Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Yesterday I had gone to work with the motorcycle I had borrowed for when Johan was here this weekend. At lunch I came home to find some grass and leaves stuck under the saddle of my bike, which had stayed at home. I thought it was the neighbours kids playing, and removed the grass. In the evening though, it was there again... and today I have found out that there is a couple of small red birds planning on building a family under the saddle of my bike! What to do? I don’t have the heart to chase them away! I think I’ll borrow the motorcycle for a couple of weeks... :-)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sleeping outside

People have been wondering about my daily life here. So I thought I’d share one of the biggest differences between my European and my African life with you. The past three months (april, may, june) have been tooooo hot for me to be able to sleep inside. My house is nice and cool during the day, but at night its an oven. Luckily, I have a roof terrace on my house, so for the past three months I have been going up there to sleep.

It took some time to get used to lying under a starry African sky, with the sounds of the neighbours turkeys (who appear to be night animals), my neighbours’ (who also sleep outside) snoring, their babys crying, the early roosters screams, and the mosques of Ouahigouya calling everyone to prayer at 4 in the morning. But at least it was cool and there was a breeze. And it feels good, to go to bed early and go up with the sun.

Digging for Gold

In some places not far from where I live someone found gold not so long ago. This has lead to a incredible inflow of hopefuls souls into these places, which were just nowheres in the dust before. The gold-fever has led to the creation of entire temporary villages, where houses are made of straw, but you can get everything you need, just as in a regular town: food, water, a spare tire for your bike, a radio, and even a haircut.

The circumstances in which gold is dug for are daunting and dangerous. Holes of up to 40-50 metres deep are dug straight down into the ground, with primitive manpowered tools. It can become incredibly hot in these holes and air to breath can be scarce, so makeshift airshafts are used to prevent suffocation. There are no ladders, people climb in and out by crevices in the walls of the holes. One person digs and sends up the loose gravel in bags to his companions outside. Sometimes a horizontal shaft is dug from this hole. These are very dangerous, and often collapse, as tools and material for preventing collapse are scarce.

The gravel hauled up can hold indications of gold or gold itself. It is brought to someone on the site who has a machine to grind to dust, and then it is washed to find the gold itself. You need to pay the person with the grinding machine, and you need to buy the water to wash it with, as there are no wells or other water sources nearby (thus this has led to the creation of a small industry of people fetching water and selling it). Thus the whole activity is seldom profitable and only very rarely does someone find his fortune. But those few who do keep the hopes of all the others alive. Imagine, find gold one afternoon and be able to buy your own motorcycle and your own house on the spot, and having the means of taking two wives at once!

Digging for gold is dangerous, and only estimates exist of how many people die in these holes. Some people say the only way to know is to count the pairs of slippers left at the sides of holes with no one to pick them up, or the number of bicycles gathering dust because the owner has disappeared....

Digging for gold is something which attracts young people, young men leaving their villages to try their luck in these dangerous sites. In some villages you will find only old people and children who are left. It undermines the social structure and the development of these villages, and it makes it difficult for our work as well. How to work with developing a village when the whole active population is absent?

A day in the life...

I thought I might describe a normal, regular day of life here in BF. In some aspects, it doesn’t differ so much from all of your lives. Then again, other aspects do :-)

5h50: alarm clock, my neighbours making noise, cocks crowing, and the sun warming up the land
6h00: I get up, water my plants, eat breakfast and get ready for work. I am especially pleased that I brought with me a little italian espresso-maker so I can get my necessary dose of caffein
6h50: I get on my bike and ride to work
7h05: I arrive, and spend some 15 minutes talking with my collegues who arrive one by one
7h20: work, sometimes fun, sometimes frustrating, usually because of the virus-problems we have with our computers, grrr
12h30: I get on my bike and defy the blazing sun to ride either to a local restaurant or home to eat
13h30: siesta, I usually don’t sleep (I get in a bad mood when I wake up from sleeping in the day) so I read, watch a tv series on my computer, or just lounge about a bit
14h45: I take a quick shower, and ride back to work
15h00: work continues
17h30: end of the working day, chat with some collegues, ride home, or to town to pick up some groceries
evening: either spent at home alone, cooking, reading or watching a movie, or in town with friends (this activity usually involves drinking beer, which really tastes SO good after a hot day here!)
22h00: bedtime (except if the beers got too good ;-))

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