Well, I arrived in Ouagadougou in the middle of the night. I’ve never been in an airport quite like this one. It consisted of two desks—one for people to pass through and get their bags and one desk for visas. The floor was dirt, there was no baggage carousel, and it had to be close to 100 degrees. I’ve been in a few different airports and wasn’t expecting JFK international, but this was still a surprise. I realized I didn’t have any photos of myself to get a visa, nor did I know the address of where I would be (poor planning on my part), but fortunately after quite some time I got my bags and walked outside. Much to my dismay I didn’t find any representative from Save the Children waiting to meet me. I envisioned spending a night sleeping outside the airport, but fortunately a taxi driver had heard of the organization and knew where the office was. I didn’t have any local currency (CFA) so I exchanged an American twenty with a friend of the driver for what he told me was the equivalent…I didn’t have many other options. But I later found out that it was the correct exchange rate, and I’ve since learned that Burkinabé are some of the most honest and friendly people in the world. Needless to say, I made it to the office, surprised the night guard (who I ended up talking with for quite some time) and fortunately ended up sleeping in a bed that night.
I found out the next day that I’d be having a female apartment-mate, which was a surprise—though I’ve become very thankful of the company, and for her experience in this country. I’ve started playing soccer with a group of guys who play across the street from my apartment as well. I felt a bit like the kid left out on the playground the first couple times I watched them play from my window, but I finally just approached and asked to join, and they acquiesced without hesitation. One thing that has surprised me, to say the least, is the almost ridiculous friendliness of the people here. I have been asked several times by young guys for my phone number and address, and while at first I felt a bit like an American girl in Italy, I have come to realize (through reading and speaking to people) that in general, Africans simply value having many acquaintances, and an American friend (or potential pen pal!) is quite a novelty. I’ve also realized that Burkinabé in general like to joke around. When I first came to the office I was given a tour by a guy named Jean-Paul, who introduced me to some of the employees. First was an older man who he said was the youngest guy in the office. Next was a woman younger than him who he said was his mother. Jean-Paul also makes fun of me for wearing shorts—I found out it’s not rude for someone to wear shorts, more just funny. And even though it seems far away from home, I was talking to a man at church last week who has lived here for a number of years, and I found out we went to the same high school. It was a bizarre discovery, to say the least. Next week I’m planning on going to church with a woman from the office.
Well without a doubt, it has been difficult to be on my own, without many people my age who speak my language. But it has been fun as well. My time here will be interesting, and not without challenge, but I pray it will be a time of growth and clarity.