Africa is not Cheap.

The lady at the post office told me it costs 830 CFA to send a post card to America. All you people I was going to send post cards to from here, forget it. And then outside the post office we got mobbed by folks trying to sell us post cards. One guy said he would sell us 5 for 6000. I swore at him for that. That’s insulting, that’s beyond African opening bid practices.

All these cards are printed in France. Or China. I bet I could go on the Internet and buy all the cards from every place I’m planning to go, even in the next life, and just bring them with and save myself the trouble travel and travail of buying post cards in the places I actually am when I’m there. next step is to omit the trip itself.

This hotel we are staying in, the Ran Somketa in Centre Ville Ouagadougou, is the first hotel we’ve been put in so far this tour which is trying not to be African; yet is one of only a couple we’ve been in that actually behaves African in the stereotypical fashion — by which riddles I mean: there is a sign in the room saying not to do laundry. This, I expect, figures in their idea of a Fancy Place: a fancy place being where you don’t bring linens from your cousin’s house to wash in their sink. I can imagine the Burkinabe version of this admonition also tells you not to have children in their beds. Or eat Durian.

And yet, speaking of Class, in the four hours we’ve been in town, we’ve been moved from the sister hotel “Independance” because their building’s air conditioning had failed; had the water fail in the room, and had the electricity fail twice already because we are attempting to run the hot water heater and the air conditioner at once. The Internet in the business center was pretty slow too. Turning on the TV killed the fuse immediately.

Kone took us to a nice African restaurant tonight. He and Mahmoud had eaten beforehand, much to our disappointment. He said, that he couldn’t afford to eat there. It was expensive, by the standards of Ouagadougou. We had mutton in peanut sauce, and guinea fowl (which they call “pintade”) in Kedjenou sauce; served with the mandatory starch portions of igname, yam, a cognate word there, and a couscous-like pasta made from manioc root. We began with an avocado salad. The whole business of watching out for our health has devolved into the Lent-like formulaic abjuration of tap water. Beyond that, It’s OK to inject into your eyes, things that have been soaking in the dry dung-filled river. Anyway. We spent for the two of us, at least almost as much as we leave for a tip on Monday nights in Palo Alto when we eat with Cyndi.
I wonder if Kone knows how much we are paying for this trip? His employer fronts him 5000 for his room each night. This is not an issue most places; since the hotels put him and the driver up for the consideration of his bringing us to them. Tonight’s hotel isn’t doing that, so they are staying in some other place. It would not exactly be a hit on Mr. Assou Segara’s life style, to put them up in the same hotels we stay at. I don’t know about their hotels, but you can do worse than eating where the tour guides eat. Last night in Bandiagara we had the best rendition of pounded millet and the fastest chicken in the world, ever. Tonight’s Guinea Fowl also pretty clearly didn’t spend its life sitting in a pachinko parlor sipping sake either.

As long as we’re talking about tips … we left a tip for the guitar player, but only so as not to shame Kone. He has to have ongoing relationships with these people, even if that lout is the only Burkinabe musician in the world who only knows four chords in four four time.

He sang things like phonetically learned versions of Down By The Riverside and When The Saints Go Marching In with the most indelicate Republican Convention thudding beat.

And “Blowing in the Wind” in French.

I wonder, every day that I am here, what the relationship is, that the artists have, with the work of the musicians of the African Diaspora. American music has a huge root, exactly here. It came across the Atlantic ocean in slave ships and it’s bounced back and forth several times here. When he plays dumbass american watered down gospeloid music, does he think of it as his, or as something he hopes to get tips for, from the Lonely Planet-carrying legions who populate the restaurants the guides and drivers can’t afford?

At least he didn’t play “a-wi-no-wep” like the band in Victoria Falls. Although, as Dave pointed out, at least that song was written by an African. I forget the whole story but I think he got a judgment in his favor when he sued the American who ripped it off.

I don’t think Intellectual Property suits are a priority in Ouagadougou. We passed a hotel called “Soritel” on the way to Akwaba restaurant. I thought it was Sofitel with a burned out hunk of neon, which is exactly what i was supposed to think, but it was Soritel.

The driver, meantimes, slept in the truck. I feel sorry for him. He works real hard. This was a 15 hour day for him. It helps us to feel sorry for him, that he is this wiry little guy who is about the cutest travel industry Tuareg I’ve ever seen. Dave thought he looked like our friend Saleem. Maybe a little; Saleem’s features are more rounded. Pakistan is a long way from Niger anyway.