Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Last weekend, Amy and Ryan managed to escape the hustle and bustle of Ouagadougou to venture to Burkina’s second-largest city, Bobo-Dioulasso. Or as we call it, Bobo! Here’s a run-down of what they got up to.

With 6 other volunteers from the current International Service cohort, we set off at 07:30 and sat tucked up in our seats, our bags under our feet, for a 6 hour coach ride south west to Bobo. A few French dvds and a flat tyre later, we arrived at the coach station at lunchtime to be greeted by a completely different atmosphere to what we’re used to. Bobo is a lot less hectic than Ouagadougou; quieter, calmer and less dirty. After dumping our bags at the hotel, and finding our old friend riz-sauce for lunch, we called a local taxi driver (a friend of a friend… of a friend) and went to Koro, a hilltop village. We met our guide at the foot of the hill settlement to pay our entry fee (equivalent to £1.30 each) and we were then taken up. 20 minutes later we were looking over an amazing view! The surrounding countryside is so beautiful, much different to what we’ve seen in the last couple of months. The village itself has been there for hundreds of years, and is split in to three sections based on profession: farmers, artisans and market venders, and forgers (of pottery and metal products). Koro is currently rather empty as the farmers leave during the harvest to work in the fields 10km away. We were taken to the highest point of the village, to see Burkina in all its glory as the sun went down. We had a real insight into rural Burkinabé culture, and it was great.

The next outing was a little different: we were sat in two boats, in brilliant sunshine, whispering our excitement to each other (no one wants to scare a big animal…) while we were looking for hippos! The lake we went to costs around £4 entry, and for that you get a (leaky) boat, a guide and a good hour on the water. We got really close to a family of 7 hippos who were swimming in cooler water, avoiding the heat.  I’d never seen a hippo before, and to be sat 20m away from a whole family made me feel a little like David Attenborough. Unfortunately we had no narration of that calibre, but we were all too busy staring to take notice. As our boat was gradually sinking, the guide was using a large tin to bail water out, and this was unnerving the hippos – maybe not the best idea! But they just started yawning and, as you can see from the photo, posing for us!  Perfect.

In Bobo itself we did as many of the tourist-ey activities as possible in our short stay before coming back to work. We visited the Grande Mosquée, a mosque hundreds of years old that is so unusual, nothing like we’d ever seen. We also visited the old town of Bobo, where there are numerous artisanal shops, and the huge market where we got to practise our (naff) Mooré and our (sublime) haggling skills before making our way back to Ouagadougou. We had the best weekend and would highly recommend future cohorts to go here and experience a new culture other than Ouagadougou. We love Bobo!

Our national volunteer John was born and bred in Bobo, so he’s going to now write a bit about his home town…
Hi, I’m John, born in Bobo Dioulasso. It’s a nice city in the west part of Burkina Faso, not so far from Ouagadougou (365km). Lots of ethnic groups live in Bobo, but the native are Bwaba and Dioula who give their names to the city Bobo (Bwaobao) Dioula(sso). In the Dioula language, “so” means ‘the house of’. So, Bobo Dioulasso means ‘the house of the bobo and the dioula’. Bobo is more a trade city than industrial. Many people in the city have trade as their job. One specific cultural thing is the Muslim wedding celebration. Each Thursday or Sunday, at many areas of the city, there is folklore and women dancing in public, giving money to the singer. We call that in Dioula, ‘Djanjoba’. Young people can regularly be seen sitting together, drinking green tea from China and discussing for hours. This attitude comes from Mali. I really like being in Bobo because there are less people compared to Ouagadougou and there is more solidarity and warmth between them.

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