Journey Across Africa

Below you'll find stories of my two year experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the small West African country of The Gambia. After my service I traveled solo, with only a small backpack, across West Africa; reaching N'Djamena, Chad after two months. Visa problems for Libya and Civil unrest in the Darfur region of Western Sudan made Chad my last stop.

Peace Corps Service: Aug. 2003 - July 2005

Journey Across Africa: July 2005 - Sept. 2005

Name:
Location: Boston, MA, United States

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Welcome to Burkina Faso!

Day 36
Mon Aug 22
Start: Sevare, Mali
Mid: Koro, Mali
End: Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

I ran into Rachel at the car park to get to Koro. She was volunteer actually stationed in Koro and would help me out to get to Burkina Faso. Koro is the main transportation hub between Burkina Faso and Mali, and the bus usually leaves around two.

We arrived in Koro ten minutes to two, and bought a ticket to Ougadougou for the three o'clock bus (the actual time the bus left). Although it's spelled Ougadougou, it's pronounced "waga-doo-goo". Even more confusing, was that before getting to Ougadougou you have to pass through Ouahigouya, pronounced "waee-gee-ya".

At Koro, I bought her lunch in thank-you and she showed me around town for an hour or so. The main post office has only twenty-five post office boxes, each one handwritten on a wooden box with a portable key lock attached to it. One package laid on the floor, but not for her. As we were about to exit the Post Office employee asked my name
"Mike"
"Ah! Michael!"
"Yes."
"Like Michael Jackson."
"Yes." and I moonwalked the last few steps out of the office to his delight.

After the bus was loaded and we started to drive towards the border. When we got close the bus stopped and someone got out and started running away. I didn't say anything. We cross the exit border, when another mile and picked up the same guy again. We cross the Mali-Burkina Faso border and headed towards the entrance station when the bus again stopped and he got out and started running.

It was here at this border that we were told to go to police station. By this time it was around 5:30 in the evening. When walking towards the staton there was a sharp blow on a whistle signaling us to stop. We looked to see who commanded such and found two plain-cloth officers standing at attention looking towards our right. We all turned to our right and saw the Burkina Faso's flag being lowered, and realized it was just a symbolic whistle blow to start the ceremony. We started laughing when it came to mind it wasn't anything we had done, but quickly quieted when stares from the plain-clothe officers commanded us to.

A mile down the road we picked up the same guy again. Sneaking across the border using public transportation and a bus full of Malians and Burkinabe. It's Africa!

At Ouahigouya I called the Peace Corps office in Ougadougou to get directions. The office was already closed, being eight at night, but the security guard helped very much.

"Where are you now?"
I looked at the map and saw the word "Ouahigouya" but what came out was that of an imitation of a two-year old: "Waga-waga-waga-waga-waga-wagago-..." He interrupted me: "waee-gee-ya?"
"Yes! That's the one"
"What's the name of the bus company" I look and its "Sogebaf"
"So-so-so-so-so-so-soga-soga-..." He must think I'm a complete moron!
"soe-ge-baf?"
"Yes!"

He then told me how to get to the office. BY 11:30 at night I had arrived in Ouagadougou, found a taxi, and with less than $5 in my pocket had arrived at the Peace Corps Office.

The same guard, who was very friendly and is actually going to university for English, said I could go in and use the computer. It's a big building! I tried almost every door trying to find the computer lab. Nope, that's the toilet; nope, janitor's closet. Found a room with a big desk, which happened to be the Country Director's. Oops, wrong room. I eventually found the computer lab and began talking to two volunteers that were still there that late in the night.

They had just received a new Country Director and her first day had just finished. Her first day on the job and I had accidently broken into her office!

I spent the night typing e-mails and these stories so I could crash for another day and not worry about them. More about Burkina Faso and Ougadougou later on. Top priority now: 1. Cash that check! 2. Get a good meal.

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