I spent two weeks in Ouaga. Camping in the car-park of the OK Inn Hotel. Sandwiched between a truck park and the hotel reception. Doesn’t sound so OK. But what more do you need when camping than a flat piece of ground in the shade? Not much. Included in the free camping was use of the toilet, shower and swimming pool. The hotel had a quality restaurant and bar. French in taste (appearance and culinary) and service. Friendly, enthusiastic, hard-working staff on hand to bring an ice-cold beer to the idle, lazy white woman on the sunbed. After the second day I only had to walk into the restaurant shortly after sunrise and a pain-au-chocolat, coffee and large glass of ice water was laid on the table by the sofa under the air-conditioning – my spot.
It was like being on an all-inclusive package holiday. I imagine. I’ve never been on a package holiday. I had no reason to leave the hotel grounds. So I didn’t (Except occasionally to buy mangoes and nuts to keep my hunger at bay and to get my Ghana visa.) That’s what a package holiday means to me.
I can now return to England and boast that I have travelled to and seen Burkina Faso – ‘It was wonderful. Hot and sunny. The afternoon dip in the pool sublime. The beer. The gourmet food. You should go.’ Rose-tinted glasses some may say. Or just plain blinkers.
Ironically, with those two weeks at the OK Inn, I HAVE seen Burkina Faso.
It is in complete contrast to my usual day-in day-out cycling through West Africa. Camping in the wild. Getting water in villages. Eating at street-side cafes with the locals. Resting in town in a cheap hotel. With this travel I see rural life. I see the developing world and it is easy to believe in the official figures that the country is one of the poorest in the world and see little beyond them.
But the statistics do not show the whole story. They do not show you the success stories – for there are many: The charismatic manager, proud and fair. They do not show you the drive and ambition of young, hard-working professionals: The part-time security guard working while preparing for his exams for entry into a Government career. They do not show you the lives of the burgeoning middle-class.: Happy families, out for Sunday lunch and swim. Doting or pushy parents who enrol their children in all available activities: Swimming lessons. Then of course are the rest of the hard-working staff, taking pride in their job and looking forward to the weekend when they can go out on the town – beer and bars and clubs.
Laying on a sunbed by the hotel pool was like looking through a window to another world. Maybe not another world, but a vision to surroundings more familiar back in Europe. This is the vision that many Burkinabe’s strive for. This is the vision that many Burkinabe’s have achieved. Not so different from England.
I have now seen two sides to the country. (There are always two sides to a country.) A rich and a poor. A motivated many and disillusioned few.
Without two weeks sat by the pool I may only have seen one side.