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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

Burkina Faso: Friendly in French

I've written before about the difficulties of communicating in a foreign language – French, in the case of Mali and Senegal – but on the way to Ouagadougou, the capital of the Francophone Burkina Faso, I realised exactly how confusing things can get when you combine a language in which you're not fluent, a culture in which you're not versed, and a fundamental aspect of life at which you, basically, suck.

Date Paranoia

The thing is, I'm hopeless at spotting when romance is in the air, and I'm incredibly shy when it comes to the mating game, and this means I rarely spot when someone is fluttering their eyelashes at me in that special way... until too late. I have no idea if Tani was just being friendly, was interested in simply chatting to a visitor to her country, or had more subtle plans of her own, but something didn't feel right. As soon as I dumped my bag, washed off the journey and lay down to sleep, I started worrying about the next day. The thought of spending an afternoon with a pretty local girl, speaking French and suffering through a combination of language difficulties and cultural differences, scared the hell out of me, and I didn't know what to do. Perhaps she wouldn't turn up? Perhaps it would be fine? Perhaps we'd just grab a cup of coffee, make polite conversation and leave it at that? Maybe she'd bring a friend to soften the blow? Who knows, but the shy part of me didn't relish finding out. I've always loathed the dating game; to have to go through it in French was too much to bear, even if it turned out to be just my paranoia.