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Tickle · the · Pear


jazz festival, horrific pagnes, and feeling so not groovy

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Every time I return from a three day weekend (Monday was Workers' Day) I end up so dispirited at the office. Sigh.



We attended the opening night on Friday of the Jazz Festival of Ouagadougou. The outside theater at the French Cultural Center was packed - probably over 500 people. The first performer, Max Ray Ibranga, was OK. He did a rather limp cover of "Money" by Pink Floyd, and closed his set with "The Excision Song." Excision, as in female circumcision. As in against female circumcision. All well and good, but (1) he sang in French which most people who are engaged in excision probably wouldn't understand and (2) people in the audience are more likely than not educated enough - and certainly wealthy enough to pay for the $2 per person admission - to understand that, ahem, excision is a bad thing.

The main act, Ray Lema, was also a little disappointing. When I saw in the program that he was from the Democratic Republic of Congo I was expecting some jump up and dance jazz. Instead it was mellow smooth lounge jazz. Nice but soporific.

I was also a little curious as to why the American Cultural Center wasn't more involved in the Festival. Jazz, after all, originated in America. The ACC wasn't on the big list of sponsors, and there was only one event taking place at the ACC - a presentation on Jimi Hendrix. Jimi Hendrix? Why not Charlie Parker or John Coltrane or Miles Davis? We were planning to attend last night but I was just too knackered from tennis to pay attention to why Jimi Hendrix was...jazzy. Or what the venerable Jimi has to do with Ali Farka Touré, whom the Jazz Festival is honoring.

We are definitely attending Friday night's closing concert with the Super Rail Band. I never had a chance to see them in Mali but I saw a documentary about them on TV5. We are definitely getting up and dancing for that one!

On Saturday we were at the international school (me for tennis, MoBob for soccer), ran errands and then in the afternoon we picked up our friend and neighbor, Susan, to go look at pagnes (African cloth). Susan teaches English at the engineering school in a special program sponsored by the US Embassy. (She was also a Peace Corps volunteer in DRC and was understandably disappointed at the non-dancy character of Ray Lema's jazz.) She directed us to a local market on the other side of town where the parking lot was conveniently located in front of the dead chicken shack. As we walked past several young men enthusiastically called to us to check out the carcasses they were de-gutting. We declined. The pagne search was mildly fruitful. Susan bought a length of cloth in a dark green leafy pattern on cream, and I bought two, one a cowry shell print on hot pink, and the other a squiggly black pattern on gradations of pink and purple. (I'll post photos later.) I wish I had a digital camera to take photos of some of the crazy patterns we saw. The most disturbing were one with a repeating print of fetuses in the womb next to baby chicks, and another with hands surrounded by dismembered fingers.

On Saturday evening I met up with three friends to take in an art exhibit and dinner at the Hotel Libya. Otherwise known as Hotel Qaddafi. Yes, *that* Qaddafi. He is a great friend of Burkina Faso. The art exhibit was nice if a bit beyond our budget, and we settled into the restaurant. As we were consulting our menus an English gentleman came to our table and asked if any of us spoke English. He explained that he was chatting with a young lady at the adjacent table, she excused herself to go to the loo, and when she didn't come back for several minutes he went to check and found her lying on the floor. So he came to see if any of us could help her. It turns out that she had eaten something disagreeable and had severe stomach pains. We were able to get her into a wheelchair and back to her room. She was especially stressed out as she was flying out that evening and didn't speak much French. I volunteered to stay with her and dealt with the hotel people on her behalf and kept her company. She was really quite nice and we had a long chat about cricket. Happily a doctor who was on the same flight as her came to examine her, advised her to drink lots of milk, and promised to accompany her to the airport and unto the plane. I was able to join my friends at dinner and found the English gentleman and his wife at our table. They were really a very lovely couple who'd spent years in Kinshasa and Nairobi. The wife was from Edinburgh and when I asked her if she knew JK Rowling she said she didn't but she'd probably made fun of her when JKR was a single mum on the dole scribbling away at a café! Overall we had a good time. The same evening MoBob attended the Jazz Festival and returned with lukewarm reviews. He did however score some posters for me which I'll frame as a souvenir.

