Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 10/08/19

Background:

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

No. I have lived in four other cities overseas

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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?

Atlanta: 17-20 hours by way of Paris.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Single family homes. Most people live in one of two neighborhood zones. All embassy housing, and most all houses occupied by expats, have pools. Quality is fair. Roofs and walls leak creating problems with mold and mildew.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can probably find everything you need, but not necessarily everything you want. Probably not favorite brands, or even a familiar brand. Availability is not consistent. It is recommended to buy items when you see them on the shelf and keep a supply of staples on hand. Groceries are expensive. Government employees receive a cost of living allowance (COLA).

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

Some of our favorite snacks and convenience foods as well as quality cleaning supplies.

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

There are a lot of restaurants in Ouaga. Everybody seems to have their favorite. Fried chicken was very popular with people we knew.

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

Houses are infested with ants and lizards. Mosquitos, too, as this is a malaria and dengue zone.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic Pouch and Diplomatic Post Office.

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

Household help is very plentiful. Maids, cooks, nannies, gardeners, drivers and day guards. Fewer than US$200 a month per person.

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

There is a small gym at the embassy free to use for embassy employees. There are numerous gyms in the city but I don’t know much about them.

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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?

The bigger stores generally frequented by expats accept credit cards. We had no problems. Major banks such as Ecobank have ATMs throughout the city.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are a few, but I am not familiar with most of them.

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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?

Some French is useful when dealing with the many local vendors and street merchants.

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

Yes. No sidewalks. Few if any ramps. Few elevators.

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Transportation:

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

No public transportation in Burkina Faso is considered safe or secure.

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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?

Be careful about bringing anything new that you want to keep in good condition. The roads are poor and the traffic is chaotic.

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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?

High speed internet is available but can be quite expensive and there are a lot of outages.

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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?

Recommended to get a local SIM card for your unlocked phone.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

There ae no quarantine requirements. There are vets available.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Some work at the embassy. Some telecommute. Some teach at ISO.

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

Conservative attire.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. There is travel warning on State.gov. Personal travel outside Ouagadougou is prohibited for official embassy personnel due to the violence in the country. Crime is common. During our tenure we knew of more than one person whose house was broken into during the night, while they were home asleep, with guards on duty. I've heard it one break-in happened within our embassy community. Embassy personnel currently receive danger pay.

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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?

Burkina Faso is a malaria and dengue fever zone. Zika has also become a concern. Many people complained of gastrointestinal issues, to inclue nausea, diarrhea, etc. Quality medical care is almost non-existent in the country. Embassy personnel are medevaced quite frequently even for items such as routine dental care.

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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?

Poor. It is the Sahel and there is a lot of dust and smoke.

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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?

Hot and unpleasant most of the year. Not as bad in the winter.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

About the only English language school in Ouagadougou is the International School of Ouagadougou. Most parents and kids seemed happy with the school.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

ISO offers some extra curricula activities.

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Expat Life:

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

The expat community is small. There was a mix of some of the finest people I have ever met, and some of the most reprehensible. Both qualities are highly magnified in a place like Ouagadougou.
Morale was always an issue and seemed to be going downhill.

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

Make your own fun. Attend functions at the school or the embassy.

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

Families with children seemed the happiest.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

It is possible, but there is a large cultural divide that must be overcome.

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

Yes. There is Islamic extremism and inter-tribal conflicts, but these may not affect expats on a day-to-day basis.

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

Seeing elephants in the wild, the Dedegou Mask Festival, and the trip to Banfora – all of which are now off limits to embassy personnel. There is also a travel warning against anyone traveling to these places.

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

See question 7 above.

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

No.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No. The embassy was a very difficult environment in which to work and the harsh conditions in the country provided no respite. With the deteriorating security situation it is probably only going to get worse.

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

Dreams.

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3. But don't forget your:

Pool toys.

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Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 07/27/19

Background:

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

No. This was my sixth 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?

Kansas City, MO. It's approximately 22 hours with two stops.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Single family dwellings. Most expats lived in either the Zone du Bois/Koulouba or Ouaga 2000 areas. Commute times across town about 40-50 minutes.

Most all expat houses had small gardens with small pools. Quality of construction and maintenance is substandard compared to the US or Europe. Leaking roofs and walls during the rainy season. Mold, mildew and unsightly water stains throughout the house.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can probably find everything you need, or some reasonable facsimile thereof, but the place can be quite expensive.

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

Favorite brands of specific items.

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

There are no familiar chain brands of restaurants in Ouagadougou. There are a lot of restaurants with a diversity of fares including hamburgers, fried chicken, pizza, French, Korean, Chinese, as well as local.

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

Ants everywhere in the house. Mosquitos, flies and lizards.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic Pouch and Diplomatic Post Office (DPO).

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

Household help is very plentiful. Maids/cooks, amahs, and day guards/gardeners. US$100.00 - $200.00 per person/per month.

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

There are a lot of gyms around Ouagadougou. I am not familiar with the cost. There is a small gym at the embassy free for use by embassy staff.

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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?

We used credit cards at some of the larger stores occasionally and never had any trouble. There are ATMs available and the ones affiliated with major banks are considered safe. There is an EcoBank ATM in the embassy.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are some small, non-denominational congregations.

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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?

Basic French would be quite useful conducting day-to-day personal business.

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

Yes. The infrastructure that someone with a disability might rely upon, e.g., sidewalks, ramps, etc., is nonexistent.

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Transportation:

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

No. It is not recommended to utilize any form of public transportation in Burkina Faso.

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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?

The infrastructure is quite poor with rough roads full of potholes, and many unpaved. There are also a lot of accidents with few reputable repair facilities. Something older with high ground clearance is best.

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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?

High speed internet is available, expensive and unreliable.

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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 an unlocked phone and get a local SIM card.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

There are no quarantine requirements. There are vets who can assist with import/export paperwork, but I would be wary of the quality of medical care they can provide.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Jobs within the embassy. Teaching. NGOs.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

NGOs.

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

Suits, dresses, and/or business casual at work. Shorts and t-shirts are acceptable otherwise, but generally need to be somewhat conservative.

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Health & Safety:

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

Read the Travel Warning on www.state.gov. The country is rife with violence of all natures: ethnic, Islamic extremist, and crime. Personal travel outside the city of Ouagadougou is not permitted for official personnel. Crime is common within the city. There were several instances of thieves breaking into occupied homes during the night while guards were on duty.

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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 and dengue fever. Use your insect repellant. A lot of complaints of stomach problems. The quality of care available locally is poor. The embassy medevacs for all but the most minor ailments. The medevac point is London.

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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?

Bad just about year around.

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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?

Extremely hot most of the time. Three or four months each year are a little cooler. Sometimes too cool to comfortably use the pool.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are several schools in the city. The International School of Ouagadougou is the only English language school. Most children affiliated with the US Embassy attend ISO. Parents and children appear pleased with the educational opportunities in general.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

It would be best to check with the individual schools. Capabilities will vary by school and the needs of the child.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are preschools available.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

ISO sponsors a wide variety of after school activities.

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Expat Life:

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

The expat community is small and not always very cohesive. The sense of being isolated in your own little walled compound can be quite great at times. Morale was okay, but for a variety of factors deteriorated greatly over the last year.

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

Gatherings at the embassy, school or private residences.

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

Ouagadougou is not really a pleasant environment for anybody. Families with young children appear to adapt the most easily.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Burkinabé are a very warm and friendly people.

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

Islamic terrorism. Ethnic strife between tribal groups.

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

Seeing elephants in the wild was a highlight but travel to the game preserve is no longer allowed for official personnel and not recommended for anybody.

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

Nazinga game preserve, Banfora, and the mask festival at Dédougou were all interesting trips, but now are off limits to embassy personnel. There is a travel advisory against anyone traveling outside Ouagadougou.

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

Not really. Some local crafts available at the Grande Marché or the Village Artisanal.

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

None.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

It is hard to say, but probably not. Overall it was not an enjoyable experience.

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

Almost anything nice. The elements and harsh environment are detrimental to almost everything such as cars and clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor.

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Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 07/03/19

Background:

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

No. Have lived in several cities in Africa, Asia, and Europe.

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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?

Washington, DC. 17 -20 hours through Brussels or Paris.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Single family dwellings. Acceptable, but not excessive in size or overly impressive. Most expats we knew lived in one of two main neighborhoods. Commute times depend on distance from work, but anywhere from 10 - 40 minutes. Most expats houses had pools, though many were too small to swim laps or anything of that nature. Quality of construction and maintenance is poor. A lot of leaks and some flooding during the rainy season. A lot of water stains, mold and mildew. Insect infestations and a lot of lizards in the house.

A generator is a must as power is very unreliable. Generators may, at times, run for days. Universal Power Supplies are a must for modems, routers and TVs. Without them it can take many hours to watch a movie due to power interruptions.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

More and more familiar products found in the stores all the time, though availability is sporadic. It is recommended to maintain an ample supply at home; items are expensive.

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

Cleaning supplies. Convenience foods. Favorite brands.

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

There are numerous restaurants popular with the expat community that offer a variety of cuisines such as Korean, Chinese, French, and local, as well as hamburgers and pizza. There are no American or European-branded restaurants in Ouagadougou.

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

Ants, mosquitos, flies, and lizards everywhere.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic Pouch and Diplomatic Post Office; local postal facilities are not reliable.

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

Maids, cooks, nannies, and gardeners. US$100.00 - $200.00 per month.

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

There are numerous gyms around town. I am not familiar with the pricing or the quality of the equipment. There is a small gym at the embassy.

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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?

Some of the bigger stores accept credit cards. There are ATMs available and the ones affiliated with major banks are considered ok to use.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are a few, small non-denominational churches.

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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?

Some rudimentary French language skills are imperative when bargaining with the many local vendors.

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

Yes. Roads are horrendous: rutted and full of potholes. There are no sidewalks. There are few conveniences such as ramps or elevators for anyone with a disability.

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Transportation:

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

There are security warnings against using any forms of public transportation within Burkina Faso.

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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?

Roads are roug, and many not paved and/or full of potholes. Recommend something old and sturdy with high-ground clearance.

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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?

High speed internet is available but can be expensive, and service is very unreliable. When it works it is possible to use video streaming services, though it is often not functioning, or too slow to stream smoothly.

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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?

Use a local provider.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

There are no quarantine requirements. There are local vets available, but the quality of care is probably not on par with that in the US.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are several jobs within the Embassy. Some spouses also work with local NGOs, but that requires a high level of French language skills. Telecommuting is possible but the inconsistent internet service can make it difficult. Some spouses teach at the International School of Ouagadougou.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are NGOs and church groups, orphanages, etc.

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

Business attire, i.e., suits and dresses, at work. Otherwise dress is usually casual, but conservative.

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Health & Safety:

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

Burkina Faso is designated Level 3, i.e., Reconsider Travel by the State Department due to terrorism, and kidnapping.
Crime is common including home break-ins. There have been several examples of thieves breaking into houses during the night, while people are at home, even with guards on duty on the premises.
Official personnel are not permitted to travel outside of Ouagadougou for personal purposes.

