Nobody here has ever heard of it, but I have been wishing people “bonne fete” (happy holiday) all day. Gives me a chance to explain what I am thankful for, which is first of all the improving health of my mother (though there is still more work to do), but also the so-far peaceful and uplifting Burkinabè political scene. I went down to Todd Sargent’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. He has a young family, two beautiful little kids about three and six. His son, the older of the two, played Stratego with me, and appeared to have a reasonable sense of what was going on. He rushed his attacks, which is not surprising in a kid, but he was thinking. I was pretty impressed. If I see him in a couple of years, I expect he’ll be ready to be taught Advanced Squad Leader =(;) A very nice meal, not the typical Thanksgiving fare – most of the ingredients would be unavailable though I guess you could substitute guinea fowl for turkey without anybody noticing – but very well made and the excellent company made it even better. The only thing missing was my family, whom I ended up not being able even to contact via Skype because the Internet was acting up. I did get to talk for about 15 minutes to my mother, with the frustrating 10-second delay between a comment and its response caused by bouncing the signal off a couple of satellites in geosynchronous orbit. A call to Kadija didn’t even go through. The mysteries of the Burkinabè Internet…
On the way down to Todd’s house, I saw some campaign ads. In fact, just about every vertical surface on the way down was covered with campaign ads but these two caught my eye:
Guess which candidate has the lead in the polls? I’ll give you a hint: it’s the guy who can afford three billboards side by side at the “changeur”, the main cloverleaf connecting the boulevard that runs around the city with the main road that runs down to the presidential palace. Diabré’s billboard is just north of the “changeur” alongside the circular boulevard. As I say, these are only the most noticeable of the campaign material polluting the visual space these days.
I almost got run into by a campaign bus the other night on my way to choir practice. I was riding in the bike lane and, as I entered an intersection, the bus, that had been waiting to turn, pulled quickly out almost on top of me. I stopped just in time. Charitably, it was getting dark and although I have lights perhaps the driver didn’t see me. It was one of “Roch” Kaboré’s busses. Makes me feel better about “L’homme du vrai changement”. Though I would probably vote Sankariste if I were Burkinabè.
Campaign busses are trolling around the city, and there are a bunch of static booths in markets, near bus stations, and so on. All with big sound systems. The one down the street from my maquis has much louder music than any bar in the vicinity. Assaulting the ears of the voters with campaign songs is a big deal in campaigning here apparently. Tomorrow, Roch has a big campaign rally down at the main municipal stadium, headlined by a South African rapper of whom I have never heard but who is said to be a big draw. The rumor from my political buddies at the corner maquis is that the governing party of South Africa, the ANC, is paying for the rally as a way to show their support for Roch. The ANC has come a long way from the days on Robben Island, apparently. They are said to have played an important role in several election campaigns in West Africa in recent years, building influence throughout the region. I would go, but I have another choir practice in the evening. We have a performance the 5th of December and the tenors are still a little shaky.