Friday, June 27, 2008

Finding time to get to an internet café and sit around blogging is turning our to be even harder than I thought. On top of everything else, Mallory got quite sick yesterday with a huge fever I was sure it was malaria, as she spiked a fever of 103°F. This was accompanied by some weird babbling. She told me that she had a hole in her brain and that she had lost all her happiness, among other things. It was definitely some feverish delusion, as she is better today and her happiness is pretty intact. I figure that her brain is ok, too. And the malaria test came back negative. Just one of those viruses, I guess.
But all of that certainly ate up my time yesterday. So, I have been trying to catch up today. One task is to find a picture online of my laptop. The police are inquiring into our case, but would like a picture, so I'm here to look online for something I can print out.

When I went to the police station on Monday, I was ushered, after only a 20 minute wait, into the office of Officer Dolly.
"I am Inspector Dolly."
I just stood there processing. It's not a last name I've ever heard here. I figured that I must have misunderstood.
"Sammy Dolly", he added and handed me his card. I didn't have the presence of mind to ask him what ethnic group the was from. All I could think of was the great fun I was going to have telling everyone I knew that the officer on our case was called "Inspector Sammy Dolly".

Besides having a fun name Inspector Sammy Dolly is an energetic, thorough guy. First of all, he took a long statement from me. Then called up the person that had sent me away on Saturday and chewed him out. Finally, he came over to the house, looked around, interviewed neighbors and did all kinds of police-type activities.
He thinks that he might be able to track down some of our things. Maybe.
In the meantime, I am trying my own hand at sleuthing. I've been going to various second-hand electronics stands asking for nice used Minolta camera and a Fujitsu Siemens Laptop.
No luck so far, but one guy did say to check back tomorrow.

Thanks for the messages of support. I really need them, as they help ward off burn-out.
We are moving out of our house tomorrow. Then Sunday will be spent delivering the furniture that has been sold. Then I'll have to finish up the packing, as Container Day is Thursday.
If I don't post again for about a week, don't be surprised.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Monday afternoon found me sitting in the lobby of the local police station, clutching an empty Playstation 2 box to my chest, rocking back and forth as I watched a torrential rain pound down. If there had been anyone around, maybe they would have thought I was mildly autistic, but more probably they would have pegged me as just plain strange, but I'm used to that.

In truth, I was just tired, discouraged, miserable, angry and somewhat bored.
The latter problem was caused by the fact that I, who always brag about going everywhere in Burkina with a good book (so that long waits just fly by), had forgotten my book of the day back at the car and no way was I going out in a rain that had a real "firehose on full-blast" quality to it.
Luckily, though I didn't have a book, there were the chickens. Apparently, just as a firehouse in the USA might have a Dalmatian dog mascot, a police station in Burkina has a flock of mascot chickens. And strangely enough, the rain didn't send them all running for cover. A few of them were out in the downpour (dare I say it?) frolicking. Back in the USA, we have the expression "as mad as a wet hen". May I suggest a collorary to that: "as happy as a wet Burkinabé rooster".

Now you probably want to know why I was sitting at the police station, staring at chickens, being severely depressed. The answer lies in the empty PS2 box... and in my missing ipod, cellphone, dvd player, cell phone, digital camera, computer, etc.
I was at the station to give a statement to the police about the robbery at our house early Saturday morning.

I actually slept in a bit late on Saturday. I wandered out into the livingroom at about 8am (VERY late for me!), feeling ready to tackle the preparations for the big party that would be taking place that night. I noticed that my USB stick was missing off the bookshelf where I'd left it. I figured that maybe JP had taken it and went on into my office. No computer. I went to go ask Valentine about it, as she sometimes uses it in her room. That was when I saw my phone was gone.
Then I really started to realize that something was very wrong. The main clue (duh!) was the slashed mosquito screen and bent security bars of the living room window. We had been robbed, big time.
To say I was freaked would be to but it mildly. I've had things stolen before. Heck, I've already has two cellphones stolen while I've been here in Africa. But I'd never had housebreakers and the thought that strange men had possibly been in my children's bedrooms was giving me a severe, sick-making case of the creeps/willies/heebie-jeebies. The fact that Tya's ipod was still in place in her room reassured me that they probably had stayed away from her bedroom. But all my cash was gone from my purse that hung in the back hallway, just opposite the twins' bedroom door. Not a happy thought.