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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 and dengue fever are endemic to Burkina Faso. Many people suffer gastrointestinal problems. The medical care available to the local populous is very poor. There is a well-equipped, well-staffed health unit at the embassy for diplomats and families. Diplomats and family members are medevaced for all but the most minor injuries and illnesses. The medevac point is London.

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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?

Poor. A lot of dust. A lot of smoke from open burning and vehicles.

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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?

Hot about nine months out of the year. Temperatures routinely rise to in excess of 100 degrees. The other 3 or 4 months each year are cooler.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The International School of Ouagadougou is the only school in which the language of instruction is English. ISO is fully accredited by the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA) and deemed as “Adequate” by the Department of State. Though the instruction in some of the core areas such as reading needs to be improved, the school generally appears ok. Kids and parents seem to like it. The buildings are a little run down. Many of the after-school activities are conducted only in French making it difficult for many of the expat kids who may not be fluent.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

It is a small school and does not have the capacity to do a lot, but will make an effort if possible.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are preschools available.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There are some after school activities offered by the school and individuals teach music.

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Expat Life:

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

The expat community is not large and can be a little clannish depending on one’s reason for being in Burkina, who one works for or where one lives. Not a strong sense of community. It can be difficult to forge meaningful relationships increasing the sense of isolation. Morale was only fair and getting worse.

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

Functions at the school, the embassy, or parties in people’s homes.

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

I doubt it is a good city for singles. It is such a small community there are few other singles with which to socialize and not many places to meet them. I wouldn’t consider it a good city for anyone. The lack of anything but the most basic of amenities means there is little to do and day-to-day life is uneventful and monotonous. Even something as routine as taking a walk, going for a run, or riding a bike can be unpleasant due to traffic, livestock and their waste in the streets, open burning, the intense heat and poor air quality. Families with young children seem to do the best.

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

Unknown

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5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Burkinabé are very friendly, but language and cultural differences can be barriers to developing more than superficial friendships.

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

This seems to be a conservative patriarchal society.

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

Probably the most positive aspect of our tour in Ouagadougou was the extra money we made which allowed us to fund trips out of the country to Europe.

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

Nazinga Ranch game preserve is a popular spot to see elephants in the wild. In Banfora there are some attractions such as the waterfalls, the domes, and the sacred Boabab tree. The Dédougou mask festival was worth the drive. Beyond those, very little to do over a long tour. And now most of the country is off limits to embassy personnel and there is a travel advisory against anyone traveling outside Ouagadougou.

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

Not much here beyond the Grande Marché or the Village Artisanal.

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

None.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No, I regret coming here. Though Ouagadougou itself is not unbearable, overall this has been the most negative experience of my career.

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

High expectations.

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3. But don't forget your:

Insect repellant and sunscreen.

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Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 12/13/17

Background:

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

I have lived in Lima, Peru.

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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?

US. Takes about a day with connections through Paris or Brussels.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

US government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is divided in three neigborhoods - Ouaga 2000 which is where the Embassy is located, and Zone du Bois and Koulouba (about 20-25 minute drive to Embassy). In Ouaga 2000, houses tend to be bigger and yards smaller or non-existent. In Zone du Bois and Koulouba, they tend to have good yard space and smaller homes. The latter is also in an area with more restaurants and shops in walking distance. All houses have a pool. The layout of the houses varies greatly, some kitchens are quite small. Overall people seem happy with their housing. There have been some problems with water leaks especially during the rainy season.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Generally more expensive, except for fresh fruits and vegetables. Availability of certain items depends, if you see something you like, buy a lot of it. We've experienced shortages of butter and milk.

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

Liquids because you can't get much through diplomatic pouch. (craft beer, cleaning liquids.)

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

You can find a variety of restaurants here - Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian, Indian, Lebanese, and lots of European/french cuisine. Food delivery is possible from several restaurants.

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

Bugs are everywhere. Mosquitoes, flies, ants, cockroaches. One house had a really bad termite problem. Geckos are your friends, they eat the bugs.

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Daily Life:

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

We use the diplomatic pouch. I haven't tried local postal facilities.

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

Most people hire a housekeeper and/or gardener. Many also have a cook, a nanny, or a driver depending on needs. It's relatively inexpensive (around 80,000-120,000 CFA/month). Most household staff do not speak English, and some are illiterate.

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

There is a small (free!) gym at the Embassy with treadmills, strength machines, bike and elliptical. There are also a few local gyms that offer fitness classes (Synovie in Ouaga 2000 and Waga Studio in Zone du Bois). We also have a yoga instructor who gives classes at the Embassy twice a week. The American Employees Association hosts an annual Triathlon. Swimming, tennis, and horseback riding are popular. There are adult frisbee and softball groups that meet up at the International School. Also Park Bangr-Weogo is a popular spot for biking and running. There is also an informal group that goes long distance biking on the weekends. There is also a decent golf course not far from the Embassy.

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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?

We almost never use them, except to pull out cash at the embassy ATM or maybe OK at a hotel. It's a cash based economy and safer to use cash than a card.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

English-French Catholic Mass at the Apostolic Nunciature. International Bible Fellowship.

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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?

It can be very isolating coming here if you speak no French. It's rare to find household staff and vendors who speak English. The embassy offers two hours of French and/or Moore training a week. Some people have also hired a personal tutor or attend Institut Francais classes.

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

This is a challenging place to live with disabilities. Apart from the embassy, very little handicap accessible access. Most buildings have stairs, not elevators/escalators. Majority dirt roads, no sidewalks.

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Transportation:

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

No to trams, trains, buses. There are taxis but most are old and breaking down.

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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?

A small/mid-sized 4x4 is a good idea, there are many potholes even in the city. Not advisable to bring a large or very wide vehicle. Gas is very pricey here. Carjackings are not common.

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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?

Yes, you can have it installed right away or it may take a few weeks to get upgraded service. Service can still be spotty.

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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?

We use Orange network, which works pretty well in Ouagadougou but connection is spotty outside the city.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

There are veterinary services for dogs and cats (though other animals, like tortoises, it's hard to find a vet to help them.) Most people ship pet food to post, but some can be found locally (though it's expensive). There is one nice, big park in Zone du Bois that's good for walking a dog (keep it on a leash due to crocodiles!), and some people walk their dogs around the dusty streets here. Watch out for stray dogs on the roads.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Several spouses telecommute or take online classes. Local salaries are much lower than U.S. Spouses could explore jobs at the International School, doing freelance (such as exercise classes), in the mining sector or international development. For most local work you need to be fluent in French.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Our embassy community supports several orphanages. You could also explore volunteer opportunities with NGOs and human rights organizations. The embassy is always looking for native English speakers to lead English conversation groups.

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

Business or business casual at work, you may need formal dress for work functions (galas, etc.). In public places, t-shirts/blouses/jeans and skirts are fine, though short skirts, shorts, and revealing clothing is not recommended.

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Health & Safety:

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

There have been two terrorist attacks in Ouagadougou since January 2016, and there are also many public demonstrations. As a family, we remain alert and tend to avoid going out much during busy times. We are not officially restricted in going places around Ouaga. There is a red zone in the north where we are not allowed to go.

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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 and dengue, diarrheal diseases. Basic care at the embassy is very good in our experience (local doctor and American nurse practitioner). You can also get basic radiology testing, blood work, and dental care done here. There are several clinics that can provide urgent care on the weekends. However, more serious health problems would require a medevac or waiting until you return home for leave. Emergency care is not reliable here.

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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?

Good most of the year apart from Harmattan (which can last from November through March). Then it's very dusty and can be very bad especially if you have asthma or other health issues.

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4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

No SAD here - it's very sunny. The bigger mental health issues can be isolation, stress, and depression.

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

"Cool season" means temperatures 60s-90s (November - January). "Harmattan" dust storms between November and March. "Hot season" means REALLY hot, up to 110 often (or higher), between February and May. Rainy season brings relief between May to September.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The International School of Ouagadougou is all in English, is accredited, and follows an American curiculum. There's an emphasis on service projects and a large variety of sports and extracurricular activities. Class sizes are small. The facilities are nice with a pool, large soccer field, basketball court. It has a homey, "summer camp" feel to the campus. There are French-language schools available for those who prefer French education. Lycee St. Exupery is the French-supported school, and a few families also send their kids to Les Laureats.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

If you're child has special needs, be sure to reach out to the school ahead of time to see if they can accommodate your child, it's on a case by case basis.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes - there are several preschools/day cares, almost all are in French. Some are 1/2 day and some are full-day. They are not expensive, we pay about 80,000/month. I've found the care is good, and they keep the kids engaged and have enough adults to watch the children.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes - through the schools mainly. ISO offers a large variety of activities. There is also Waga Studio that offers exercise and art classes, and several places that offer horse riding lessons.

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Expat Life:

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

Lots of informal BBQs and dinners at friends. Softball and frisbee leagues. Trivia nights. Ladies groups including the Club International des Femmes and "Ladies Lunches." The American Employees Association sponsors a lot of community events (Halloween, Easter, 4th of July, Christmas, Welcome BBQs). French language classes and conversation groups. For kids, there are many after school activities. Waga Studio also offers exercise classes and art lessons for kids and adults. The restaurant scene has grown and there are many good and affordable options.

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

I think it's easier to come here as a couple or a family. It takes some time and effort to find your niche to be happy here. It can get lonely for singles. Singles tend to socialize with others outside the embassy community and/or with the Marines. Dating opportunities are limited. Many singles take advantage of local and regional travel opportunities.

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

As in most of Africa, homosexuality is not culturally accepted here. However, the Burkinabe tend not to voice their objections, and harassment is rare. You may experience problems and discrimination in certain settings (reserving a hotel room, holding hands in public.) The government of Burkina Faso does not recognize same-sex marriage, which could affect spouses' diplomatic/legal status.

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

As for gender equality, women are treated as second class citizens. This is not as much of a problem for Western women as it is for the locals. As a woman, I feel safe walking down the street alone, though there are occasionally vendors who are overly aggressive or overly interested. There is no rule here about women having to be "accompanied" by a man.


The relationship between different ethnic groups and between people of different faiths is generally good and tolerance is high.

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

The people! The locals are friendly, curious, and always have words of hello and welcome. I also love the availability of fresh fruits and veggies - especially mango season and strawberry season! There are so many festivals throughout the year (film, dance, music), so there are many opportunities to discover the culture. Also having clothes tailor-made here with local or African fabric is fun and affordable. I also enjoy the travel opportunities in the country. The tourism sector is not well built up here, but if you're adventurous, you can have really amazing and unique experiences here.

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

Bobo Dioulasso (mud mosque, old city, nightlife), Banfora (rock formations, waterfalls), Sindou Peaks, Nazinga park (elephants!), Arli and Park W (though harder to get to (8 hour drive, they're worth it for the wildlife.) Kaya to see the leather markets. Tiebele painted village. There are several day trips you can easily do from Ouaga (Loumbila, Laongo sculptures, sacred crocodiles of Bazoule, Koubri).

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

Certain handicrafts - especially bronze statues, woven baskets, leather jewelry and boxes. Faso Danfani fabric.

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

see above (highlights).

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Don't bring much personal furniture. All houses are furnished with a lot of furniture, and the Embassy has limited space to take away items.



If you have the chance to take French classes before arriving, I strongly recommend it!



