Welcome to Ouagadougou or “Bonne arrivée” as they say in Burkina Faso!

Three weeks have passed since my arrival in Burkina Faso. This article is then the first one of a long list!

I arrived at the airport in the night. I was so cold on the air plane that when I went out and walked for the first time on the burkinabè floor I enjoyed feeling the hot air. It turned out to be quite different the following days! Ouagadougou’s airport is not big but this does not mean you do not wait! After passing the police that controls your visa and takes your finger prints, you wait for your luggage to come in an adjacent room. Like in all African countries, Burkinabè usually travel with lots of suitcases and it is not rare to see two people holding 6 big suitcases! While waiting for mines, I observed the people surrounding me. I could easily recognise the French volunteers coming to Burkina Faso for a one or two month time mission: young white people with one big backpack and hiking shoes! Some Chinese were also there but they did not seem to come to Burkina for the same reasons. They probably work for some building companies or at the Chinese embassy. Finally, one of my luggage appeared on the moving walkway I was relieved but I soon began to worry when I saw all the people leaving the airport with their suitcases while I was still waiting for my second one. What I was afraid of finally happened: my second luggage was missing! Waiting at the lost luggage office, I had my first contacts with Burkinabè who, by the way, seemed to be as desperate as me! My first impression was really positive, they were very kind with me especially one woman who also got her suitcases lost but tried to reassure me! After almost 2 hours following my landing, I finally went out of the airport and met Valentina, GVC’s country representative in Ouagadougou.

The day after, we headed to the office from Valentina’s house where I am staying until mid-September. On the way, I discovered a bit of Ouagadougou’s atmosphere: street merchants, dust, motorbikes, bicycles and colourful women’s clothes! Once at the office, I met Medicus Mundi Andalucia (MMA)’s team, a Spanish NGO with who GVC is sharing the office as well as working on two projects. I was quickly introduced to the work environment as in the afternoon Valentina, Carmen (MMA) and I attended a meeting at UNICEF with all the different partners who work on malnutrition and food security in Burkina Faso. There were NGOs’ representatives, an EU representative as well as someone from La Croix Rouge. Even though it was a bit technical and too many acronyms were used, it was really interesting to meet these people to understand how they collaborate. The following day, I went to another meeting to represent GVC! Fortunately, no one asked me anything! The meeting gathered people, mostly from the State services, who work with the House Economy Analysis (HEA) Tool, a tool used to categorise households and that allow to prioritise needs. We had a one hour presentation and then a break of more than two hours! This gave a bit of the picture of how Burkinabè work.

Going back to the office, Valentina informs me that they bought a motorbike for me! Having witnessed the road traffic during these past two days, I am a bit afraid especially because I have never driven a motorbike before! Talking with her, I understand this is the best solution if I want to be independent and go from one place to another in Ouaga. Indeed, there are no effective public transport and few taxis here which leaves almost no choice but to have a motorbike! Three days later, I am having my first motorbike driving lesson in the empty street close to the office. During the first five minutes, I have the feeling I would never be able to drive such thing! But after having understood how to start the motorbike and change the gears, I have managed to drive on 100 meters long! After three weeks, I can say I am getting more and more confident days after days but the most dangerous thing is not you but the others! Every day, we see car/motorbike accidents in Ouagadougou. Even though there exists a highway code, almost no one is aware of it and almost no one wears a helmet which explains the high rate of accidents!

I assume the purchase of this motorbike was part of my “Bonne arrivée” process…


Written by Marion Excoffier