Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso Report of what it's like to live there - 04/19/13

Personal Experiences from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 04/19/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is my 10th expat experience.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Home is Brownsville, TX. It takes about 14 hours from Dulles, VA to Ouagadougou with a connection at Paris.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Development worker in country for a 2-year contract.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

If you like apartments, don't come. Other than that, reasonably-priced homes are available so long as you have a local person doing your bidding for you.

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2. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I would ship a bike and perhaps an open one-way ticket out of this place.

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3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

No fast food, but a small set of decent eateries.

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4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Malaria from mosquitoes is a real risk here, but most insects in the home are ants and the occasional large cockroach that might crawl in from under the door from time to time.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

What mail?

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Widely available at about 60 to 75 USD a month.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Nothing unless you favor hot, stinky, tattered equipment from the 1980s.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I have used them at the hotels and banks without issue.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There is a service called DSTV that has US and English programming. It is worth the cost.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

French is very important to maintain your sanity.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

This is not the place to try to find anything ADA compliant.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Trains are slow and dirty. Buses are crowded and sometimes are targeted by highway carjacking crews.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Buy a local 4x4 or ship one. Toyotas are popular here and you can get them fixed without issue.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Pricey, but available.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring a GSM phone and choose one of the two local service providers.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Pretty stable as so far as crime, but confidence schemes and scams abound. The locals view westerners as naive and easy prey, but just be cautious and discerning and you'll be alright.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Malaria is the biggie.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

The air quality is dusty and unhealthy for those with respiratory problems.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The country is HOT during the day, and it has a dust storm season, a rainy season, and a chilly-at-night season.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small and insular. We don't see them much other than on the commuting roads and supermarkets.

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2. Morale among expats:

Depends; French and Euros seem to love their exalted status here. English-speaking types, not so much.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Home entertainment primarily.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Parents seem content, but children seem bored here. Couples make do, but singles are nothing short of miserable.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I would surmise that it is not.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Westerners receive a bit of deference, if not extra disturbance from the locals. We are viewed as rich even though we might be anything but.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The sunny weather is the highlight, but not much else.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There is a small assortment of restaurants, but other than that, not much.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Brass local artwork or Tuareg swords and trinkets.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The local people are wonderfully pleasant and friendly. They are not as aggressive as some from other countries in the region.

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11. Can you save money?

Some, but it is expensive to shop at the exported foods stores.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely not. We are not happy here. Don't listen to the folks that want to make you feel good by claiming Ouagadougou is "great." They're lying--- but trying to be positive.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Nice shoes, nice car, and high standards.

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3. But don't forget your:

Tolerance level.

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