I didn't cry at all until I was in the car heading to the police station. And then it was just a little- mainly for Tya's school pictures. The few she had now really were lost for good, along with lots of other irreplaceable photos of our life here.
At the police station compound, the officer at the reception desk in the tiny cement-brick hut at the entrance took down a list of what was stolen and told me to come back on Monday.
Didn't they want to, like- I don't know....investigate? Find clues?

I went on to the National Gendarmerie. I don't know what the heck they are in English. They are kind of like the police, but more of a military operation.
There I was pretty quickly ushered into the office of the head officer. This guy did come out to the house right away. He looked around a bit and had his assistant take a few photos.

And that was it, until Monday. That afternoon, I showed up once again at the police station. I brought along the big, bright blue Playstation box so someone could help me figure out which of the 20 different codes written on the box was the actual ID number of the machine.
Then, it started to rain, hard. I waited for about an hour and the officer I was supposed to see never showed up. Finally, I found a kind officer that was willing to phone him and set up another meeting for the next day. I hoped that it wouldn't rain again on Tuesday.

So, yesterday at 3pm I was back at the police station for a third time. My friends the chickens were running around like mad between the buildings, but I noticed that none of them ever ran out into the road through the wide-open gate. I guess they are living the good life in there and have no reason to wander. While Burkinabé cops don't eat doughnuts, maybe they toss their chickens the odd bit of leftover lunchtime tô or rice...

And what happened next? What's going on now? Well, I guess I'll have to come back and finish this sorry story tomorrow. My time here at the internet café is about up and I need to get home and pack for the move on Saturday.

Thanks to all my dear friends and loveable family (hi mom!) for your comments on the goat wedding post. I was SO happy to see all the messages from you-it made me teary (in that happy, really-touched kind of way) .
I, of course, had many, many adorable pictures of Yann and Dawn's wedding, but some creepy thief is probably erasing them all right now.

Friday, June 20, 2008

One part of leaving Ouaga is finding homes for many of our pets. That's why Dawn the Goat HAD to get married.
We managed to find a place for her with some lovely friends that already have a goat at home. But theirs is a BOY goat and as one thing would certainly lead to another, Mallory decided that a wedding would have to take place before any change in living arrangements could take place. Who is more of a stickler for the rules of civilised life than a 10 year old Nice Catholic Girl?

So, last Saturday Yann and Dawn got married.
When a Canadian friend of mine came by that morning, I was sewing the dress. And yes, I should have been packing boxes, working on the house inventory or even blogging. But I was sewing up a white lace-trimmed goat dress. Custom designed by me. Goat-couture, if you will.
The wedding cake was sitting on the table. It was pretty obvious what it was. It was a two-tiered white cake topped with white flowers and a pair of small plastic animals: the goat bride and groom.
Sandy laughed at me a while and then pulled out her camera to take some pictures.
"There's always something crazy going on at your house, Beth" she said, shaking her head, which I took to be a high form of compliment.
But you see how I may have gotten a rep around here for being a bit of an odd bird.

The guests arrived soon after and the ceremony began. As Mallory was needed to wrestle to bride down the aisle, Alexa had to be the officiating priestess. She got right into the rôle , digging up a white vestements and various trappings.

In the end, JP had to intervene, as Yann got a bit over-wrought with the emotions of the moment. As you can see, it was clearly a love-match. At the end, when Alexa said "You may now lick the bride", they sort of nuzzled each other, making us all optimistic about their possibilities for a very happy future life together.

Aslan and Midnight (who got married last year) will, of course, stay together. They'll be going to live at a sort of urban farm owned by some friends of ours. There are no other goats there, but plenty of horses and monkeys for company.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

This morning, I bought a couple of newspapers, hoping to find some good coverage of yesterday's student protests. The stories I found were very sketchy- not much better than what I blogged here yesterday. So, I still don't know the real cause behind what happened.
The only new info I have is that the CRS riot police were NOT just shooting into the air to disperse the crowds. In fact, they shoot at the legs and feet of the students. Several are hospitalized with terrible injuries, two in critical condition.

The University grounds were completely quiet today. All classes were shut down.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

After a morning running errands, I turned toward the Avenue Charles de Gaulles at about 11am only to find it blocked by riot police. And just a few blocks down, clouds of tear gas obscured the road.
Something was going on. Something not good.
When I pulled into my driveway about five minutes later, I got a text message on my cell phone. It was from the French Embassy, warning of gun fire near the University. The University which is about seven blocks from our house.
And yes, as I got out of the car, I did hear funny popping noises.
For about an hour there were spurts of gun fire. At a couple of points it got very, very loud and close. My neighbour Tony, who ventured out (brave Aussie lad) in his truck, said that the Avenue Babanguida (about four blocks away) was blocked off and the police line had reached that far.

