Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ouagadougou, the capitol of Burkina Faso

My multi-day road trip filled with long bus rides led me to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, the capitol city. Here two Princeton in Africa Fellows work at 2iE, an engineering graduate school dedicated to sustainable solutions for Africa’s problems. I was able to visit the school and also explore the city.

Ouaga, doesn’t have a lot of big sites to see, but Burkina Faso does have a vibrant culture and is often referred to as the friendliest place in Africa. My free time was spent walking around the markets of downtown people watching as I dodged hundreds of motos and bicycles that ply the streets. I also got a great feeling for Ouaga’s expat seen. The two places that stick out in my mind and offer a major contrast for the expat scene are the French Cultural Center and the American Rec Center. The French have set up Cultural Centers in many countries in Africa and especially in Francophone Africa, where they often are the major place to take in culture. They provide chic classy settings where French movies, music, dance and art are on display and one can get a delicious glass of fresh juice in an artistic classy oasis from the hectic streets around it. In contrast the American Rec Center, which lies across from the old American Embassy, and looks just like an old Florida pool club that your grandparents may have whiled away their retirement years. There is nothing fancy like the French display, but instead good old, casual, laid back American style, with milk shakes, hamburgers, country music, a 70s basement style bar and a pool. It felt like the America we wish we were and felt comforting to this weary traveler.

There is also a great expat bar scene in Ouaga and all I could think of was how awesome it would be if some of the themed places could be transplanted to the Lower East Side of NY. Kitsch and culture and a diverse group of expats from all over the world made for very satisfying evenings.

No comments: