Wednesday, March 25, 2009
The north is spectacularly beautiful with its whitewashed mosques and arid streets. Walking around in midday is comparable to sticking your face into the path of a giant hairdryer, but somehow wearing scarves and long robes still sounds appealing. It must be the dry weather. The dust can give you a little cough, but after waking up sweating in Accra for so long the, chilly mornings in the north are incredibly rejuvenating. Sleeping on the roof in the Muslim village of Larabanga a cloth was almost enough to keep me warm, but Junior our host’s five-year-old son was still clinging to my neck to fight off the chill. At night before we fell asleep, all the men in Larabanga joined together in prayer at a certain point on the street where mats were laid out and prayed before going to sleep. In the morning before sunrise and even before the roosters the three mosques of the one street village all took turns announcing their call to prayer. I lay awake listening to the loudspeaker voices, but Junior and Al Hassan (P2) just rolled over and went back to sleep. I guess the call is just for kicks because no one in the town seemed to be stirring.
The dry weather feels so clean to me. When we would wash our clothes and hang them to dry in P2’s courtyard the sun would almost bake them clean. Bucket showers are always refreshing, but in the dryer climate instead of feeling instantly sticky you stay clean for the day.The smell of cooking fire is sharper in the dry weather. Since P2 doesn’t have a kitchen we brought a charcoal stove to the courtyard (living room/washroom/bedroom/kitchen) and we all helped our Scottish friend Uwen cook his birthday soup. The stove would spark and embers would explode all the way up to the roof, like our own private fireworks.
Roads: Unpaved and Paved
All but the city center of Bobo is made up of wide unpaved avenues and big open lots, sometimes used as a market place, sometimes a football field. As soon as the sun sets the streets are unlit except for a few scattered lights where people are sitting on stools outside their homes and businesses. The open field becomes a strange restaurant where plastic tables and chairs are spaced out throughout the field, but the field is completely dark. People sit together drinking a beer and chatting, but its dark enough that you cannot make out the person’s face sitting across from you. Walking through Bobo’s unlit streets is a hazard for people who don’t know where the big potholes and frequent trash piles are, but we followed the sound of music managed to stumble across a big wedding reception were a crowd was all dancing on the street around a single florescent bulb. Farther down the streets we went to eat our staple of egg sandwich and the guy somehow managed to cook up four delicious omelets on his little coal stove completely in the dark. Usually when sun sets in an unlit town, the community tends to shut down or at least slow. But in Bobo I think there may have been more people out on the dark streets that were out in the hotter hours of the day.
Past the water tower and Place de la Nation the paved roads start and so does the slow bustle of Bobo. The market is surrounded by rows and rows of motos on every side and it wasn’t clear weather they were there to be sold or people had parked tightly to go to the market. Maybe it was the days we went, but Bobo’s market was nicest I’ve been to. The cloth, the jewelry, the food was all so different from Ghanaian markets. We spent the day with these brothers from Mali who got involved when Andrea was haggling in broken French, but were more tranquil than anyone you meet in the markets here. Baba Mussa wore eye charcoal and brought us around to the cosmetic stands showing us the different makeup for men and for women. We didn’t have much room, or much money for that matter to buy too much from the market. But is was nice to just spend the day in there talking to people and looking around.
When you are driving down the dirt roads that cut through the huge open farms and villages on the outskirts of Banfora it gets tricky to avoid colliding with the donkey-drawn mango carts, even on a moto. The carts are piled high with stacks of green mangoes that roll off when the cart hits the bumps of the dirt road and are scattered all along the way to the waterfall and dome cliffs. We crashed our moto hitting a big mud puddle, and gracefully face planted so that everyone could see we had wiped out, but there were some close calls hitting fallen mangoes as well. The trees along the road are a mixture of scraggly Savannah trees, Baobab and of course mango groves dripping in fruit. On the walk to Banfora’s breathtaking waterfall you walk through a village who’s livelihood is based off of the thick mango grove that thrives next to the waterfall. I’ve never seen such huge mango trees. They completely block out the sunlight above and it would probably take three people joining arms to reach around some of the tree trunks. The ground is scattered in mangoes and the air is thick with the tangy smell of ripening fruit. The village women spend their days in the shade, piling up mangoes and the babies sit with them eating nearby mangoes. None of them spoke French, but we collected mangoes with them and ate them for lunch. Back in town everyone seemed to be making a meal out of mangoes as well. I lost count of how many stands of yellow mangoes were being sold by the market ladies, and when we caught the bus from Banfora to Bobo we were rushed by no less than 30 grinning women with mangoes stacked up on their heads, all calling out for us to buy theirs.