I sat outside our gate on a log with Rasmané, our guardian, listening to the guns. We shook our heads in bafflement.
"I guess they're shooting in the air to break up the crowds?" I ventured as round after round went off.
"They wouldn't actually shoot the students, would they?"

I'd heard that the students might protest today. Beside their usual grievances of huge class sizes and irregular course hours, they have a new reason to gripe. The Burkina government that never has money to hire enough professors suddenly found the cash to establish a PSU unit. That's Police Speciale des Universités. That news was like pouring kerosine on a fire, I'm afraid. But I don't have any definite news. Nothing has been reported on the radio or TV as of yet.
And as far as I can tell, I am the first to publish this news on the internet.

Things seem calm now. It's 3 pm and there hasn't been any gunfire since about 12:30 or so.

After I got home at 11, the French Embassy then called with a warning. Nothing from the US Embassy, which is par for the course. For all the blah, blah, blah about Keeping Our Citizens Safe , the US doesn't acually do much. At all. I'm a warden for the Embassy. All they have to do is call me and I phone my list of 30 or so families and warn them of possible danger: Stay out of the University area. There is rioting and gunfire.

There are all kinds of Americans living overseas. Here in Ouaga, they are mostly do-gooders, in the best sense of the word. They are missionaries trying to help people out of poverty, NGO workers doing all sorts of aid work and the every-present Peace Corps. I really feel like the State Department could step up their commitment instead of ignoring this population every time there is violence threatening.
Since I moved here in 1999, there have been several bad incidents here in Burkina. And the US Embassy always drops the ball IMO. For example, during the police/army conflict of 2006, I had to call the Embassy to get the go-ahead to warn people. And it was not a false alarm. That night stray gun fire hit houses and killed civilians.
And today once again, the Embassy looked out for their own personel, but couldn't be bothered to at least set the Warden system in motion.
Yes, they do send out emails. But the chances of someone checking their email -especially here in Ouaga, are pretty slim. This situation merited phoning everyone to make sure the word got out and no one would inadvertantly wander into danger.

I have no other real news about what happened this morning. I'll post again if anything comes to light. And please write to me if you see anything in the international press or on the internet.
This is a pretty crazy time right now. Boxes are getting packed and furniture is going out. And it's not enough that we are moving to a whole new continent. Nope. We are also hosting, in four short days, a party for over 100 people. Right here in this house that is quickly filling up with moving cartons.
I've rented some marquis tents for out in the garden, in case of rain, along with plates, glasses, forks, tables, linens, other oddments plus 120 chairs. And yesterday I ordered 25 grilled chickens from the top chicken grilling kiosque in Burkina. It's over by the Moro Naaba's palace and it's where all the cool people go. Cool being a relative term, bien sûr.

In short, this has all been keeping me busy- along with the yard sale I did all day Sunday. Much cash was made, but it was a hot, long day.
Plus there was a goat wedding on Saturday afternoon - but more about that later.
I'm a bit short on time right now. I mostly felt compelled to post this morning because I wanted to follow up on my last post. It garnered a couple of good, interesting remarks in the comments section, btw -things written by people living here and/or obviously familiar with the problem.

My last post was about my driver's neighbour , a marabout that drove off his five young students because they'd lost his donkey. Well, this weekend, three of the boys returned to the house and begged for shelter. One of them had gotten very ill- not surprising after living two weeks in the streets in rainy season on food begged or scrounged out of trash heaps.
Nobody knows what has become of the other two. They got separated and didn't manage to find each other again. Ouaga is a big, sprawling city.
The marabout took them in again, mostly because of social pressure, from what Mahama tells me. He says his whole neighbourhood has been talking about the man, not in a good way.
"Ils parlent mal de lui" - They speak ill of him, as they should

Friday, June 13, 2008

Burkina has been in the news lately. Media reports about the global food crisis quite often mention it, along with other West African neighbours that have also experienced protests and rioting by hungry citizens.