The culture is different - not as direct as Americans, and greetings are very important. Don't start a conversation without first greeting someone and asking about their family. Time is also a different concept here, you may not get a lot of notice about events, and meetings often start late. Patience is a virtue.

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

YES! We're really happy being here and our child loves it.

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

Winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure, flexibility, sunscreen, and bug spray.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The Parachute Drops. The Water Princess (for kids).

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Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 05/21/16

Background:

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

Yes.

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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?

West Coast. It's about 24 hours from first takeoff to last touchdown. Routes are through Paris and Brussels as city-pair fares. Brussels requires another connection on the East Coast or elsewhere in Europe (Frankfurt, London) to get to the West Coast. If you're paying your own way, Istanbul is an option with Turkish Airlines.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year, with one year remaining.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Embassy housing is divided in three neighborhoods: Ouaga 2000, where the Embassy is located, and Zone du Bois and Koulouba, which are 20 to 30 minutes north of the Embassy depending on traffic. All housing contains the usual quirks you might expect in this part of the world, but for the most part it is in good shape, and the Embassy goes to great lengths to maintain it well. In addition, every house in the embassy housing pool has a swimming pool.

Houses in Ouaga 2000 are typically newer, very large, but with minimal yard space. Houses in Zone du Bois are typically older but with sizable yards and very good tree cover, which you appreciate when it's 115F. If you want to be near a handful of restaurants that are within walking distance, Zone du Bois is the best bet.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There are a handful of supermarkets in the center city and one in Ouaga 2000.

Availability of certain products is much better than my (low) expectations coming in, but you'll pay for it. We've been surprised to find smoked salmon imported from Norway and knock-off cheddar cheese imported from France. Both are more than you would pay in the U.S., but they're here. If you like French cheeses and meats, the down-market versions are all available here for a reasonable price.

Fresh product is generally of very good quality, but very seasonal. From January to March, you can even get strawberries, broccoli, and cauliflower. Cuts of meat are different from what you'd expect in the U.S., but there are some butchers that have good quality and can cut to order.

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

More dark beer and microbrews.

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

It depends how you define fast food. American fast food? No. Various forms of food cooked in roadside stands? Yes. You'll see grilled chicken, schwarma, and burgers. Cost is low. Most Americans don't seem to try it, but I can verify the chicken is quite good.

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

Malaria is endemic here, including in Ouagadougou, and taking malarone or your favorite malaria prophylactic is essential. The Embassy now provides malarone free of cost. Something like one-third of the local population contracts malaria every year. It's a way of life here.

Otherwise, the insects are not as bad as I expected. It's hardly the biblical clouds of mosquitoes I know well from the mountains in the Northwest in June, but the mosquitoes that you do see carry a deadly disease, so there is that. We encountered a few other large, creepy bugs, plus an ant problem in our kitchen, but overall it's been manageable.

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Daily Life:

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

Embassy uses the diplomatic pouch, which takes about three weeks. We know people outside the diplomatic community who have received packages through local mail at a post office box, but it must be unimaginably expensive.

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

Very inexpensive, often around US$150-$200/month for full-time nanny or housekeeper. Gardeners/day guards are often less, as are drivers. If you can find someone who does both, that can bring a premium. We've been very happy with our staff, who are both hardworking and friendly. Others have had different results.

Be forewarned that only few domestic staff speaks English.

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

The Embassy has a modest gym. There are gyms in a few areas of the city, including those that offer classes according to their signs. No idea how much they cost.

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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?

Allegedly some of the expat-oriented grocery stores take them, but I wouldn't risk it. ATMs at major banks (including one at the embassy) are fine.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Very few. There are some missionary-run churches that do services in English. The Vatican Embassy will occasionally do a service in English. Otherwise, it's all French all the time.

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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?

Though some people at the Embassy get by without French, it must be very difficult. There is very, very little English spoken in this country. Learning the basics in French to manage shopping is essential.

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

Yes. The city is not accessible outside of the Embassy. No sidewalks, dirt roads with potholes, etc.

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Transportation:

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

Embassy personnel are prohibited from taking the ubiquitous green taxis, all of which are old Mercedes at the end of their functional life, often with sagging axles. Burkinabe refer to these as "France, Au Revoir."

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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?

Highly recommend an SUV. If you plan on doing much in terms of safaris, having a clearance greater than that of a RAV4 is recommended. Imported parts can be very expensive or of suspect quality. But for routine care, you can find very inexpensive labor.

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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?

Very expensive and not very fast. There are two payment levels: US$125 for 1MB, $250 for 2MB. We pay the higher rate, and it seems we may actually get a higher speed due to proximity to other diplomatic enclaves. That is not the norm. While we can usually stream video (at reduced quality), many cannot at all.

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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?

Embassy provides cell phones to officers and SIM cards to officers and EFMs. Otherwise, credit can be purchased anywhere, including at most red lights.

A surprisingly large amount of the country, and nearly all of the capital, has 3G.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No. Pet importation is quite easy, and on Brussels Airlines, relatively inexpensive. Most people ship in pet food/litter via pouch. I'm unaware of vet options, but will need to use them for paperwork when we leave.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No. Pay would be very low, and you would need French.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Some, mostly orphanages. The embassy offers a self-help program to sponsor projects in communities.

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

Given the climate, the dress code is a little more suit- and tie-centric than you would expect. Burkinabe businesspeople dress well, so there is certainly a culture of putting on your best.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, and increasingly so. The last 18 months have seen a popular uprising, a (failed) coup d'etat, and a terrorist attack at a popular expat cafe that killed nearly as many people as the Brussels terrorist attacks. Mali and Cote d'Ivoire saw similar AQMI-funded or -inspired attacks in the same timeframe. The region is beginning to shift toward greater instability, which is disappointing given how hard the Burkinabe are struggling to build a functioning democracy.

There are also some concerns with street and property crime. We've experienced two attempted, but failed, break-in attempts. Overall, though, on a day-to-day basis I feel pretty safe. But after the terrorist attacks, there's the lingering sense that something similar could happen again.

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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, malaria, malaria. It's real, and people at the Embassy have contracted it when not regularly taking meds.

Medical care here is pretty spartan, with a few bright spots. Any major issue will involve a medevac to London, which is a 10-hour transit time. We've been pleasantly surprised with basic care. The Embassy med unit has a full-time American nurse and Burkinabe doctor. The French medical clinic (Centre Medical International) has a handful of doctors fluent in English who have been quite helpful. We were sent for an ultrasound (non-pregnancy-related) at one point, and were pleasantly surprised that the equipment seemed modern and technician seemed well-trained.

But don't let that give you false confidence. In a pinch, it'll do. But the overall quality of care here is sub-standard.

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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?

Air quality can be very poor in the dry season (effectively from October to May) due to dust from the harmattan. Everyone told us about dust before we got here, and I admittedly blew them all off. How bad can dust be? Newsflash: Quite bad. The leaves on the green trees in our yard turned an orange color. During the peak hazy season (around December), the dust would hang like fog. I heard it described as nearly as bad as Beijing from a particulate matter standpoint (albeit without the arsenic), which I find hard to believe, but it is still much worse than I anticipated.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

The dust can create respiratory issues for some people. I'm unaware of any other allergy issues.

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

There are two seasons: summer in Miami, and summer in Phoenix. The wet season can bring significant tropical rainstorms and epic thunder, which we've rather enjoyed. The dry season is in fact bone-dry, with peak temperatures during April/May as high as 115F on a daily basis. On a bright note, temperatures that high will naturally heat your pool like you wouldn't believe.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There's an American school (International School of Ouagadougou) and two French international schools. The embassy community has increasingly taken advantage of the French schools, but it's had more to do with families interested in bilingualism and not a commentary on ISO. French school families are still a minority.

ISO is said to be best at the elementary level, when class sizes are bigger, but there are families with middle and high school age students. Les Laureats is a French private school in the Ouaga 2000 neighborhood that many families have used for preschool. Lycee Francais Saint-Exupery is the French government-operated international school in downtown. Children need to be fluent in French or entering the kindergarten level. But if fluent in French, it does have a sizable middle school and high school. It also includes a number of extracurricular activities on weekend.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

They try their best, but it's limited. There are some providers on the local economy (speech, occupational therapy), but they are overwhelmingly francophone.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, but most families rely on nannies, which are very inexpensive. Some families will begin with French-language preschools around age 3. ISO also offers preschool.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, but only through the schools. ISO offers soccer

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Expat Life:

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

Given the location, expat morale is surprisingly high, but that is beginning to change following the January 2016 terrorist attack. There seems to have been an above-average number of people in the development community cutting short contracts or choosing not to extend.

Within the Embassy, I would characterize morale as high. The Embassy goes to great lengths to make our lives as comfortable as possible here. Historically nearly everyone who can extend for a third year has done so. It remains to be seen how that will change in the future.

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

House parties and restaurants.

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

Families and couples seem to do the best here. There are singles, but it seems like a difficult environment to meet people, especially if you don't speak French. The vast majority of the expat community here is francophone.

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

Burkina Faso is one of the few countries in the region where homosexuality is not illegal. On the other hand, a recent presidential candidate partially ran on the platform of making it illegal.

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

There is a surprising level of religious accord here due to the country's history. We've seen no issues of racism prejudice.

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

Seeing more than 60 elephants on a safari that cost what I can only imagine is a fraction of the price for a safari in Kenya or South Africa. Of course, it was plenty rustic to make up for that. Traveling to Banfora (southwest of country) in the rainy season to see how verdant other regions of the country can be compared to Ouaga. Burkina Faso is what you make of it, and much of the expat community here is quite tightknit, which can make for a very good experience in spite of the hardships.

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

Safari at Nazinga, the waterfalls at Banfora, dance festival in Bobo-Dioulasso, the biannual film festival in Ouagadougou, the mask festival in Dedougou, talking a walk in Ouaga's forest park (and steering clear of the crocodiles that live there). Social life in Ouagadougou mostly revolves around house parties and the occasional odd activity (bowling, a trip to Faso Parc, which is an amusement park dreamed up by personal injury attorneys.) We are surprised at how busy we are on a weekly basis, but there are still moments of feeling like there's nothing to do. I miss parks.

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

The full range of African handicrafts. A few things more unique to this region of Africa: bronze sculptures, Tuareg jewelry, and the illusive Tuareg sword.

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

It's been said elsewhere (in nearly every post report), but the Burkinabe people are some of the warmest, hospitable people you will ever meet. Many countries are divided very clearly along ethnic, linguistic or religious lines, and all those lines certainly exist in Burkina Faso. (More than 70 languages spoken, and large numbers of both Muslims and Christians.) But the vast majority identify as Burkinabe first, which creates a degree of national cohesion that's a wonderful thing.

Otherwise, you can definitely save money here, quite possibly lots of it. If you like hot weather, this is the place for you.

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10. Can you save money?

It's hard not to, unless you are routinely flying out on your own dime. Even trips to Accra (a one-hour flight) will put you back US$500/ticket.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

A crystal ball that the security situation was going to destabilize. But in all seriousness, we expected a hardship tour, and that's what we've gotten. There have been plenty of bright spots as well.

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

Yes and no. When we bid, it was known as a hardship tour with a very stable political and security situation. Half of that equation has since changed, although it still doesn't impact life much on a day-to-day basis.

