Saturday, January 17, 2009

Africa's Che Guevara

One afternoon in Ouagadougou, the capital, we went to visit the grave of Tomas Sankara. Tomas Sankara was a charismatic revolutionary leader who seized power in a coup d´etat in 1983, with the help from the current president Blaise Compaore. He quickly started an impressive list of welfare reforms and anti-corruption campaigns; women were appointed into the ministry, and 3 million children were vaccinated against yellow fever, measles and meningitis in only 15 days. Having both Mossi and Fulani roots, he turned his mixed origins into a symbol of unity. He renamed the country from the colonial name Upper Volta (Haute-Volta) into Burkina Faso, combining elements from three major languages Moore, Dioula and Fulfulde. For all his welfare programs, he was still a dictator, albeit a relatively mild one by African standards. He maintained difficult relationships with Europe and America, as well as many of his African neighbors, in some cases leading to war. Refusing to curb the aggressive behavior of his party to opponents, and increasingly paranoid, he alienated many former friends. This eventually lead to his downfall in 1987, when he was killed in another coup
d´etat, this time his old friend and ally, Blaise Compoare ,seized power and have remained there ever since.

Tomas Sankara´s reforms, anti-corruption campaigns, and premature death has made him an idol all over the African continent, and thousands people visit his discreet grave every year. It is somewhat telling to note that when he died, after four years of absolute power, he left behind an old Renault and 560 dollars in the bank.

written by Johan

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A house and a boyfriend!

The 6th of December, I finally found a house. It was a long and tiresome journey in finding it, and then it was a long and tiresome journey to fill it too. Finding a bed, a mattress, a table, something to cook on/with, .... in a city where there are almost no stores (only a big open market place with small stalls) and almost no fixed prices (meaning having to haggle for every single thing you buy) is a challenge.
But I managed, and am slowly feeling at home here....especially since Johan arrived on the 28th of December! First we spent a week in Ouagadougou for holidays and some other arrangements, then I took him home with me :-)

Our house has two bedrooms, a large living room, a shower and a roof terrace (which may come in handy when the hot season comes and it may get too hot to sleep inside). It shares a cour (innergarden) with three other houses, but still has some private outdoor space. It is a nice house, but does present us with some challenges: there is no kitchen and the toilets are latrines (a hole in the ground) outside which we share with our neighbours. The toilets are just a matter of getting used to, but the lack of a kitchen is somewhat of a puzzle sometimes. We bought a gas cooker and two tables to resemble a kitchen counter, but there is no sink either, so washing dishes needs to be done in big plastic bowls. Why is there no kitchen? Because most people here cook outside, in the cour. They sit on a little stool and cook everything on the ground. Why is there no toilet? Because people here think its disgusting to have a toilet in your living room! Or how you can look at the same thing in completely different ways...

Take a look at some pictures of our house and our neighbours on the pictures page.

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