Another world

The best thing about Air France is its lounge in Paris where, in a spacious section of Terminal E, an army of waitresses and cleaners try to make your stay as comfortable as possible. This includes changing the menu of the food buffet according to the time of day. After pain au chocolat and croissants, artisanal brown bread with raw ham, yogurt fruit and more, lunch consists of soup, salad, cheese platters, roasted veal, couscous salad and fancy pastries. All this, if you want, arrosé de bon vin français, or champagne. I did not take advantage of the Clarins treatment room where you can relax while consuming Clarins products. Even without that my six hour wait was quite pleasant and passed quickly.

But that’s about all AF has going for it. In the plane the seats were so close together that when the seat in front of me went back it hit my chin. Like in a line of dominos, you cannot have one person sit up straight; if the person in the front reclines, everyone behind has to recline. The flight was only pleasantly interrupted by another great meal. Still, I take Delta anytime over AF. I hope they ask me to comment on the flight in an après-flight email, so I can say this officially.

We arrived at Burkina Faso’s international airport at 8 PM with a temperature of 35 Celsius. In about 24 hours I had gone from 35 Fahrenheit to 35 Celsius. It’s a big change.

The airport is visible from all sides by a giant neon sign that someone had fun with programming. It never says more than one word at a time so you may see ‘International’ or ‘airport’ or ‘Ouagadougou.’ Sometimes the words fly in from one or another side, sometimes they overlap making it unreadable altogether, and the typeface changes from New York Times Gothic to Courier to Arial. It was an interesting neon ballet to watch while I waited for my shuttle driver to take me to my hotel in the oppressive night heat.

This is my 5th trip to Burkina in over 2 decades. Last time I was here in 2001. At that time there were no smart phones here and internet access was hardly expected. In fact, I am not sure I traveled with a computer at that time, being somewhat of a Luddite as I saw my computer carrying colleagues struggle with unsolvable problems.

Now, smart phones are everywhere – business men clutch two at all times – and cell companies are now internet companies and advertise everywhere competing for market share. But other than that, Ouagadougou doesn’t seem to have changed a whole lot – no high rises that had transformed the cityscape. The airport remains sleepy and small with a row of small shops (a butcher shop for all your chicken and meat needs when travelling), a tiny parking and a rather informal feel to it. Although the security merchants have sold Burkina all the gadgets one could want.

The round eyeball cameras to take your picture and the green neon-lighted finger print machines are here too. The immigration people are still stamping your passport by hand but everything else is computerized.

April 2014
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