We don't regret coming here, but we are looking forward to a break from the Sahel in a different region.

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

Sweaters and jackets, ski gear, love of a white Christmas.

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4. But don't forget your:

Wide variety of inflatable pool items.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

If you haven't lived in Africa yet, read "The Shadow of the Sun" by Ryszard Kapuscinski.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Ouagadougou is a gem, but not without its downsides, which have increased in the past year. If you're willing to step into the uncertainty of the evolving security situation, it's a good introduction to Africa where the people are friendly and the Embassy works to every extent imaginable to make our lives easier here.

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Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 08/08/15

Background:

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

This is our 4th overseas assignment

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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 base is the Midwest. The trip takes about 24 hours with a connection in Europe (usually through Paris on Air France, but there are also flights through Brussels & Istanbul).

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years

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

U.S. Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Houses in Ouaga2000 near the Embassy (1-10 minute drive) are new and larger with small or no yard space. Houses in Zone du Bois near the International School (15-30+ minutes from Embassy depending on traffic) are older with larger yards. All have swimming pools. Layouts and size vary significantly, but most people are generally happy with their housing assignments.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Almost everything is available here, just not all in one place or at any given time. You might see applesauce one day, then never again for another year. Or all the stores might be out of flour or milk for a few weeks. Or you have to go to every store in town to get the things on your list. Fruits and vegetables are seasonal so many people freeze things like strawberries and mangoes to have all year long.

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

Liquids that can't come through the pouch: laundry soap, good dish detergent, olive oils (available but expensive), good quality beer.

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

No fast food restaurants. There are a number of decent restaurants around town that offer a range of cuisine (Korean, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, French, Lebanese, Turkish, Italian) that aren't too expensive. Quality varies. You won't find anything amazing, but there certainly are some great options out there.

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

Malaria carrying mosquitoes, flies, ants, termites in some homes. Plenty of geckos in and out of our homes to help with the mosquito population!

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Daily Life:

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

Embassy is pouch only. Comes 1-2x/week and takes 2-4 weeks from the U.S.

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

Easily available and inexpensive. We pay less than US$200/month for full time housekeeper/nanny and about US$150/month for a full time gardener who also takes care of the pool. Few household staff speak much English.

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

Embassy gym is good. There are local gyms, but I'm not sure about the quality or cost.

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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?

We only use cash here, which we get through the Embassy cashier. There are ATMs, but we haven't used them.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Christians will find services easily, as there is a large missionary crowd here and several church options. The Vatican Embassy has Catholic services, though in French or Italian.

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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 will make your life so much easier. This is a tough place without it, as very few people speak English.

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

Definitely. No sidewalks or handicap access into any buildings (except maybe the Embassy).

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Transportation:

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

Public transport is the most limited of anywhere we've ever lived and not recommended. You really need a car to get around here.

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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?

High clearance SUVs are needed if you're going to get out of town. Many people do fine in town with sedans. Parts are expensive and can be hard to find for all vehicles. Labor and is cheap and not always reliable. Bring an extra set of tires.

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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?

Yes with varying reliability. Cost from US$100-200/month depending on the speed you choose.

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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 an unlocked phone and buy a local SIM with scratch cards for adding credit.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarantine and people have had varying experiences with vet care.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

A few with NGOs, most require at least some French.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty with orphanages and through the churches.

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

Conservative. People dress nicely here and tend to cover knees and shoulders even when it's hot. Shorts (longer length) and tank tops are seen and ok for expats, but expect to feel underdressed and get a few extra stares.

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Health & Safety:

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

Take normal precautions when walking in crowded places or alone, stay aware of your situation, lock your doors at night. Overall, Ouaga is very safe.

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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 and food/water borne diseases are common. Medical care is really lacking, though the Embassy has a health unit staffed with an American nurse, a local nurse and a local doctor. People medevac to London for anything remotely serious.

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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?

Air quality varies by season. The dust during the dry season really gets to some people.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

The dry air and dusty climate bother some people. There are lots of nuts in foods and sauces here.

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

Hot all year, but there are seasonal changes. It rains heavily in the summer (June-September) and is humid and hot when not raining. Fall brings clear skies and gets hot again. By December it feels almost cool and our pools are too cold for swimming, though temps only drop into the 60's F with highs in the 80's F. The dust really picks up after it hasn't rained for a few months. February-May are clear, dry and very hot.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Most Embassy kids go to ISO (International School of Ouagadougou). People are generally happy with the instruction at the Elementary level, though this does vary somewhat depending on the particular teacher. We have found the academics to be less rigorous than in the U.S., but a focus on cultural experiences, hands-on learning, and daily French lessons balances this out, at least for our family. Middle and high school is not as strong, since class sizes of 12-25 students limits the number of courses that can be offered. The number of expat students also drops significantly by the high school level. The school does not do a great job at communicating with parents, and we have found the school community somewhat less cohesive than at other posts, with a real divide between Anglophone and Francophone families. Besides ISO, some Embassy kids also attend Les Laureats, a French language school near the Embassy, and this coming year several Embassy students have been accepted at Saint Exupery, the French accredited school.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Very few. I would think twice before coming here with a child with any sort of special needs, including mild reading disorders.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, widely available and reasonably priced.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes through the schools. Some kids take horseback riding lessons and private swim lessons can be organized.

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Expat Life:

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

Fairly small English speaking expat community. Most of our friends have been made through the school. Morale at the Embassy is good. Most people are quite happy here and many extend for a 3rd year.

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

Most people entertain at home or go to restaurants. There is a bowling alley that will open if you call ahead and a go kart track that's fun (even though goats wander onto the track sometimes!). If you like the outdoors and can handle the heat (or get up really early!), people run and bike in the forest near Zone du Bois, or on the south edge of town near the Embassy. There is a hiking club organized by the French. The French cultural center has regular programs including musicians, films and art exhibits.

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

Families with younger kids tend to enjoy living here, despite the lack of organized things to do. People get together often and enjoy spending time together swimming or eating out. Older kids might feel bored without a lot to do (no movie theaters, malls, etc). Couples and singles who enjoy an active nightlife would probably find Ouaga boring, and the expat community is limited, particularly for those hoping to date.

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

People coexist here incredibly well, with little or no tension between religious or ethnic groups.

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

In Ouaga: enjoying time spent by the pool with friends & family, running & biking on the outskirts of town, dinners out at some of the outdoor restaurants. Nothing gourmet by international standards, but the atmosphere is relaxed and enjoyable! Out of Ouaga: the sacred crocodiles (45 minutes away), Nazinga to see the elephants on a game drive (2+ hours away), the painted villages of Tiebele (2 hours away), Bobo and Banfora in the west (6-8 hours away).

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

There are lots of fun and interesting things to do if you're willing to brave the heat and seek them out. The tourist industry is really undeveloped so it's on you to ask around and look for what interests you!

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

Bronze statues, woven baskets, masks, fabrics.

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

Ouagadougou is a very safe city with little crime to speak of, and Burkinabe are warm and welcoming. People who enjoy African culture and take the time to seek out festivals and exhibitions will have lots of opportunities to enjoy music, dance, art & theater. If you can stick to foods that are found locally and vegetables/fruits that are in season, your grocery bills are really low!

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9. Can you save money?

Definitely.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Flying out of the country is really expensive. Regional flights cost almost as much as flights to Europe ($500-1000 range to get to neighboring countries!).

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

Absolutely. We've been very happy here.

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

White clothing, nice shoes. They will no longer resemble white after a few wears/washes and your shoes will be ruined from the uneven terrain and mud/dust.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, pool toys, and positive attitude.

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Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 06/09/15

Background:

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

No, we have also lived in rural Niger.

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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?

More or less DC... takes about 24 hours of travel through Paris on Air France.

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3. How long have you lived here?

September 2012 - July 2015.

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

U.S. government and expatriate with an international NGO.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Expat housing is generally huge. In older neighborhoods like Zone du Bois and Petit Paris, you'll have older, slightly smaller houses with yards or nice gardens. In Ouaga 2000 south of town, there are HUGE houses with tiny courtyards, many with pools. The level of finish in houses varies wildly even within neighborhoods.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

I'd say that in an average week, you can find most anything you're looking for in Ouaga, with the exception of certain American stuff (black beans, for example). Once in awhile there will be stock-outs of certain imported products like cheese or yogurt. Some kinds of fruits and vegetables are only available in season, or not available at all (for example, you can't find asparagus here). Imported stuff can be expensive, local stuff is cheap.

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

Good power regulators.

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

American-style fast food isn't available, but there are increasing amounts of fried chicken joints, wings, burgers, etc. We even saw a panini food cart the other day. The American cultural center has passable Mexican food. Other options are maquis, local open air places with beer and soft drinks and a variety of basic food options - kebabs, fries, couscous, sometimes burgers. Fancier restaurant options tend towards what I'd call franco-african... French food with a West African twist. There's are decent Japanese and Vietnamese places and some Italian and Lebanese food.

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

The regular stuff - mosquitoes, roaches, flies, termites, ants...

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Daily Life:

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

We had a fantastic housekeeper for about US$150/month. Guards and gardeners can start at US$80/month, nannies can earn up to US$240/month or so.

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

There are locally available gyms.

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

Don't count on it. Cash is king.

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

French is essential. Moore would be great, but it's a bonus.

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

Yes. Ouaga is definitely not ADA-compliant.

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Transportation:

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

Affordable and safe (except between cities at night, never travel at night), but not super reliable.

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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?

We have a 4-wheel drive pickup truck that has been great. Toyotas are the easiest to service, but there is also a Ford dealership here, randomly enough.

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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?

There is no high speed internet in Burkina Faso. I pay about US$100/month for a 512 mb/s down connection. Takes me about 4 hours to download an hour long TV show.

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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?

Local cell phone service is cheap and easy.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

If you work in international development, yes. Otherwise, not really. French is necessary.

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Health & Safety:

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

There's some pick-pocketing and petty theft. Seems like violent crime is increasing but it's still a really safe city.

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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 very common, but with early treatment local care is available. Tertiary care is not great here; most folks go to Europe for any serious problems, if they can afford it.

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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?

Not bad compared to other West African capitals. The Harmattan blows in in December/January and it gets pretty dusty. There's some burning of trash, etc. Not great for asthmatics.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Peanuts are pretty common in local cuisine.

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

Wet season from June - September. Cool dry season from October - February. Hot (hot!) dry season from March - May. Lows rarely below 70F. Highs reach 110F in the hot 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?

Few Americans, Brits and Canadians. Fairly large French and francophone European community.

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

Eating out, drinking with friends, having folks over. The French cultural center has performances, movies and live music. Monthly hikes organized by the French embassy folks. Lots of activities based out of the international school - softball, etc.

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

It's a very family friendly city. I think it's a bit tough for singles and I hear some complaining about the dating scene. It was fine for us as a couple, but we're homebodies.

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

The Burkinabe are very accepting but discrimination against gays and lesbians remains prevalent.

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

There's some misogyny, but nothing overt (at least not among educated folks in Ouaga). In general, people are pretty accepting of racial, religious and ethnic differences.

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

Working with the Burkinabe has been fantastic. In terms of things to do, the trip down to Banfora for hiking and swimming is totally worthwhile. Making the trip down to Nazinga to the see the elephants is also great.