So, when I search out Burkina news on the internet, I find more and more to read. One of the latest was a report on a new child-trafficking law that was passed last month here. Prison terms have been doubled for the culprits, but people involved in the fight against this crime are afraid that it won’t do much good.
Much of the activity takes place out where JP does his fieldwork, the Mouhoun river area:

“Trafficking origination hubs include Boucle du Mouhoun in the west of Burkina Faso, the Sahel in the north, from where many children are sent to Mali, often supposedly to attend Koranic schools

He has seen the police stop trucks loaded to the top with children on their way to work on plantations in Ivory Coast and even in cotton fields right here in Burkina.

The article mentions that some of the parents thought the children were being sent to Koranic school. But the truth is, Koranic school here in Ouaga often isn’t that much better than being sent away to do farm work. I’ve written about this before in my blog here. The children are far from home, sent out in dangerous traffic all day long to beg for money. It’s not safe or healthy and the boys learn little but a smattering of Arabic, hardly the recipe for a bright future.

Our driver Mahama lives next door to a marabout (Islamic religious teacher) that has a small Koranic “school”. Every day I’ve been asking Mahama the same question: “Are the boys back?”

At the beginning of June, he told me that there had been a huge fuss in his neighbor’s courtyard. It seems like the marabout’s donkey had wandered off and was nowhere to be found. The five boys searched all day and couldn’t find the animal anywhere. The marabout chased the boys out and said they could not come back to the house until the donkey was found. Not to eat, sleep, wash, nothing. They weren’t to come back without the donkey. The boys have been gone for 10 days now. No one has seen them. They all have families far from Ouaga, so it’s unlikely they found a way to return home. They are most likely sleeping outdoors and begging for food as best they can. Some of the boys are very young- around ten years old.

Who knows where they are now? If they are unsafe, ill or hungry?

One good aspect of the new law is that is specifically addresses the problem of children being forced to beg. Putting these young boys out on the streets and making them beg is now illegal child labour here in Burkina.
However, I have not noticed any actual decrease in “tomato-can boys” out in the streets. And the government here (like governments pretty much everywhere, don't you know) doesn’t always follow through on what they promise. Back in 2007, they earmarked funds for helping streetchildren in Burkina. It's been months now and to date, none of the promised money has been distributed. You can read about it here. The article also mentions AMPO, the orphanage where I first volunteered when I moved here to Ouaga and where Papiers du Sahel began.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Evil has a name and that name is: BurkinaMom.
Well, maybe not evil, probably just stupid- the jury is still out. Yesterday I managed not only to break our digital camera, I accidentally erased almost every photo that Valentine took on her very last day of school here in Burkina Faso. I know it's kind of my trademark to make a short story into an excruciatingly detailed epic, but this one is too painful to drag out. Suffice it to say, mistakes were made.

The few pictures that were spared are trapped inside the broken camera. I'll find out today at 4pm whether the camera can be saved and the pics rescued.
We have managed to get a few pictures from some of her friends, but it's not much, compared to what I managed to destroy.

Question: Is there any way in the world that photos erased off a photo memory card can be restored? Help?!

Sorry, Tya!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The search word that most often brings folks to my blog-doorstep is "pagne". I'm kind of surprised at , but pleased with, this interest in these lengths of cloth that are so important in daily Burkinabé life! The "Pagnes 101" posts I did are the most popular of this blog. In them, I explained what a pagne is, what it can do and , finally, how to wear one. But I didn't show many
pieces of actual cloth. However, as I went on a huge pagne spree yesterday, I now have a few fun photos to share. Not many, sadly, as I managed to drop our camera on the tile floor this morning. The camera, as you may have guessed, did not benefit from this incident. JP is calling it "a stupid accident because you are careless". I prefer to call it " getting to know and respect gravity. "
Anyway, one of the grooviest pagnes out of the eight patterns I got yesterday is this one. Computers! Is it too cute, or what? For some reason, you never see this type of pattern done in multi-color. It's always a sober two-color. Patterns featuring everyday items are pretty common and they follow definite fashions. A few years back, fans were popular- oscillating electric fans in blue and beige. This year, it's old fashioned men's shoes.
But I went with the computers. It's for gifts, as I know people that like computers (Hi mom!) and I thought the fabric could make fun dust covers, or something.

