Friday, February 11, 2005

Upper Volta

When Model UN rolled around back in high school, I thought it would be really cool to represent the most absurd country in the world. After I did little research I decided on Upper Volta.

After all, there was no Lower Volta. It had absolutely no natural resources. Its capital was Ouagadougou. And you got there by taking the Ouagadougou Choo-Choo. So a delegation was formed and fun was had by all.

Now after all these years I was here, although in the meantime they had changed the name to Burkina Faso. I was hoping against hope that it was better than Mali.

And I could see that it was as I was deposited in the first town the next day at two thirty. For one thing there were restaurants of a fashion, with a couple of actual plastic chairs sitting in front. The gas station actually had a mini-mart which sold canned sodas, and a few other flavors than fantacokesprite. The bus we were to board at four would have actual cushions on its seats and it would actually leave on time.

Of course, this was the country's fourth largest city.

And when I started the trip I was depressed by all the people walking around selling all kinds of small plastic crap; how could they hope to clear more than a dollar a day? But seeing them now was a sign of prosperity. There are customers who can afford small plastic crap!

I got to Ouaga at seven, found a hotel, and indulged in the first hot water in over a week. The next morning I awoke to find myself in the first functioning city I've been in since Morocco. Traffic! Buildings actually transacting business! People bustling about!

That excitement soon faded, however, when I found that with increased economic activity came many more people hassling me to buy their plastic crap, more so than anywhere I've been in Africa. It was still bearable, though.

Not as bearable was the heat, humidity, and dusty Harmattan winds. Also the fact that the Ghana bus I was expecting to exist didn't. I therefore went around researching my options.

One would be to take the train to the Ivory Coast. Except that I had just promised my wife not to do stupid things. Still, it was appealing... Anyway, another was to wait for a minibus to fill for Togo. That seemed pretty hot and tiring.

The final idea was to go town by town into Ghana. The problem with that was that I could get stuck in the middle of hot nowhere. I was about to head out to the gare routiere and give it a shot when a flashing gas station time and temperature thing said it was a hundred degrees.

I retreated to my air conditioned hotel room to try again in the early am.


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