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

About 30 minutes outside of Ouaga in Loumbila there are a couple of resorts that have nice pools, bars, restaurants, playgrounds and hotels. They also offer jet-skiing, boat rides, etc. There's also a go-kart track outside of town.

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

Faso Dafani, locally woven fabric.

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

Burkina Faso is a great place to live - friendly, safe, easy to navigate. Ouaga is a growing town with an improving restaurant scene and more and more things to do.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't travel much and are earning an expat salary, it's easy to save money here.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

There aren't really any outdoor activities here because of how harsh the weather is, so it can be tough to get exercise if you're a runner, hiker, walker, biker, into water sports, etc.

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

In a heartbeat. In fact, we'd come back again.

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

Impatience, taste for luxuries, any white clothing.

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4. But don't forget your:

Open mind, sunscreen, mosquito net.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

"The Upright Man" a documentary about Thomas Sankara.

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Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 01/16/15

Background:

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

No. We've lived in two other African countries.

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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?

West Coast, USA. It takes us about 30 yours, door to door. It's a bit shorter of a trip on the way here. We fly through Paris.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2.5 years.

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

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Everyone lives in a home, single family or multi-level houses. Some have yards, some have a patch of grass and some have driveways. The newer housing near the Embassy has smaller yards, while the older homes farther away and near the school have more greenery.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

It's a brilliant shopping trip if I came home with everything I had on my list. I now usually shop in the reverse, making a menu based off of what I could find. Some vegetables will never appear, or when they do, it's a fun find! There are times when the vegetables are plentiful and others when you're paying way too much for a few carrots, small green peppers and funky lettuce. But then it's strawberry season and I fill my freezer and all is right in the world again!

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

With Amazon prime, Boxed, Netgrocer, etc. the items I would bring are things you cannot ship or that you use a lot. I have grown tired of local toilet paper, so we ship it! Ridiculous, I know. We order bulk in snacks, diapers, etc. Laundry detergent, cleaning supplies you prefer, oils, dressings, marinades, etc.

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

We have no problems with insects in our house and don't have AS many mosquitos in/near our home. Older homes, in the greener downtown area have more mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

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

We have a pouch. They recently switched which airline we use, so our mail has slowed down to once MAYBE twice a week. That's a struggle to get used to, but with a little planning you can have most things you need shipped to you. AMAZON!

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

When we arrived, we were quoted 50,000-90,000 (US$100-$180) for a full-time housekeeper. As we've done more research among the expat community, it felt that was too low. We've raised her salary and she is an exceptional help to us that is worth it!

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

The Embassy has a well stocked gym.

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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?

At one of the major grocery stores, (scimas) we've set up an account. We pay our bill once a month with our visa. That spares me having to carry a lot of cash consistently or worrying about their visa machine being down for the day. Marina also accepts credit cards. Mostly VISA, with a few MC, ATMS. Mostly a cash economy.

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

My husband speaks French and I only speak a little. Some things just have to wait until he can help. Our housekeeper speaks a good amount of English, too. With all of us combined, I am able to do all that I need to...with a few times of charades in the market when I'm on my own.

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

Yes. Absolutely.

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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?

I read someone say you pay for the hope of internet. Most days that is true. It's low and unreliable. I've heard of some getting satelite dishes? Look into that.

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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?

I have an unlocked iphone that works great with a local sim.

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Health & Safety:

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

There have been some break-ins recently. Situational awareness and just common sense will help you. I drive with my doors locked. Windows are up just because of the smell and bad air. We have alarms on our house that we set at night and when we are away.

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2. 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?

For weeks at a time, I feel like there is no blue sky. Sometimes I measure how bad the air is simply by looking up the horizon to see where you finally get the blue to peek through. That problem doesn't really exist when the rain comes, but I miss the rain when it's gone for this very reason! The wind, sand, dirt, burning garbage can make the air a little much.

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

I read one report that descibed a season as "chilly-night season". That's completely true. It's dry and hot. dry, windy and VERY HOT. Rainy and hot. Then it finishes up the cycle with a dry, warm, chilly-night season. We've lived in Africa for 8 years, so the 80F degree weather has me bringing out my jeans. Next month it will be near 100F again and I'll store them away again. Thanksfully we have a pool! (Which, surprisingly, is too cold during the chilly-night season!)

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is an International school. We've only had personal experience with the lower elementary grades. The kindergarten teacher is phenomenal. We've also liked our 2nd grade teacher. As an educator myself, I have a hard time not judging too harshly. I supplement at home and my kids have a lot of fun at school. It has a great small feel to each grade. Great campus. Many upgrades are currently in the works to make it more safe.

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2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

The international school offers after school activities for the elementary school age kids. (I don't know about the older grades, as my kids are all younger.) You pay anywhere from US$7-10 for a quarter's worth of activities. You get what you pay for, in most circumstances. It's a great option for the kids, especially if they don't know much different!

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Expat Life:

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

Morale depends on who you listen to and hang out with. We're happy here. Most people are happy here. It would be naive to think that it's always easy and enjoyable. It's a hard place to live and sometimes that is just too much to handle.

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

The singles crowd right now seems to have a good time together. New Year's Eve included dancing and bar hopping.

There are not too many outside activities, so we spend a lot of time at home with our kids. Fortunately, we don't mind that. We use our pool most of the year, ride bikes around the neighborhood when it isn't outrageously hot, a lot of board games, wii bowling championships, etc.

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

We enjoy the Burkinabe and the people we've met at post. The country has a slow feel that we've grown accustom to having. With young children, having household help is always very nice...

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

There is a Facebook group that shares many interesting things to do that I never knew existed not too long ago. A bowling alley, unreliable but when it works is fun. I've heard of go carts. A FANTASTIC ice-cream shop just opened up that has changed my life for the better. :) N'ice Cream!

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

Bronze statues, baskets, fabric...

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

It never is cold, unless you've lived here a long time and then you've climatized and think the 80s F are chilly. Plenty of family time. Save money for trips out of Burkina!

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7. Can you save money?

We save money but then burn through it on our R&R or other vacations!

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Having lived in West Africa before, I thought I was ready. I wish I'd know it would still take some time to get mentally settled and then I wouldn't have been so hard on myself for needing a little time to adjust.

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

We came to Burkina because it was a smart move career wise. Our kids are young and don't know what other countries really have to offer, even the U.S.! We've been happy here. I miss green grass, fresh air, reliable grocery shopping, normal traffic, things to do outside of your house on a long weekend... That said, it's completely doable. You can even like it. You'll find things that make it good for you and then you'll be just fine for however long you're assigned here. (Find N'ice Cream! And the schwarma at Laico.) Good luck getting your family to spell or pronounce it right before you leave post!

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Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 07/30/13

Background:

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

We have lived in multiple other African nations.

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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?

Eastern U.S. The trip is overnight to Europe (Paris, Brussels) then you arrive in Ouaga anywhere from the mid-afternoon to late evening depending upon the carrier.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

Worked with the Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

For the embassy community there are two general housing areas. One is close to the Embassy and most houses in this area are a 2-10 minute drive to the Embassy. The second area is downtown and this can take up to 30 minutes by car. Houses are a mix of single and multi-level homes. At this point, all have pools and a walled-in, gated yard. Some are very close to other expats and others are removed from others.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

This is where Ouaga is amazing. There are 3 grocery store chains with 5 total stores, spread throughout the city. There are different products from different suppliers at each. Bingo, Marina and Scimas.

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

There is no fast food. The closest would be the sandwiches or pre-cooked pizzas at Baguette du Faso which is on the main road that connect the new Embassy area to the airport road. You can also get pre-made salads at the alimentation just down the road from there, Bon Samaritan. There are a ton of restaurants and most will cost you about US$40 for 2 consisting of a dinner and one drink each.

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

Mosquitoes and more mosquitoes. Flies start to be an issue in the dry season as they search for water sources.

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Daily Life:

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

The Embassy only has the pouch right now.

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

Good domestics are hard to come by. Many of the existing help get complacent working for Americans. We went outside the pool and found great staff. The going rate for full-time nanny or housekeeper is anywhere from 50,000 to 90,000 CFA per month (US$100-$180). A gardener/day guard is 40,000-60,000 per month. Keep in mind that you have to register with the Burkinabe employment system an pay an additional up to 20% of the domestics salary to the national retirement system every quarter. This is paid at HR at the Embassy if you are connected to the Embassy and they will then pay it to the system.

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

There are multiple gyms. The Embassy has an amazing gym with state-of-the-art equipment. There is also a gym at the American club downtown. There is a dance studio that runs dance and pilates classes.

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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?

Credit cards can only be used at large operations, hotels, airport etc. There are a ton of ATMs and most work well if they match the program your card uses.

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

It is really rare that anyone speaks English outside of the Embassy. I would say French is essential and Moore or Dioula is great if you want to do everything in the market yourself.

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

Some roads are great and others are more difficult due to weather and road conditions. If you are with the Embassy, the housing near the Embassy has better roads.

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Transportation:

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

Local taxis are not recommended due to poor safety. No real trains. Local buses are present but I have not known anyone to take them.

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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?

Most makes can be serviced, Toyota and Ford have dealers here. Servicing U.S. spec vehicles can sometimes be difficult due to lack of parts.

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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?

Internet access is very slow. There are many plans that cost anywhere from US$40-200 a month.

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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?

An in country SIM is the best way to go. I recommend at least 2 providers, as one system may go down. This may be in a dual-SIM phone or one better and one back-up phone.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There is a local vet that is wonderful. He is Burkinabe and French trained. Our dog had an acute issue and he treated her quickly and has all the supplies necessary. The facility is not even near U.S. clean but do not let that throw you. He also makes house calls.

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Health & Safety:

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

General situational awareness like keeping an eye out for things out of the ordinary like you would anywhere else.

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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 largest health issue. Take your meds. Health care is poor on the economy. No real emergency services.

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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 ranges from good to unhealthy. It depends on the time of year as it is, at its worst, during the dry (dusty) season and better during the rainy and early dry season.

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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?

There is a rainy season from about May-October which is variable year to year. The dry season usually starts with cool, beautiful days and nights lasting until January. Then the heat really starts to mount and it will be over 100 degrees F everyday until the rains come again. This latter season is also when the dust comes from the desert (harmattan winds) bringing dust storms that decrease air quality.

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Schools & Children:

1. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

There are currently no accomodations that I know of.

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2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There are karate classes, tennis, soccer etc.

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Expat Life:

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

There are probably 200 or so Americans and countless other expats.

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2. Morale among expats:

Morale is very high.

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

This is a great place for all. There are many things to do and many groups for running, biking, dance, trivia, gaming etc.

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

Although not widely accepted in the local community, I have not heard about any overt anti-gay issues.

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

There is a true mix of Christian and Muslim societies here that live together as peacefully as I have ever seen. They have each other over for feasts on each others' holidays and have a "the more, the merrier" attitude. It is a very homogeneous society that enjoys that stability. I did see some cross-border issue in regards to the Malians and Tuaregs. The Burkinabe are a little more watchful, not racist, of those local foreigners in the country now as they are eager to keep the Malian issues to a minimum.

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

Bronze statues.

