Bonne Arrivée: Welcome to Ouagadougou

3 July 2012 at 08:55 10 comments

By Diana Biggs | KF18 | Burkina Faso

One week ago today, I touched down in my new home of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The greetings of “Bonne Arrivée!” I received at the airport are now echoed each morning as I arrive at my field partner’s office and each evening as I return home and  am greeted by my night guardian, Adama.

The road to work

A quieter street in Ouaga…

And a good arrival it was, in many parts thanks to a complimentary upgrade I somehow managed to receive from the airline, allowing me to sleep through both flights, Montreal – Paris and Paris – Ouagadougou.

Sleep one might think would come easy in this heat. While rainy season typically commences here in Burkina Faso around April / May, as some of you may have seen in the news, Burkina and its neighboring Sahel countries are currently facing a most difficult drought, the third to hit the West African region in less than ten years. The World Food Programme estimates that 18 million people are going hungry due to climate changes and recurrent droughts across the Sahel region. In Burkina Faso alone, almost 3 million people are affected by the food crisis, according to the national government.

My first day in the office, with the temperature in the ’30s (Celsius, my American readers!), I became somewhat struck with panic – how to possibly be productive in this heat?! Can a ceiling fan that already looks like it’s about to launch into flight possibly go any stronger? Are the AC machines at the back of the reception area a type of retro decor or can they possible be used? Naturally, wanting to take on a ‘go with the flow’ attitude, these questions are only debuting here…

The office of EdM in Ouaga

The office!

The office, pictured here, is the Burkina Faso location of Entrepreneurs du Monde (EdM), one of Kiva’s first Non-MFI partners and my place of work for the next four months.  EdM is a French NGO which supports the work of partners across 13 countries, in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. With the tagline “Help micro-entrepreneurs help themselves”, EdM began its work in Burkina Faso in 2008 and now works with 6 partners, including 3 MFIs, providing operational, technical and financial support, implementing adaptive management tools and helping to achieve effective social missions.

During the night after my first day at work, the rain came, providing some relief to vegetation and overheating animal life alike. My new colleagues in the office took delight in telling me I had “brought the rain”. Gladly! Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that it continues…

And as for sleep, the current lacking stems more from a certain member of the household (I will refrain from calling him a “pet” but, given the absence of any hens, I’m beginning to question his presence…)

My 5am wake up call

Diana Biggs is a Kiva Fellow working with Entrepreneurs du Monde in Burkina Faso.

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Update from the Field: Thoughts on Home (New and Old), Fun Experiences and First Days A United Africa Part One: What is standing in the way?


  • 1. dianabiggs  |  9 July 2012 at 08:49

    Ok, now the rooster’s fallen ill and I feel a strange sense of guilt… I swear it wasn’t me!!

  • […] Bonne Arrivée: Welcome to Ouagadougou Diana Biggs | KF18 | Burkina Faso Freshly arrived to our favorite city to pronounce, Diana tells us a little bit about the challenges, and the joys, of living and working in her hot and humid new environment. […]

  • 3. Carole Gardner  |  7 July 2012 at 18:10

    Great post, Diana! I’m looking forward to reading about all your adventures.

  • 4. Holly Johnson Pierce  |  7 July 2012 at 15:48

    Hi, Diana,
    I’m looking forward to hearing about your experience. My daughter was in Ghana on semester abroad, then did some volunteer work there, so my husband and I just had to go see her and the country. At one point our guide ferried us across the river where we got out and stood for a moment or two in the brush–now we could say we’d been to Burkina Faso!
    Enjoy your experience to the fullest!

  • 5. dianabiggs  |  6 July 2012 at 08:27

    Thanks so much, everyone!! More to come soon! And Véronique, earplugs have been a MUST! Despite the time when they later led me to sleep through my alarm…. 🙂

  • 6. Sean Paradis  |  5 July 2012 at 12:49

    Very well written. I want to read more!!

  • 7. Margaret Foley  |  5 July 2012 at 12:20

    Oh I was so hoping you would blog your adventure in Africa….delighted to see this post!. I will read every one.

  • 8. cate81  |  5 July 2012 at 11:10

    heheh! Brava baby! you rock!

  • 9. Patricia Wada  |  4 July 2012 at 10:51

    Hi Diana! Sounds like things started off auspiciously enough, between the flight upgrades and the rain. Wonderful post; please keep them coming!

  • 10. Véronique Fourment  |  3 July 2012 at 13:47

    Diana, love your first post! Let’s hope the rain keeps coming and the rooster keeps quiet. Hopefully, you brought some earplugs! Bonnie chance!

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