Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why the human body amazes me, US-African Leaders Summit and other things

Regardless of your reasoning, something that I hope we can all agree upon is ow incredibly remarkable the human body is at healing itself and how resilient it is.  It has been almost exctly 30 days since my accident, and there is almost no evidence left of this accident, a few scars that may leave marks and that's about it!  My tendon seems to have recovered itself and is acting mostly normal.  While no running is happening right now, I can walk quite far and should be able to resume all normal physical activity within the next week or ten days, just using good judgement as to what and how. Again, I was hit by a pickup at a fairly good clip, I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate.  While having now had 2 cat-scans in 8 or so months is likely not a recommended part of one's health check-ups, I'm just grateful that they have been negative.

I remind myself of this in what has been a somber week here in Burkina Faso. In a country where the socio-economic class able to afford flying and Schengen visas is quite small, the crash of the Algerian airline just outside of Burkina Faso territory has been quite difficult for many in the community.  We lost an employee who had only recently stopped working for us who was traveling for family reasons.  Most everyone who has been here a year or two knows someone whose life was ended in this tragedy.  This, in the wake of the Malaysian airline and the sudden and tragic death of the husband of one of our coworkers has made the Embassy community quite sad.  It is strange, we are all aware of what the eventual end is for each and every one of us, but the timing of this even is almost always shocking and difficult to absorb for those affected.  Working this past week was interesting as I was struck by the necessity to continue on doing what may seem relatively not important tasks, because the world keeps rolling, summits still occur, reports are still due and the macro-scale activities continue and continue.  I can't say that this thought has been shocking or awful, just sobering I'd say.

Never stop moving-Ouagalais are always up and about getting by.

We have been gearing up in a serious way to support the Burkina Faso government and non-government delegation to the US-Africa Leaders Summit from August 5-6 with substantive activities occurring on the margins of the main events.  These meetings and events focus on health, nutrition, security, governance, goal-setting, preventing extremism and the list goes on. Each one of these events requires a lot of handling, a lot of logistics and a lot of proper diplomatic writing and delivery.  I have had the pleasure to work along an incredible staff, both American and Burkinabe, to help ensure that the Burkinabe delegation is at places on time, is preppred and informed on what's going on and that all proper protocol is followed.  It's amazing how much protocol is truly necessary for everything.  This has meant that the past two weeks have been very hectic as I have been "se debrouiller" or just figuring things out as I go.  I now have a new supervising Political officer so it will be a great opportunity to learn from a new person and see dierent ways o doing this job.
Roadside Maquis by one of the bus stations

Since my last blog, I did get a chance to visit a nearby city of Koudougou.  For those of you who are Fletcher folks, that is the home of Andrew and Tommy's Clair de Lune.  This is a really cool idea with some innovative marketing involved, I definitely encourage you to check out their website and facebook page to learn more.  Anyway, I went there with a group of friends, one of whom used to live there last year.  We didn't do anything that most people woudl recognize as tourism, but we drank "dolo", a local beverage with close friends of hers from the year before, we went to a series of "maquis" (restaurants) and went to a local popular club called Stade de France for a taste of Koudougou dancing.  One thing thwas was fairly touristy is we went to visit some local sacred crocodiles.  That was... interesting, as there aro about 100 crocodiles living in was quite dirty large pond.  You pay or a chicken to appease them and you go out with the crocodile carer (this is a family business that is quite honorable) and this guys calls for the crocodiles to come out of the water. He then says things in his local language, in this case Moore, and actually managed to get the crocs to sit on command (not joking...) and then proceded to let the chicken (tied on a string) dangle over the croc until it got gobbled.  Sorry if a reader is really attached to chickens... haha.  Oh, by the way, why he does this, you can go up and touch the tails and even sit on the crocodile-again, not joking.  It was an interesting activity, to say the least.  A fun part of this adventure was also getting to ride on the newly constructed Millennium Challenge Corporation (US Gov)-funded road and seeing construction.  Not only is watching construction fund (Uncle Bob should be proud of me!), but it's neat to see how U.S. monies are bein used to build roads and make a big difference in the life of Burkinabe here.  A good road can literally transform a village and market, particularly in as rural a country as Burkina Faso. 

just call me the crocodile tamer... this one is over 90 years old, fyi

Couldn't believe it, an Andorra sticker in tiny town Burkina Faso... and recent!

Many times, the most beautiful things are right there in front of you, and free!

Some other highlights since my last post have included the most delicious poulet grille a l'ail (garlic grilled chicken) I've had since arriving here. In case you come to Burkina Faso, go to Gate 10 of the Municipal Stadium and you will discover a tasty delight at a very reasonable price. Additionally, you get the privilege of hearing and watching Ivory coast music videos and enjoying watching the traffic flow by.  Honestly, Katie was right, what makes Burkina Faso great to me is not activities or beautiful sights or fascinating architecture, it is the true freedom that I enjoy here to experience daily life of folks without feeling like I'm intruding or being a bother.  You can sit at a roadside cafe with a drink and some arachides (peanuts) and watch someone go by selling brightly colored brooms and Chinese pool toys.  You can see older men chew on their sticks and take a late-afternoon nap, you can see the incredibly organized and I think quite beautiful event of men doing their afternoon prayers in neat clean lines with one, imam, in front leading the prayers. In this time of Ramadan, I admire the strength of all those who are practicing Ramadan and fasting.  One sees the occasional person putting a sponge to their mouth to assuage their parched mouths, but in a place with bright sunshine and 90-100 degrees regularly, it is amazing that people are able to work at all!  Today (27th), we are awaiting sight o the moon to know whether tomorrow will be a holiday and I know that Muslims (and honestly everyone else) is very hopeful that it will be as that we we get Monday off and Muslims get to begin eating and drinking again.  Each day's newspaper now sports a section on tips for ramadan, for fasting, for prayers etc, which is neat.

Okay, I'm going to end this now as otherwise I might just keep going. Next weekend is my last weekend in Burkina Faso, it seems hard to believe, but time has simply flown by.  I am planning to take the 4th off (the 5th is already a holiday) and go down to Bobo-Dialassou, which is, without a doubt, the tourist capital o Burkina Faso. I plan to see the wateralls o Burkina Faso (no, legitimately, I think they are the only ones...) which are the pride and joy of Burkinabe.  I also hope to visit two sets of famous rock formations and the ruins of an old kingdom near the town of Gaoua.  Then, I'll be back in Ouagadougou for a last few days of work before flying to Istanbul and then Barcelona late the 8th.   Unfortunately, I will have little time at either location as I have to be back in Boston on the 12th but, a little bit is better than nothing!

Because we all know I had to get a sunset photo at some point...

Keeping it real in Ouags,


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