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

Basic food items are very cheap. You can save a lot of money by using local products. The people really make this country special. They are some of the nicest people I have met in the world. You can do a lot of touring in the countryside and visit villages with artisans and shea butter factories.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely, in a heartbeat.

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Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 07/08/13

Background:

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

Yes.

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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?

West coast. With connections and layovers, 24 to 36 hours. After flying through Paris the first time, we chose to fly through Brussels. It's an easier airport to navigate and there's a hotel just across the street to get some rest in between flights.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

U.S. Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Larger homes with little green space located minutes from the embassy and smaller, older homes with more green space located about 20-30 minutes from the embassy (traffic dependent) but close to the International School.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

We typically shop at Trader Joe's and Safeway in the states and didn't notice much of an increase in our shopping bills. We did come from the San Francisco area though. Availability of products is intermittent. Boxed or powdered milk are your only options and we went for a period of two months without it. Cheddar cheese was another difficult and expensive thing to come by. Many people from the embassy ordered their cheeses through Hawkeye Dairy. Boxed cereal is disgusting. We always ordered that through Amazon.

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

A Toyota rather than a Honda. "Feel good" snack foods for when you just can't deal with the strangeness of it all. More oil and laundry detergent. Both are super expensive and oil cannot be shipped through pouch. Honestly though, just get Amazon Prime and ship a lot to yourself. Mail days are like Christmas.

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

We never tried street meat, which would be the only fast food available. There are a surprising number of decent restaurants, including Vietnamese, Indian, French, and pizza joints. Prices vary, but lean towards the expensive side.

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

We didn't have too many problems with insects. We told our kids from the start that finding a gecko in the house was good luck and they do help keep the bug population down. I called exterminators to take care of a few wasp nests, termites, and we occasionally found a cockroach in the house. Really though, it wasn't a big problem. We were one of the lucky houses that didn't have a big mosquito issue, though many of the embassy houses did.

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Daily Life:

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

Embassy pouch.

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

Readily available, though you may have to do a bit of training. We had a large family and house and paid about $200 per month for 5 days a week of house cleaning, laundry and ironing, preparation of one meal a day, and errands every so often. Most people paid less for their house keepers. We paid our gardener/pool man $60 per month and he came 3 days per week, half days. We did not have a nanny, but they are inexpensive and readily available also.

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

There are a few, but we used the gym at the embassy. It is small, but well equipped for its size.

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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?

We always used cash.

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

Knowing French is crucial to getting by. Rarely will you find an English speaker.

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

Yes.

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Transportation:

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

No.

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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?

Bring a 4x4 if you every plan to leave the city (which you will want to) and do not bring a Honda. They cannot fix them. Toyota and Ford both have dealerships, but they won't work on American standard vehicles. Parts are expensive. Make sure you bring them. Very few mechanics know how to work on automatic transmissions in-country. Bring extra tires. You may never need them, but if you do you won't deplete your savings replacing them.

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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?

We paid $140 per month and never received the speeds that were advertised. You don't pay for internet here. You pay for the hope of internet. If you don't pay, there is no hope.

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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?

They are cheap and mostly pre-paid. Bring a GSM phone unlocked.

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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?

Depends on the agency and event. Some agencies are business casual while others wear suits to work every day. For the most part, Burkinabe lean to formal dress.

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Health & Safety:

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

Don't go up north, don't take public transportation, purse/bag snatching abounds. Pay for someone to watch your car. It's cheap and it keeps break-ins from happening.

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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 and food-borne illnesses. The Health Unit is pretty good, but for anything major you'll be heading to Europe. Care in town is not hygienic.

Some have found a local dentist, but should be used for nothing more than cleanings.

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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?

Awful, except for right after it rains. Otherwise you're either dealing with dust or smoke. They burn all their garbage everywhere.

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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?

Hot and dusty, hot and rainy, and a short period where it cools down to the 60's at night. The locals really bundle up for it.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The only English-speaking school is the International School of Ouagadougou. We had children in the elementary school, the middle school, and the high school. While the elementary school was good with an excellent student to teacher ratio, we felt the middle and high schools were lacking in academics. Advanced classes and qualified teachers were limited and the school cannot handle much variation in scheduling. That being said, our children loved the social atmosphere. Also, the new school director is working hard at addressing deficiencies.

There are also two French schools, which some families have chosen to send their children to and they seemed happy with them. Children must be fluent in French if they are entering any other grade than Kindergarten.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

ISO will do what they can if they have the resources, but those are limited and I believe only extremely mild cases could be handled.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

We did not have a preschooler, but several families found suitable schools on both sides of town.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes. Through ISO.

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Expat Life:

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

Relatively small English speaking community.

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2. Morale among expats:

Morale is much higher among those with a decent amount of French. Those without French, or who have difficulty traveling outside the country for an occasional break, struggle.

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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?

Mostly family get-togethers, BBQ's, and game nights.

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

I think families with small children and couples have had the best time. There a lot of playgroup opportunities and couples usually travel quite a bit outside of the country, which seems to make a big difference. Singles honestly have nothing to do but play board games and sit by the pool. Teenagers have few options for entertainment and only a limited number of other teenagers to make friends with. Traveling outside of the country can be financially prohibitive for larger families.

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

Yes. Caucasians are seen as wealthy and the locals will attempt to take advantage of you because of that. It is the most religiously tolerant culture I've ever experienced.

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

Trips to Banfora to see special rock formations, waterfalls, and lush greenery, which you will not find in or near Ouaga. We also enjoyed seeing the sacred crocodiles about an hour outside of the city.

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

Um...

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

Local crafts, travel.

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

You can only spend so much money on African crafts/trinkets. The rest of the time, you'll save plenty of money - as long as you don't travel outside the country.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. Though it was difficult for our family, it was a good experience and helped us to appreciate the US.

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

Winter clothes, luxury cars, Western logic, and aversion to body odor.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, pool toys, board games, patience, and positive attitude.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Lonely Planet for West Africa. It's a little out of date, but still worth a read.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

This is a hardship post with a small expat community. A positive, friendly attitude is essential! And specifically for the US Embassy community: If you're in a language designated position make sure your spouse learns French too.

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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, 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. 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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3. Morale among expats:

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

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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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Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 11/18/12

Background:

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

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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?

Washington, D.C. and Detroit, Michigan. For D.C., it takes roughly 17 hours when you include layovers. The flight takes off at night from Ouagadougou and lands at Paris-CDG in the morning, then you get a direct connection to the U.S. (normally Dulles), which takes more than 7 hours..

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3. How long have you lived here?

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

(The coontributor is a diplomat at the U.S. Embassy who has lived in Ouagadougou for six months so far, a fifth expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

There are two general categories of homes: larger, more elaborate (Roman columns in the living room, etc.) homes in Ouaga 2000 near the Embassy, and older homes with more green space, closer to the downtown. We live in downtown, near the ambassador's residence, and love our house. We have a garden with fresh herbs, mango trees, bananas, and a nice, but small, pool.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Western groceries are expensive and it's difficult to find a lot of American things besides sweets, Heinz ketchup, and Jack Daniels. Vegetables, fruit, nuts, and honey are locally available, cheap and generally pretty good, but you need to take precautions.

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

We'd definitely ship more American snacks.

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

Fast food is available, in the form of "mouton au four", chicken and beef kabobs, and other African-type fast food. American-style fast food is not common. Food is generally pretty cheap, but there are some surprisingly expensive and very good restaurants in Ouagadougou.

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

Lots of insect problems...it's impossible to keep ants and spiders out of your house. Lizards and geckos also get into your house and will help control the population. Insect problems do seem to be somewhat seasonal.

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Daily Life:

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

Shipping is complicated - it's best to check with government regulations based on your agency, but local mail and international mail is slow, irregular and governed by many laws. The embassy is trying to pursue a DPO, but currently, packages from the U.S. take 2-3 weeks, and there are many restrictions on liquids, electronics, etc.).

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

Very available, normally excellent, and very cheap. We have a gardener and housekeeper. The gardener comes three days a week, takes care of the pool and washes the car and costs $80 a month. The housekeeper comes 5 days a week and costs $120 a month.

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

The Embassy has a small but well-outfitted one-room gym that even has yoga and pilates classes. The American Rec Center also has some facilities. There's an expensive gym membership at the Laico Hotel, but otherwise, not much. Gyms tend not to be air-conditioned. This is not the place to come if you are a gym rat. However, there are lots of great outdoor physical activities, like running, riding bikes, horseback riding, rock climbing, etc.

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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?

Credit cards are almost totally unheard of in hotels and restaurants, so be prepared to use cash everywhere, even if you're spending four days in a top-quality hotel (by Burkina Faso standards). In Ouagadougou, most ATMs are ok, just look for a 24/7 guard on duty outside and use a legitimate bank. Visa is much more common than Mastercard in terms of ATM access.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are services available, I have heard, with missionary groups, but we honestly have not attended any services here.

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

There are no locally-produced English newspapers. However, you can get South African DSTV satellite (we do). It's actually pretty good, and has different packages (you have to pay in cash for up to a year in advance), but our premium package costs about $120 a month. We get U.S. channels like Comedy Central, National Geographic, Discovery and TLC and also can pick up BBC stations. South African television often runs U.S. shows, but you will suffer if you are a sports fan. You can get lots of soccer and cricket, but for American football, baseball or hockey (the only sports I watch), you have to get AFN. The problem with that: AFN only covers one game at a time. Internet is your best bet for sports.

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

Local language, none. French, a lot. If you don't speak French, you won't be able to do anything on the local economy.

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

There are no accommodations made whatsoever.

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Transportation:

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

They are not safe. I have seen more bus and taxi accidents in six months here than any other country I've lived in except Afghanistan.

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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?

Bring a 4x4, truck or some type of smaller SUV, just for comfort and because many roads are in really bad shape. If you don't plan on leaving Ouagadougou, you'll be fine with a sedan. There's a Toyota dealership, but they will not work on your American Toyota, which I learned the hard way. All car parts are insanely expensive, a tire costs 2x - 4x what an American tire costs, and they try to pass off used tires as new tires.

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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?

"High speed" is relative, but we have the fastest package at 1MB per second. I don't know how much it costs because I have yet to pay it. I've never gotten a bill. I'm sure I will get a hefty bill when they finally figure it out. You can't stream video exactly, but you can download movies and TV shows on iTunes or Apple TV and watch them later. We usually download overnight and watch the movie or TV season the next day.

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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?

Don't bring a CDMA phone. Bring a GSM phone, get it unlocked if it's from the U.S., and you can have it on the network here in no time; just buy a SIM card from a guy on the street. They do have EDGE network, but I haven't seen 3G here, much less 4G. The country has remarkably good cell phone coverage, even in the far north and south.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

I'm not sure, but I haven't heard anything about a need to quarantine pets.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

I doubt it, but I don't know.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are some jobs, but French fluency is an absolute requirement. The US government makes a respectable effort to employ family members, but as with many small embassies, family members will likely be vastly overqualified for anything they're doing as an EFM.

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

Surprisingly formal. Burkinabe dress up, either in suits or colorful traditional clothing, and I've been the most underdressed person at several events. As a result, I've actually bought a few things here and on trips to Europe to dress up a little bit more.