Now here's one that has astounded everyone that I've shown it to. Even my Burkinabé friends find it pretty odd. I found it in a Lebanese pagne shop in the central market. The place was just a big cement block room with pagnes stacked up on the floor. Everything was priced at 4000 for 3 pagnes. It all gave the feeling of a mafia pagne shop selling cloth that "fell off the back of a truck". Kind of strange. But I couldn't resist this one.
Pagne patterns often have names, but nobody seems to know what this one is called. So, I have been calling it "Freakishly Deformed Person Hacked up by a Serial Killer". It elegantly accounts for both the severed fingers and the eyeball located in the palm of the hand.

I'm very entertained by it, but not sure what to do with it. I offered to make the twins some bedroom curtains out of it. With matching pillow shams, even! But they, shockingly, turned me down.

Hey Lynsey- want some for a wrap skirt?
If anyone is brave enough, I'll share.

Monday, June 09, 2008

I am still haplessly emailess. My formerly lively internet existence has slowed down to a pathetic crawl- which is ok, because my life is doing a spastic sprint in all other directions.
We are throwing a big party here at home in less than two weeks. It's supposed to be a "Goodbye Party" celebrating the end of our nine years in Africa, but I think it refers to me saying goodbye to the last shreds of my sanity.
And I won't even mention how it's going trying to sell much of our stuff and get things organised for the move.

My mental state is certainly not helped by the fact that Blogspot is torturing me. Sometimes I'm completely blocked from blogging for hours. Or there are times like right now, when it viciously denies me the right to publish photos with my blog post. And I assure you that I have some very cool photos right now. I went pagne shopping this morning with a friend that owns a tailor's shop and I stumbled across the weirdest pagne design EVER!!! It must be seen to be believed. But you don't get to see it today, apparently. But trust me when I say that you will ENVY my freaky purchase!

On a happier note: today also brought word from, my lovely, bookish pal Ms.B asking in the blog comments section if I have ever read David Sedaris. The answer is: not until quite recently. It just so happens that Aussie Neighbor Tony wandered over today with some back issues of The New Yorker. And one of them happened to have a piece by Sedaris, an hommage to French spiders.
Quite a coincidence, non?
It was a very funny story and I wished, wished , wished to be him! I mean, I wished that I could write funny stories about expat life that are published in The New Yorker magazine. I don't actually want to be a gay man living a spider-infested house in Normandy.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

So, it turned out that the twins and their little friends did NOT perform their dance recital chanting "Thees my sheet" in front of hundreds of parents and children. When the twins told me on Friday night that the teacher had said they wouldn't be doing that song at the show, I thought 'What a relief!' They would only perform two dances and 'Hollaback Girl' would not be one of them! So, it was with a complete lack of trepidation that I enjoyed the first part of last night's show.

Severin's fencing team did a wonderful demonstration. Fencing is, like, HARD! Everything has funny names and you have to hold yourself just so. You don't get to swash and buckle however you please. It's very disciplined. And I have to add that Severin looked SO handsome! I have been humiliating him with my near-constant comments on how darn good-looking that boy is. But then, if your own mom doesn't think the sun rises and sets on you, what's the point of having one?

Next, we watched the gymnastics routines (3 different groups) , the circus acts, the hip-hop dances (3 too!!) , the ballet dance, and the Japanese stick fighting. The latter, an activity with only 3 children in it, seemed to go on forever. Considering the fact that there were only three sets of fond parents in the audience that had any interest at all in the proceedings, they would have done well to cut it to a more reasonable length. Folks are mostly kind, but they can only spend so long watching three kids they don't know wave sticks around in slow motion. After about 15 minutes, you've really seen all you need to. If I'd had my own stick, I might have taken a whack at the teacher. He was out of control and needed to be taken down- a boring, pedantic French guy that seems to have the mistaken idea that he is neither of these things.

The stick fighting ended, eventually. Then it was time for the first dance of the twins' modern dance group. The music started like this, and I quote:

Lift your leg up (so petite, so sexy)
Lift your leg up (come on sexy girl, feel me)
Lift your leg up (I want you to come show me, alright)
Lift your leg up, lift your leg up (sexy girl)
Lift your leg up
Yo, you're so sexy, you're so damn fine
Step in every place, you look so divine

Man you are magical, you're one of a kind

When you are ready, come have a good time

It made 'Hollaback Girl" look like a powerful, profound anthem of female empowerment.
It made me want to say: I'm sorry I was so finicky! Bring back Gwen!!

The girls were very cute, of course. They danced so well and the crowd cheered wildly because they were so darn glad not to be watching a fourth hip-hop group or, god forbid, more Japanese stick fighting.

