Category Archives: Daily Life

Music in Burkina Faso

In Burkinabé society the function of musical instruments goes beyond the mere sounds they make. The instrument and its notes carry deep spiritual and cultural significance. Music forms a back drop to every important event in life: marriage, funerals, births, initiation ceremonies, prayers and many other celebrations. Combined with the oral input of griots (oral historians), music weaves a healthy dose of mythology and history.  Instruments are typically handmade and tend to differ according to region, made from local materials and accordingly to local know-how.

This week I will begin a series of posts highlighting some of the more common Burkinabé instruments.

Everyday Burkinabé Objects: The ubiquitous plastic teapots.

In West Africa you find these infamous colourful plastic teapots everywhere. Each household, restaurant, workplace and mosque has at least one & usually it’s a collection of these teapots. Given they are constructed in plastic they are obviously not used for making a pot of tea!  Their primary use is for hand-washing.  These teapots are filled with water and carried to the bathroom and used in lieu of toilet paper. They are also always provided by restaurant staff or hosts for cleansing before a meal. Needless to say people usually eat with their hands (actually right hand) here.  It is also not uncommon to see Muslims using these teapots to wash their face, arms and feet before commencing to pray.

Early New Year’s Wishes & Belated Merry Xmas

I would just like to wish all my friends and family in NZ, Australia, Quebec, UK, Europe & here in Burkina Faso a happy, healthy and prosperous new year (& a belated Merry Xmas). My New Year’s resolution is to see as many of you as I possibly can before the year is out!

Also, I would like to apologise for the dearth of blog posts over last couple of months.  As I predicted, I am not very good at keeping a blog. However, I would like to propose a change to my blogging format. In an attempt to motivate me to write more about Burkina, I would like to make a call out to readers for questions. Please post any questions you may have and I promise as my second New Year’s resolution to respond (maybe even with pictures from time to time).

Happy New Year everybody & lots of love to all

Melissa

Work

I have been working for a few weeks now, here in Burkina Faso. For those that do not know, I am working at an HIV screening clinic where they also offer pre- & post- test counselling and general HIV information. This is a completely new domain for me having worked in software development for companies primarily in the telecommunications & disk backup industry’s over the last few years. I therefore decided to spend the first couple of weeks doing some background reading in an attempt to gain at least an elementary understanding of the field.

However, thankfully my mandate is IT related. To date my main tasks are to create a website for the clinic and to develop a database for their client information. Additionally, I need to train staff on how to use and administer both the website and database (this is, obviously, after I have finished giving basic computer skills training). Last week I started a prototype website for them using google sites

I decided to use google sites as:

  • I am firstly hoping its one of the more straightforward and cheaper website authoring tools/hosting service out there,
  • and secondly I am hoping therefore I should be able to pass over its administration relatively easily to someone with minimal computer literacy skills.

For anyone interested in the clinic, the first draft is here .

p.s. if anyone has other suggestions for tools other than google sites as I am not a web developer nor particularly up with all the latest web technologies/trends please let me know, all suggestions/help is very welcome.

First week in Bobo

Arriving in Bobo for the second time we were feeling quite helpless, it’s no easy feat to do anything in this country at first when you do not know how things function. Helen (one of the VSO volunteers in Bobo since April) had kindly agreed to meet us at the bus station and arrange transport to our new home. She was an invaluable resource being thoughtful enough to have also:

  • brought us a food/emergency package for the next day’s breakfast & lunch (as it was Sunday evening when we arrived and we had no means to obtain supplies ourselves),
  • found a great restaurant for us to dine at for supper on the first evening,
  • cooked us all supper the second night as we had no gas nor food to do so ourselves,
  • and also kindly loaned us her kettle as due to a country-wide gas shortage we had no gas for our cooker. However, we are fortunate enough to have enough electrical current running through our place to use a kettle (to my surprise I discovered that this is not very common and most people here, like Helen, do not have enough electrical current to even boil a jug ). With the kettle we were able to make tea & coffee as well as couscous until we got gas a week later,
  • additionally, over the week she (along with all the other volunteers already here) responded to our many questions about many things.

Our house (photos coming soon) is large. It has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathroom, living/dinning area, kitchen and large balcony. It is situated on a large & somewhat barren section. At this stage the place is temporary as we will probably be moving sometime during the next couple of months. The house is situated on what turns out to be a very busy/lively street – it reminds me more of St Denis or Avenue Mont Royal (rather than St-Catehrine as Benoit does) in Montreal.

The first week was pretty tranquil and actually we spent a number of afternoon’s poolside at the  Club Muraz (a little oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city) relaxing and trying to escape the heat. Which, admittedly is not too unbearable at the moment and while we find it hot many of the Burkinabe’s are feeling the cold …

Aside from being poolside our time was occupied in the following manner:

  • Meeting the partners – Ousmane introduced myself, Sabrina and Benoit as a group to each of our respective VSO partners with whom we will work with.
  • Opening  bank accounts – we opened accounts at the EcoBank and this was a relatively painless, straightforward & fast process (I think I have spent too much time in Quebec …) However, actually to make a withdrawal while not complicated has definitely not been fast to date. Taking at least an hour and a half each time (I think I will try to pick better times to go in the future).
  • Purchasing items for the house – VSO furnished our houses with all the big items like, beds, table & chairs, lounge suite, fridge and gas cooker etc but we were responsible for finding the smaller things like linen and cooking equipment.
  • Organising/coordinating house reparations – the house was not in 100% working order (by western standards I have to admit as it’s no doubt in fine repair by local standards) when we arrived and we needed minor electrical, plumbing and carpentry repairs.