20 January – Kossouka, 1:07pm
Sometime you need a mental break from being in Africa, so you meet up with a bunch of Americans and have a party. We had made plans to meet in OHG to go to Al's village about 17km away, and despite not feeling totally ready to leave my attempts at becoming integrated in my village, I was really excited to get to see everyone. Getting into town proved to be quite the adventure, but we all made it and I was the first to be waiting in front of the Post for the rest of our little group.
I told the guy who worked at the art stand next to the Post that I wouldn't be around very often so I would not be able to teach him English or stay with his family once every few weeks, but offered David as someone closer by who could teach him - for some reason he didn't seem very enthused by this prospect. We biked over to the cyber cafe for a few minutes, then went out for a delicious lunch of salads, fries, and amazing garlic chicken. We stopped to get a few things at the alimentation, then started biking back to Al's village. Even though I love Al and her house, I will not be making that bike trip again anytime soon. It was almost completely uphill, with 4 very large hills that had me going very slowly indeed. Al, David and Bridget took off, and Alicia, Emily and I were the slow goers, out of sight of the fast bikers, but in the end we all made it.
We stopped in the village next to hers to get more stuff at the marche. We had quite the crowd following us! We continued the last 3km, then saw the CSPS and settled into her house. It's very nice, and even though my house is bigger I feel like hers is more solidly set up. The furniture is minimal, but sturdy and practical, and she has electric lights and outlets! Her shower drain didn't work, but her latrine area was huge and had a secondary drain as well so we showered in there. She sleeps on a lipicot, and between the two rooms we had plenty of space for all of us to sleep on the floors.
The first night we made beef stew – meat for two meals in one day! We browned the meat and onions in giant skillets, then added the potatoes and carrots and spices and braised them in chicken-bone water (we had brought the rest of lunch with us for Al's puppy - Simba). Delicious! We sat and talked, drank the dolo that David had made, and generally had a good time remembering life among Americans.
The next day we woke up with the sun, ate pancakes with M&Ms and the rest of the fried dough balls, and made benga with salt and hot sauce for lunch. We then had cabbage salad with tomatoes and mayo/mustard dressing, and veggie surprise of sauteed green beans, green peppers and carrots in hot sauce and salt. Have I mentioned that Al is an amazing cook? We started watching Avatar, but halfway through Al's counterpart came to take us on a tour of the village. We started at the barage where we saw the gardening, the available land, and the crocodiles. There's an airport (of sorts) up there and we visited a lot of neat places – I wish someone in my village could take me on a tour like this! He explained that all the piles of wood near the only area with trees each belonged to a certain family, and no one would take wood from a pile that wasn't their family's pile.
We returned home and the fast bikers went to Youba to get food while the rest of us did dishes. We had beef soup when they got back, with bread, then started making a new veggie surprise – green beans and carrots sauteed with sugar and salt, and then mac and cheese. We finished the movie, looked at some photos, and quickly fell asleep. The next morning we watched Fern Gully (!), cleaned up, and headed to Ouahigouya. We had a delicious lunch, went to the internet cafe (never enough time) and said goodbye.
At 3 Alicia, Emily and I got to the gare to catch our camion, but of course it didn't arrive until close to 5, and after loading everything we pulled out around 5:30pm. I found myself in the back of an open-air transport truck, sitting on a bench among piles of food, luggage, and supplies, topped with passengers. The moon was full, but it was still dark when we got to Alicia's village where we left her and about half of the stuff in the truck. It was getting cold and we were all covered in a thick layer of dust, and Emily and I weren't looking forward to the bike back to my village from the drop off at Seguenega, 11km away. We pulled up through the town, getting a glimpse of the nightlife, and we were tempted to ask if they would go on to my village until they backed into a spot that left them clearly pointed back towards Ouahigouya.
We had just started loading up our bikes when the truck next to us started it's engine. We hurriedly asked around in French and bad Moore where it was going. When they said Ouaga we finally found the driver and offered to pay if he'd drop us next to the road to my village. Although desperate, we rejected the first price of 1,000cfa each because we'd paid 1,500cfa for the last truck to take us 5 times the distance that this one would be, but quickly agreed to 500cfa each. We hopped into the back of the open topped, tall sided cattle/transport truck and high-fived in our delight. I'm actually impressed we didn't go deaf with how loud the truck rattled and shuddered as we bounced along the road. They said they were going to pull into the town for us, which I took as them being nice, but it turns out they were offloading some of the stuff in the truck in my village anyway, so I guess we still were overpaying for our quick ride. But it was absolutely worth it, and I quickly found my house in the dark. First travel adventure – successful.