(The song was "Zookey" by a DJ called Yves Larock. Maybe he had to give himself such a painfully obvious "cool" stage name because he's Swiss. It's got to be hard to have rock cred when you're Swiss. You've got centuries of watch-making and cow-milking cred working against you.)

There were a few more acts, then it was time for the final dance. It's a tradition that the modern dance group do the show finale. And I have to admit, I was a little nervous. What song would they be dancing to? 'Baby Got Back' seemed like a likely candidate.

But not to worry! It turned out to be a Russian dance club song- instrumental only! No lyrics!

And here they are at the end of the show.

A good time was had by all, especially us.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Hollaback Girlz

"Thees my sheet! Thees my sheet!"
There I was, sitting at the back of the small room where the twins' dance class rehearses. They've been working hard all year, preparing for the big show that is coming up this weekend. I'd mostly stayed away from the practises, figuring that it could be a surprise.
And boy, what a surprise it was.
Before me were twelve cute little 10/11 year old girls, almost all of them singing along with the song as they practised for the dance recital.
"Thees my sheet!"they chirped enthusiastically.

Well, I thought to myself, Perhaps this is a song about a woman with a Martha Stewart-like love of fine bedding. She has a nice 400 thread count Egyptian cotton duvet cover and has morbid fears about it being stolen. Hence her repetitive insistence that it is her very own personal sheet. Yes! I'm sure that's it!

But then I listened to the lyrics on the tape. And, as you may have guessed, the song was not about decorative texiles for the home.

Of course, the little group of French-speaking beauties obviously had NO idea what they were saying. And Alexandra, the teacher, while fluent in Russian and French, is not so great with English- as we see by looking at her choice for the song about to be played in front of hundreds of parents and children at the French Cultural Center on Saturday night.
The song in question is something called "Hollaback Girl". I don’t know what a hollaback girl is, but she wants to hurt you, bad.
And I quote:
“Oooh, this my Shit , this my Shit  [4x]
I heard that you were talking shit
And you didn't think that I would hear it
People hear you talking like that, getting everybody fired up

So I'm ready to attack, gonna lead the pack
Gonna get a touchdown, gonna take you out
That's right, put your pom-poms down, getting everybody fired up”
It is possible that Alexandra chose it because it's educational, though.
Later in the song, Gwen Stefani helpfully spells out the name of
a tasty and nutritious fruit: 
"This shit is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S"
Perhaps she has plans for future songs where she shows children the joys of
spelling other useful words like "papaya" and "litchi nut"?

It's a very, very strange song.
The word shit is repeated many, many times.I wondered why the
twins hadn’t mentioned this little problem.    
But it turns out that Mal and Al didn’t  see any problem at all.
“Alexandra already picked the song and planned out the dance.
We didn’t want to hurt her feelings.”  Mallory explained afterwards in the car.

“Besides, the other girls don’t even know what the words mean,”
Alexa added.  “And Mallory and I just sing ‘This my chip!”
She illustrated this point by crunching an imaginary potato chip.

Works for me..
When I got home, I did a little internet research and came across this very funny analysis
of the song.
The fact-based Wikipedia take on it can be found here.
Neither of these sources mentions potato chips.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

When I lost my spiffy site counter with the tiny flags, I decided to find another way to keep track of who checks out my blog. For a little project designed to keep my parents, grandad and a few select friends up-to-date on my doings in a foreign land, it draws a good amount of interest from people all over the world. By "a good amount", I mean about 30 visitors a day from places like New Caledonia and India. How do I know this? By using one of the many entertaining blog traffic tracking tools out there. I use BlogPatrol, mainly because of the satisfyingly military tone of the name- implying efficiency and vigilance. My blog is not monitored, it's patrolled!

So, when I finally got internet access again, after four days of being cut off, one of the first things I did was check my stats at BlogPatrol. And I got a big surprise- this blog registered over 100 visitors on last Thursday! For a blog that averages less than half that, it was quite a jump! This kind of an increase almost always means that some other blogs or sites have mentioned my work and linked to my blog. Very thrilling!
A quick search revealed that four different sites had linked to me within a very short period of time.

First of all, a freelance journalist living in the USA mentioned Burkinamom in her blog called " Global Wire".

