Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Places I’ve Run: Banfora, Burkina Fasso

About 3 weeks after moving to Niger, the 11 students in my program piled into two stuffy vans driven by Abadou, our gregarious (and mildly inappropriate) chauffeur, an his more mild-mannered compatriot to go on a trip to Burkina Fasso.

This small country to the west of Niger proved to be remarkably different from Niamey – as we drove southwest the scenery transitioned from dry dirty dessert to lush and green jungle.

Burkina, unlike Niger, is a majority Christian country. What does that have to do with running? It meant that I could wear shorts outside! And when it’s Sub-Saharan Africa HOT, the ability to expose some skin is a more than welcome opportunity. (Read this post to learn how I dealt with Niger’s clothing conundrum.)

We stayed in a town called Banfora for a few days at a very nice (but mosquito-full) hotel. The first morning I tied on my shoes, put on my running clothes (Shorts! A tank top! Yay!), and walked out into the street to try to shake the multiple 10-hour driving days out of my legs.

I took note of our hotel’s name (breadcrumbs my friends – it’s always good to know your way home!) and headed down the wide dirt street away from the main road and towards the countryside. Green taxis (all the taxis in Burkina are a sickly chartreuse) and motos and bicycletttes passed me as I ran, adults giving me sideways glances and children calling out to me along the way.

I ran past a soccer field and some sort of government building (maybe a school?) and then crossed a bridge to make my way out of town. The taxis were gone, replaced by people walking their cows towards Banfora, or pulling carts full of goods to sell.

I felt out of place, kind of like a commercial where a high-performance product is contrasted with low-tech surroundings. Me in my running clothes and fancy shoes, running into the bush in Burkina. But the wonderful thing about running is that it’s always the same! Whether I’m in Burkina or Boston or DC or California, a run is a run and I love that!