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Health & Safety:

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

There are, especially in the north with the situation in northern Mali, so it's not a good idea to venture up that far. Pickpocketing and scams are very common, but violent crime targeting Westerners is rare.

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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?

Yes, lots of health concerns. Everything from respiratory problems to frequent stomach and intestinal problems due to the food, malaria, infections, etc. Local medical care is really poor, and you should definitely leave for Europe for better care for anything serious. However, if you're an Embassy employee, the Health Unit is very helpful.

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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?

In Ouagadougou, it's very unhealthy. It's very dusty most of the year, and traffic means lots of pollution. Respiratory problems are frequent.

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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?

It rains a lot from May through September, and then the rest of the year is pretty dry. It rains so hard in the summer that a room of our house flooded and had 3-4 inches of standing water. This is not uncommon. March/April are searingly hot.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Based on conversations with kids, they love the international school, and we go often for events. In discussions with parents, there are some complaints, but overall the attitude toward the school is positive.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Not much from what I've seen.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Household help to take care of children is usually excellent and inexpensive.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, surprisingly, quite a few.

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Expat Life:

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

The expat community is pretty large, but mostly Francophone. The English-speaking expat community is pretty small, you'll know the majority of other Americans within 6 months.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally good. In terms of trends, I'd say that the most unhappy people are singles and spouses who stay home by themselves while their spouses work.

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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?

Social life usually involves going out to restaurants, pot-luck dinners, movie nights, barbecues, celebrating American holidays, Marine Guard events, or events at the French cultural center like occasional concerts or embassy-hosted rep events and happy hours.

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

Families: absolutely. You will be surrounded by other families with children. There are lots of events at homes (game nights, parties, trick-or-treat at Halloween, school events, etc). Couples: not as great, but not bad. There aren't a lot of couples without children, but enough to have a social circle. Singles are pretty unhappy. There's not much of a nightlife to speak of, very few other expatriate singles, and the few singles I do know here just work all the time and don't seem to be that happy.

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

Burkina Faso is not tolerant towards gays and lesbians. It isn't talked about, and the culture is pretty conservative and traditional, although it's not really seen as a problem in the community. There is a gay community, although it is very much underground and seems to intend to stay that way. If you are discreet and don't talk about it, you shouldn't have a problem here, but it's not a good city for gays, as you would probably expect.

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

With race and religious, no - none at all. Honestly. Actually, Burkinabe make a lot of jokes about ethnicity and race, but it's never mean-spirited. In fact, this is probably the most religiously tolerant country I've ever lived in, including the U.S., and much, much, more tolerant than Europe (where being very religious is often looked down upon). There are definitely gender biases and discrimination, but it is nothing like the Middle East.

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

Our highlight so far is having friends from the U.S. visit and taking them to Banfora, in the southwest, to see some amazing rock formations, swim in the waterfalls, and see tiny villages where people welcomed us with traditional music and showed us a mask-carving workshop.

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

Nazinga Ranch for elephant-watching, camping in the east, playing sports, waterfalls and rock formation in Banfora, visiting small villages, shopping for handicrafts, attending the biannual film festival, drinking beer and eating brochettes in the maquis.

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

Burkinabe do amazing bronze and leather work, and you can get incredible deals on beautiful wooden masks from Mali and Ghana. Taureg silver jewelry and household items (I bought a beautiful dagger and bottle opener) are incredible as well.

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

Burkina Faso doesn't have much to offer in terms of tourism, but the people are great. You can save money as long as you don't leave the country very often (our biggest cost so far).

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, very possible. We save more here than in D.C., but if you travel outside the country anywhere, that will deplete your savings. It costs nearly as much to fly to Accra as it does to Paris, and if you have plans to go to East Africa on safari, save up in advance.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely. Everyone I know who is leaving either doesn't want to leave, or they're happy to be leaving because of the job, not the country.

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

Cold weather clothes, luxury car, expensive jewelry, golf clubs, high heels, road rage, hopes of seeing African wildlife on safari (few exceptions)

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3. But don't forget your:

Swimsuit, board games, music/DVDs, sunscreen, digital camera, cosmetics, computer, SUV, patience and an open-mind

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The best travel guides are in French, but Brandt has one on Burkina Faso that's fairly recent. Caution on Lonely Planet's West Africa guide: it was published a few years ago and much is out of date. Businesses fail here pretty often.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 08/06/10

Background:

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

Conakry, Freetown, Kabul, Amman, Baghdad.

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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?

Washington DC, about 20 hours of travel total -- which includes a 4-5 hour layover in Paris. Air France is the fastest trip, but Air Brussels via JFK in New York is another good route.

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3. How long have you lived here?

8 months.

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

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

US Embassy housing is all single-family homes. All have pools, and most have some sort of yard. Housing is split between Ouaga-2000 and Zone du Boise. Ouaga-2000 is close to the embassy, and du Bois is close to the International School. If you have school-aged kids, Zone du Bois may be best, but the housing there is older.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Things are much more expensive here, due to it being a land-locked country. Expect to pay much more for food at the western grocery stores.

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

Baking supplies and more cleaning supplies.

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

None.

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

Lots of mosquitoes in the rainy season (July-Sept).

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch only.

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

Very easy to find and wages are fairly low. Housekeeper: $50-150 per month; Gardener/Pool: 50-100; cook 100-200; Nanny 100-200; Driver 50-200 depending.

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

A small gym is located at the embassy, and the American Rec Center has a nice gym and a nice pool.

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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?

Don't even think of using them.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

None

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

AFN

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

French is essential to do anything

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

Many.

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Transportation:

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

You can't use local taxis/buses if you are with the embassy. Most are unsafe and they overcharge westerners.

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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?

4x4. Toyota, Nissan, Mercedes and Ford all have dealers here. Parts are fairly easy to find.

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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?

Yes, but it is expensive. Internet up to 2gb/sec is available, but it runs about $300 per month.

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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?

Easy to get and fairly cheap. The embassy issues all employees a phone.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Some is available.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No.

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2. 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.

Terrorism is on the rise in the northern part of the country, but it has not affected Ouaga yet.

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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?

The embassy has a nurse and a doctor, but neither is US-trained. The Japanese embassy has a doctor, and there is a military doctor here from time to time.

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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?

Not too ba.d

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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?

It's generally very hot and dry here.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

ISO is very good from what I hear.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes. A French school has programs starting at age 2, and nannies are readily availible and relativly inexpensive ($150-200 per month).

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Several through ISO and some through the American Rec Center.

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Expat Life:

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

Medium.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good.

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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?

Nightclubs, bars, dinners at friends' houses, restaurants.

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

It is very good for families. Singles find it a bit rough, but there are lots of things to do. The international community is large.

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

No.

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

In Ouaga: no. Muslims and Christians live together without any issues.

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

Nezinga Park in Po, to see the elephants

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

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

Leather products, Tuareg swords, masks, carvings, art.

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

You can save money and see the Sahel as well as a number of animal parks.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, without a doubt.

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

cold weather clothing.

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3. But don't forget your:

sun screen and bug spray.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 08/03/08

Background:

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

No: Abu Dhabi, Ulaanbaatar, Addis Ababa.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 1/2 years.

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

U.S. Embassy.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

If you go to Ouagadougou you always have to stop in Paris and then to Ouaga.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

All houses have a tall wall around the house. Pretty much all the houses have only one story. Except for more expensive houses. If you're in the embassy and you have kids that go to the International School of Ouagadougou then they try to move you so that you can walk to school (they also have a bus for embassy kids).

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

A couple months ago the prices were going REALLY high and everyone was protesting. It was dangerous, but it's over now.

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

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

There are no fast foods, but in pretty much every restaurant there are french fries!!! (pomme frites) There are pizza places. Some pizza places are Gondwana, Le Verdoyant (very good spaghetti also) and Paradisio.

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Daily Life:

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

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

Most people have a gardener, a cook, a nanny or a house keeper (nannies are called nunus).

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

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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

We had AFN which was a military channel. You can also get DSTV which is South African and is great. I don't know about the costs.

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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?

Just the names of places, numbers and basic questions and greetings.

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

There are lots of dirt roads and it's not that smooth. There are no elevators that I have seen.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Like the U.S.

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

The taxis are safe but maybe a little fast. They were affordable. You can take a bus from Ouaga to like Togo or somewhere like that. Not all of public transportation is safe.

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3. 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?

For going to the country I suggest a four wheel drive. (especially in the rainy season.

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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?

We had Speed Touch Connection and I don't know the costs.

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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?

Cell phones are easy to use and lots of people have them.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

To have skype. It's cheap and the connection is good.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

They have a vet that can give shots and medicine and all that. But they don't have everything so you sometimes have too ship stuff like microchips for dogs. They don't board dogs, but you can get someone to watch your pets.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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

Lots of shorts and t-shirts. It's hot!!

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

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

No. You can hire a guard to guard your house. All the time I have lived there I have only heard of one robbery.

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

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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?

Dry season (around fall and winter and maybe spring) and rainy season (around summer and maybe spring).

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I went to the International School of Ouagadougou (ISO) and I LOVED it!!!! It has amazing teachers,a great principal, an awesome director and amazing students. Every year they have a musical for grades 4-12. You can audtion if you want to. The school is from grades K-12. The grades are combined. K and grade 1 are combined. Grade 2 and 3. Grade 4 and 5. (that was my class) Grades 6, 7 and 8 and grades 9,10,11 and 12. I don't know much about highschool classes. You study French.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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Expat Life:

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

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2. Morale among expats:

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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?

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

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

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

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

You can go see crocodiles (and pet them) elephants, antelope and TONS of lizards and geckos!! They also have a Mask Festival with some other embassy families. It's really amazing!!

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

There are a lot of antiques you can get there like wood or metal carvings, jewelry, hand made shoes and clothes and stuff like that. The best place to get it is at Village de Artisans off Charles De Gaulle.

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9. Can you save money?

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Of course.

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

Winter jackets, but you might want to bring some long sleeve shirts.

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3. But don't forget your:

Rain coat and umbrella.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

I loved it and I bet if you're going there you'll love it too. Have fun!!

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Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 07/25/08

Background:

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

No - Almaty, San Salvador, & Caen.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

U.S. Embassy.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

About 18 hours through Paris. You can also use Air Maroc via Casablanca. This is the cheaper route - but not the most convenient due to middle of the night arrival and departure.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The Embassy has all houses in its housing pool. Some are nicer than others. Few are well laid out, but all offer a pool, small garden, and ample inside space.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

I have found groceries to be quite expensive. Milk is about US$8.50 a gallon! Use your consumable shipment because while you can get most things here (or suitable substitutes) you will pay for it.

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

Toys, swingset for the kids, American foodstuffs, 220volt ice cream maker, art supplies, extra shoes - yours will wear out very quickly, swifter - for the dust on EVERYTHING, diapers, food vacuum sealer with bags - to preserve seasonal fruits and veggies.

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

There are a surprising variety of decent restaurants in Ouaga. There is even a pizza place that will deliver. But no American style fast food except at the American Rec Center.

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Daily Life:

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

You have to go to the Post Office and get a PO Box. It can be unreliable.