The next day, journalist John Liebhardt published another entertaining Burkina blog round-up under the irresistable title "Burkina Faso: Level four culture shock". I'm now using the fact that he refers to me as "The ever-organized Burkina Mom" as part of my daily self-encouragement mantra. Sometimes it seems impossible that I will shortly have to get our family moved out of this house and all of our belongings on a boat to France. But hey- I'm 'ever-organized'! I can do it!
It is very kind of him to take time to encourage me, as he has his own moving worries. He and his family are off to the Republic of the Fiji Islands! So, I'd best not whinge too much about having to move to a place that only involves about 7 hours of air travel! On the other hand, Fiji looks gorgeous and I am a tiny bit jealous!
Best of luck to John and his family!

That same day, John's article was picked up by a site called Religion News Online.

And finally, I got listed on the short, selective blogroll of a cute expat blog from Hungary. Will wonders never cease? I know and admire a couple of the other blogs on the list, particularly this smart and entertaining expat in France blog.

So, that's the news on the blogging front.
As for RL adventures here in Ouagadougou... well, Mallory wormed her goats yesterday.
That was exciting.
And on Monday morning, I had both of our cats fitted with microchips so they can travel with us to France. Please believe me when I say it was not easy for anyone involved. First of all, it was nearly impossible to get the microchips! They are not sold in Burkina Faso, but are required if you want to import your pet to France. And in France, they are only available in veterinarians' offices. And guess what? When you send your sweet, elderly MIL to a French vet to buy one of the things, they won't sell her one to send to you. Yvette carefully explained the whole situation and he flat-out refused, saying we had to buy it here in Africa. I guess he imagines that Burkina is just like France, only with more black folks. He can't wrap his mind around a place where to power cuts out nearly every day, paved roads are rare and the vet's office is an empty cement-block hut decorated with faded posters for camel-worming medications. And this guy's unhelpful attitude is not rare. I have since talked to many French friends that had exactly the same experience! One person's take on it was that the vets are afraid that you will try to insert the device yourself or they fear that the vets here are incompetent.
Or maybe they are just plain mean???

Anyway, due to a series of very lucky events, our vet's assistant called me on Sunday night and told me that a few chips had miraculously been shipped in by DHL and I could reserve two if I wanted them. I wanted. They weren't cheap, but now we are sure that both cats will be coming along with us to live in France. Not too bad for two abandoned street cats!
We found Mr. Darcy in 2002 as a starved kitten living in our garden shed. Valentine fed him milk with a dropper and he quickly grew to his current form: a big burly tom cat that decapitate a Ouaga rat with a single blow.

We found little Cleo in 2006. Well, she found us. She showed up with a kitten in tow, both of them starved but very, very affectionate. It looked to me like they must have been abandoned by some expat family. Maybe they couldn't get a microchip for her!!!!
The Burkinabé, in general as a cultural thing, do NOT like cats. Cats are associated with death and witchcraft and many people are very, very frightened of them. It is the rare Burkinabé family that would have one as a family pet. Only a few brave, non-superstitious souls keep them to control the rats and mice.

BTW- I now have internet at home, but still NO access to my emails!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

"Let them eat cake" - that Austrian-born bubblehead Marie Antoinette said this when told that the French peasants were starving and had no bread. Right?
Well, it's a funny story, but it turns out that historians all agree that she never said it. She may have been the Paris Hilton of the 18th century, but she's officially off the hook on this one.

I'm definitely not tempted to say that the average Burkinabé just needs to eat cake. But the fact remains that I have discovered neeré powder can be made into a really tasty pound cake!
Yesterday, I followed a normal recipe that included butter, eggs, sugar,vanilla and cinnamon) and then substituted neere powder for a quarter of the wheat flour. It took a bit longer to cook than usual, but turned out very moist and rich. It was eaten up within the day and everyone wants me to make another.
This time I'll get brave and replace half the flour with neeré powder.

Still no internet at home or access to my email Curses!

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Seventh Annual Winyé Mask Festival was held on Friday and Saturday in Boromo- a small town just about two hours' drive from Ouaga. I was there as usual, friends and family in tow.

I intend to write more about it, but not today. This morning, I once again blog to you from an internet café in downtown Ouaga. The server I'm on at home has been completely down since Thursday night. No internet, no email, no nothing.
So, if you have sent me an email lately, now you know why I haven't answered. Sorry. I am hoping that this will get fixed soon.

As for the Festival- all I have for you right now is a few pictures. Click on them to see a larger version of each )
I'll be posting more soon (in the next few days) in the Photobucket album.