It sounds amazing! I love the food you are describing, and thats awesome they have a women soccer games you can go to. Are you going to try to join a team?

  5. I already have all the respect in the world for any server, but if you could serve food in Burkina, you'd win hands down. Would they order in gourmantche?

    What's the most out-of-your-comfort zone you've been so far?

    Peace out,

  6. Hello Annelies,
    Wonderful reportage. Thanks for the photo of your new local looks to fit you to measure. You look very pleased modeling it. Your circle of people you are enriching through your blog is expanding....I am passing it along to interested parties. Dropped by the Proke-Vogt's on my way back from Lord Byng Pool in perfect time to be invited in for David's home made pizza with Bri and Grandma Solly...was a true delight, especially as the most I was hoping for was popcorn and a Friday night movie!
    Keep noticing those random crazy experiences: your mobile goat transport for one!
    I love you,

  7. I may have taken le bureau if it is better than home. but alas i am not you. i am homeless for 2 more days. steph and i move in on sunday. hope you are well.

    uncle doogie

  8. Oh yes, the goat motorcycle man is a definite hit, I loved it. That goes for every tiny little detail that you share with us!

    Where do you go to update your Dorothy blog?

  9. Marika: yes siestas are definitely in order. My "sister" Oumou loves naps and so we take one every day. It is always followed by a refreshing shower so it's quite the nice ritual.

    Nushka: the soccer game was crazy eh. I watched with a crowd of 100 men at an outdoor restaurant with a crazy storm brewing above. in the 75th minute it started POURING down so they moved the TV indoors and people crammed in. No space for everyone so we quickly drove home and watched it there. Power outage about 5 minutes after the game ended. Everyone was dancing and cheering for Barca as well. I'm not sure how the cookie adventure is going to work, but I'm definitely going to try making something "Canadian" to show them what we eat. any suggestions?

    Len: most definitely. It is quite the challenge. They are always shocked if you pull out a 10,000 and kinda laugh when you ask if they have change for it. Crazy to think that the equivalent in Canadian is $20.

    Holynde: My coworker talked to the coach and.... I can play with the team!!! I'm so excited. They practice every day. I hope I can handle the heat. I am going to go to the practice tomorrow and check it out and see what kind of equipment I need to buy.

    Tess: Almost everybody I've interacted with so far since I've been here speaks french so the restaurant is pretty much all french. I served 3 times this weekend and it was really awesome. I learned how the system works, and how to dish up the 7 dishes that they have on the menu, how to prepare the herbs for the sauces, and how to write bills for people. It is really cool and I'm making lots of friends with the servers of the restaurant. The most out of my comfort zone so far would have to be my new shower with brown smears all over the wall, at least one cockroach every time, the resident spider and a bunch of grasshoppers. It is always a little sketchy walking in the entrance and sliding your hand along the wall to find the light switch when it's dark at night. I hate when the cockroach is on the ceiling because I'm always afraid it's going to fall on me.

    Mom: I'm glad you like the outfit. I just bought new fabric yesterday so I will be choosing another style for an outfit soon. I feel like I fit in so much more when I wear it. So far I have worn it to church and to work.

    Aaron: how is the house?!?! I hear you guys moved in today!! can't wait to see pictures

    Annie: I update the blog from the comforts of my office which is quite a nice treat. I have 24/7 internet access so I am rather spoiled

  10. Ahhh bugs! I just read you reply to Tessa's post. There were cockroaches and huge lizards in one of the outdoor bathrooms we had here, and power outages all the time, so I went to the bathroom with a headlamp on and checked around for about a minute everytime I was about to step in. The exachange rate here is 10,000 rupiahs to $1 US. People carry around rediculous loads on their motorbikes here too: entire families (5 people+) and the dog, ice cream carts and open umbrellas, all sorts of construction material and, of course, surf boards.

    I'm sorry I haven't been responding to your posts much. I'm just catching up as I have been on Gili Air for the past week, an Island off the coast of Lombok with very little electricity, so I just decided to go off the grid for a little while, and it was great.

    It's so nice to hear that you're doing so well over there. I knew you'd fit right in, and I'm so glad to hear that you're going to be able to play soccer! So much for waiting 3 months! I agree with you mum that you look absolutely gorgeous in your new outfit; it suits you so well.

    Take care love, I can't wait to hear more!!

    Melanie xox

  11. Mel: scariest experience with cockroaches ever this weekend... I go into my room, which so far has been one of the only places in the house I hadn't seen a cockroach, and suddenly I see one climbing on the wall. Then all of a sudden, a gecko comes out of nowhere and bites the cockroach. As it is munching on the cockroach I quietly reach for my camera to take a picture. I was so concentrated on taking the picture that I didn't notice a cockroach crawl up my leg. When I finally realized you should have seen my expression. Holy crap. That is the first time a cockroach has actually touched me. I too am constantly looking around the latrine with a lamp every time I'm in there, and looking back and forth between the walls and the hole to make sure one doesn't crawl on my bum. oh dear.

    That is crazy about the exchange rate. It's always so weird carrying around tens of thousands worth in bills.

    I love the story about the motorbikes. There's big trucks here too that seem to carry around the entire contents of a small village. about 40 ppl, bikes, furniture, food, animals ... the list goes on.

    How was Gili Air? I'm so curious to hear about all of your experiences too, and see some pics :)

    Love you so much.