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

Domestic staff is plentiful - but often of questionable quality. If you have time to train them, they're great, but if not - it can become problematic. Expect to pay between $100-200/mo for most classes of help (drivers and gardeners are a little cheaper).But expect them to see you as a bank and ask for interest-free loans. Set up an agreement from the start to stop these unwelcome requests for money.

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3. 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 generally do not use my credit card - the grocery store overcharged me once and I never used it there again. But I have used the ATM occasionally without too much trouble.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Catholic and evangelical services are available. Sunday school is not. Some expats have banded together to do ad hoc religious services and Sunday school.

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

There is a South African satellite system - but it can be expensive to start up. Most Embassy families rely on AFN.You can get English-language magazines from street vendors. But daily newspapers are in French.

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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?

You really need to speak a little French to get by. But you can find domestic help from Ghana who can translate for you.

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

Very difficult. There are no sidewalks and no wheelchair accessible buildings.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

You drive where you can. There are five speeds of traffic on the roads here: cars, motos, bicycles, pedestrians, and donkey carts. On the paved roads it's on the right, but every where else - it's every man (or donkey) for himself.

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

Affordable yes - safe questionable.

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3. 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?

Bring a small 4WD with high clearance. If you never leave the city you won't absolutely need it, but we live on a dirt road and getting there in the rainy season can be hazardous.

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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?

DSL is available and has recently reduced in price to around $40/mo. But it isn't as fast as DSL in the U.S.

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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?

Good cellphone plans are available and phones themselves are inexpensive. And you can buy phone cards at EVERY (and I mean every) street corner from the boys who come up to your car.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There is one vet that I am aware of. She is nice and cares about the animals, but she is constrained by a lack of facilities, equipment, and medicine. We have lost a pet here and it was traumatic.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

ISO and NGOs sometimes have job openings. The Embassy has five or six jobs for eligible family members - but they aren't all full-time or

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

Business - shirt & tie for men, long skirts/pants for women. Suits are required for upper level meetings - but not for daily work. No one wears shorts - but capri pants are acceptable casual wear.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate - Dust, dust and more dust. But there's not a lot of heavy industry - so unless you're behind a long line of old motos - it's not too bad.

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

Security is a concern for locals and expats without good security guards. House break-ins and pick-pocketing is fairly common. But violent crime against expats is rare.

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

Medical care is okay. The Embassy has a nurse and local doctor. Many expats have had children here and some minor surgeries like appendicitis, etc. But it's not recommended. Malaria and stomach problems are de rigeur and should be treated immediately.

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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?

Very dry most of the year and hot all year round. Rainy season is June-Sept and it rains once every couple of days.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The International School is fairly good. They offer multi-aged classrooms, which can be an adjustment. They do not offer the IB program, but have reguarly had success with AP courses for high school junior and seniors. The French program needs some work - but one hopes that the new Director who arrives in July will address this issue. There is a French school - but you generally must be a French national or have come directly from another French school to be accepted. I have also heard that the older classes can be a little wild.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

There is not a lot for extensive special needs. However, ISO is a small enough school to be flexible to accomodate minor learning difficulties. The French clinic sometimes has a speech therapist here who will work with kids - but they generally need to speak French. That said, we were able to hire a missionary spouse who was also a teacher to work with our special needs child in and out of the classroom. This arrangement resulted in significant measurable improvement in her academic progress. Starting in 2009 - ISO hopes to add a special needs coordinator to the faculty who will be able to track, assess, and better accomodate children with mild special needs.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Nannies are the norm here. They are competent and develop play networks so that your kids (and the nanny) are never bored. There are a couple small French preschools that some expats use. The International School offers a very good (but VERY pricey) preschool starting at age 3.

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Expat Life:

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

Around 200 - Only about 20 or 30 in the Embassy community (not counting spouses or kids).

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good depending on the situation. New arrivals at the Embassy always affect Post dynamics.

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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?

Revolves mostly around the home. People organize movie nights, wine & cheese socials, spa days, Bunco, etc. It's what you make of it. If you want to do something - others will join you. But don't expect that there will always be something going on unless you're willing to make it happen.

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

This is definitely a family post. It is very quiet - but we've got lots of kids and social functions tend to revolve around them and their activities. That said, a post is what you make of it and there is a thriving Bunco group, book club, and movie night social scene.

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

No.

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

This is a male-dominated culture, but most people get along very well regardless of religion or ethnicity.

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

If you like to do something - start a group and you're guaranteed to find others to do it too. There are a couple bowling alleys, places to play pool, and some night clubs. ISO and the American Rec Center have pools and tennis courts that you can pay to use. Every other year there is a film festival that brings artists from all over the world. Most large villages will have mask festivals once a year, which, while rustic, can be very neat to see. And you can always visit the sacred crocodiles.

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

Leather work, african masks and other art from the region, local fabric

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9. Can you save money?

Yes - if you don't want to travel outside Ouaga. Air fare is prohibitively expensive and any road trip is at least a 6 hour drive.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Most definitely!Our kids have been very happy here. The school and community was exactly the right fit for them. It's not easy to live here all the time, but the people are beautiful and welcoming. We'd definitely come here again.

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

Winter clothes, nice carpets, anything white (it won't be white for long!)

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3. But don't forget your:

dust rags, replacement tires (soooooooo expensive here), tennis rackets, books, and movies

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 06/18/08

Background:

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

This is our 6th overseas assignment, but the first to Africa. We've lived in small towns and large cities (Stuttgart, Darmstadt) in Germany and Waterloo (near Brussels), Belgium.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Over 1 year.

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

My wife works for the U.S. Embassy in Ougagdougou.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

It seems that the most direct routes are through Paris.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

In and near Ouaga, housing is similar to what one finds in Europe and the U.S. Typically, cinder block construction, with walls around the yard. Typical commute to the embassy or downtown is 5-15 minutes, depending on location and traffic. Some housing is within 4-5 blocks of the embassy, other housing is farther out, near the International School of Ouaga (ISO), and more housing is being leased in the area of the new embassy (to open in 2010) in Ouaga2000 section of Ouagadougou (south of the airport).

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

If you can't find what you're used to, you can find a substitute (except for Cheerios). Prices are generally higher than in the U.S. except for some of the meats, but they're not exorbitant.

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

Maybe just some favorite foods that are unobtainable here (Cheerios, pancake syrup).

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

There are several large hotels with upscale restaurants. But, Ouaga has plenty of good restaurants offering European (Austria/German, French, Italian), Indian, oriental (Thai, Chinese), American, Middle Eastern and African cuisine. At current exchange rates (425 CFA/$), entrees are typically $7-$10. Beer and soft drinks about US$2 and wine US$4/glass. Tips are minimal, typically any leftover change.

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Daily Life:

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

They don't have mail delivery, although there is DHL and other express services, it's pick-up at the post office.

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

Available and very inexpensive. Full-time (60 hrs/wk) for around US$100/month.

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

There is one ATM that takes MasterCard (Hotel Slendide) but beaucoup Visa ATMs all over the place. The big hotels and many of the restaurants take Visa. The biggest grocer, Marina, also takes Visa. As for the rest, look for a Visa sticker on the door.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

The Catholic cathedral has an English-language Mass. There are lots of Protestant denominations, mostly missionary, around Ouaga and some have services in English.

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

Unknown. Possibly satellite TV but unsure of 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 really useful. Not too many people speak any English.

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

Very few streets are paved and there are no ADA-like mandates here, so it is likely to be very difficult, or uncomfortable, for someone with a physical disability.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

The normal (right-hand) side.

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

Not sure about the trains. Everything seems to be affordable, but dangerous. Buses seem to be relatively safe, just crowded (and probably hot). The taxis don't look safe at all.

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3. 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?

Something with 4WD and high ground clearance. Most streets are not paved (look up Ouagadougou on Google Maps and you can see the difference) and are quite rough. Outside of Ouaga and the other large cities it's even rougher. Toyota and Mitsubishi are the predominant Japanese dealerships. We brought a new Nissan Pathfinder and have not found a Nissan dealership, although the local mechanics seem to be able to handle about anything and any parts can be ordered. Tires are readily available, just expensive.

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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?

Highest speed is DSL. I regularly get about 10-15 Kbps. It's OK for Skype but it takes 8-9 hrs to download a 350MB HD video. Cost seems to be about US$70/month.

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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?

If you bring one with you, make sure it's a quad band so you can use it in the U.S., Europe and here. Once here, you can buy a SIM card very inexpensively and then just recharge the minutes as needed (I use a Blackberry with no problems anywhere).

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

If you have access to the internet, Skype (or a similar VOIP service) is very good and affordable. We have not tried any callback services (if there are any), but there are several calling card plans that offer relatively inexpensive calling from the U.S. to Burkina Faso.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Good pet care is available, you just have to ask where it is. Unsure about kennels, but trainers are available.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not really. Pay here is very low (for example, a fully-tenured professor at the local university might get US$500/month). Almost nothing is available through the embassy. To do any work on the local economy, even volunteer work, you'll need to speak some French. Be creative in looking for and finding work.

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

Generally business casual (slacks, open necked shirts for men, slacks or skirts for women).

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate, for dust.

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

Ouagadougou seems to be quite safe. The biggest concern is crime. Periodically one hears of home break-ins, and we've experienced pick-pocketing. But, we generally feel very safe.

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

Parasites and malaria. You really have to be careful of the water-borne illnesses. Good quality medical care is available, just not the standard you are used to in the U.S. or Europe.

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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?

Hot and dry all the time except the rainy season (June-September), which brings some relief, but not much.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

We don't have any school-age children, but friends who do seem satisfied with the International School of Ouaga (ISO), especially below high school.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

ISO does accommodate some special-needs kids, but you'd have to contact them for your specific needs.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Preschool/daycare seems to be ad hoc, with families arranging play groups, etc., for their children. Excellent full-time in-home baby sitting is available and prices are very reasonable.

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Expat Life:

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

Very large, but spread out. There are a lot of international NGOs and a lot of missionaries.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good.

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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?

It depends on how friendly and outgoing you are.

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

Ouaga is what you make of it. There is plenty of night life, a lot of good restaurants and even a bowling alley.

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

No. This is still a traditional society and the police periodically close down gay/lesbian establishments.

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

The only one you're likely to notice is gender prejudice. This is definitely a male-dominated culture and society, although you see a lot of women in business and government.

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

Get out and explore the city, country and the culture. There are several guidebooks available (the Bradt book is the best, and most enjoyable read that we've found).

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

Objets d'art (bronze, masks, Dogon doors, musical instruments, fabric, jewelry).

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9. Can you save money?

Not if you're a family living on one salary.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely! This has been a great experience. Part of it is the ambiance here. The people are super friendly, although there is a lot of poverty

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

Gas grill. You can't get an American tank filled and you may not be able to find someone who can adapt your American system to the local (European) tanks. Besides, charcoal is abundant and cheap. Also, you won't need a heavy jacket unless you'll be traveling to/through Europe during the winter.

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3. But don't forget your:

Charcoal grill (see the above), sun screen, shades.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

French is not that difficult to learn, especially if you start with a good, interactive course (like Rosetta Stone and its competitors). If you're coming as a dependent and don't have kids to keep you busy, plan for what you're going to do to keep occupied. Learning French is a good start, but it has its limits. Bring plenty of reading material and plan for getting internet access so you can stay in touch.

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