On Sunday we slept in and then went to visit the mother of a Burkinabé colleague of mine who works at HQ. His father passed away last year and we were invited to the commemoration of his death. There were millions of people at the house - when we entered we had to step over empty bottles of beer and discarded plates - and finally managed to locate Mme O. Since she had so many guests to look after we just chatted for a few minutes and dropped off the banana bread I made that morning. Then it was off to MoBob's English tutor's house, who also happens to be my friend. She is a retired Foreign Service Officer who's now just enjoying traveling around. She invited another mutual friend from the Embassy whom I knew from Bamako. We talked about the Super Rail Band and I asked my friend who'd been the consul in Bamako if she knew them and she replied, "Knew them? I did all their visas!" Then we hosted 10 people over for dinner. MoBob made salad, beef and green bean tagine, and harira. I made Moroccan date cake. A good spread as usual and excellent company - an American couple from the World Bank, another American couple from the international school, my colleague and her husband, Susan of the pagne shopping, and a soccer friend of Mohamed who teaches French at the school and his Mauritanian-French wife. I had put out a small bowl of whipped cream alongside the cake and we all had a good laugh when the Mauritanian-French lady said she'd drizzled it all over the tagine and salad - and claimed it was delicious!

Monday we slept in, I watched "Almost Famous" (which I liked) and a scary episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (the one where the puppet comes to life), M watched soccer (of course) and then it was off to play tennis. I conked out early after watching footage of the marches on immigration in the US. I wonder if Americans were aware of the significance of May 1st?



And now I'm pooped and disgruntled.
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On May 2nd, 2006 03:40 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
Every silver lining has its cloud
Yeah, but you have a four-day work week left. That's something to celebrate.

Sunday evening sounded like quite a soiree. Do you often host like that? I'm sorry to have missed it.

Children only make weekends like yours impossible. Saturday we went for a long hike in the morning, took a 3-hour nap, went out for dinner and walked around a small fake lake, and watched Oklahoma! after we put Bethany to bed. We tried to convince ourselves that it was a really full day--which for us, frankly, it was!

Michael
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On May 4th, 2006 09:14 am (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
Re: Every silver lining has its cloud
You're right - with kid(s) we'd probably only do a 1/3 of what we did. And probably just the survival stuff like going to the grocery store!
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[User Picture]
On May 2nd, 2006 04:29 pm (UTC), flemmarde commented:
well i'd have trouble not being surprised that a jazz festival was boring... but then i'm no fan at all. not that jimi does anything for me either.

what a nice wander through your weekend! i found myself wishing i'd been there at the dinner party :(

the cloth with the foetuses etc just has to be posted!
[User Picture]
On May 4th, 2006 09:15 am (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
Mi casa es su casa if you're back in this corner of the world! Though it's a slog from Lomé unless you're flying.

I wish I had taken photos of the horrific pagnes but I'm sure the shop keeper would consider it a prelude to actual purchase....
[User Picture]
On May 4th, 2006 09:27 am (UTC), flemmarde replied:
ah yes, no doubt photographing the pagnes would lead them on a bit. so maybe next time you're planning on buying *something* you can go wild with the camera at the same time!

next time i get talked into going down there, it won't be without firm agreement that we see more of the region than Lome. don't you worry... you'll be definitely on my itinerary! :)
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On May 5th, 2006 02:06 am (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
yes, photos of horrific pagnes please!
Of course, then I will be asking you to bring back bales of fabric for me on your next trip home. I have a severe fabric weakness. If I could wean myself from my computer addiction, I could make tons of very cute things with all the bins full I already have.

JaneAnne
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