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Ω2

You’ve got mail, in Burkina Faso!

   I met Philippe at the Immigrants Joint in Thessaloniki, Greece just before setting off for our trip to Africa. He was born in Ivory Coast in 1978 but his roots lie in Burkina Faso. For the past decades Ivory Coast had been the financial giant in West Africa and as a consequence many economic immigrants were drawn there. Later, his family returned to Burkina Faso but his parents are no longer alive.

   At his twenties, Philippe started a small furniture manufacturing business with a friend of his. One of the Canadian companies that exploit the gold deposits in Burkina Faso was one of Philippe’s best customers. But still, how many furniture would they buy? Philippe had to change trade and started a small business selling carpets along with his sister. However, his sister got married and she stopped working, so they had to close down this shop as well.

   Since a long time ago, Philippe was thinking to immigrate to Europe. As these countries of West Africa were French colonies just a few decades ago, most of the people living here speak French. That makes France the obvious choice when they decide to immigrate. The French embassy, however, refused to grant a visa to Philippe.

   Philippe started thinking about immigrating to Greece. When I asked him why did he choose Greece, I was really astonished by his reply… He is a Catholic Christian and he was always reading in the Bible about the Greeks. So, the poor guy thought that there would be some nice people living there. When he took the plane and arrived to Athens, he was disappointed… He worked there for two years and during this time he met many employers that did not treat him well, so he immediately walked out on them.

   Now he lives in Thessaloniki, Greece and he works in a shop selling car spare parts. He is happy there. He attends the liturgy regularly and he even has a friend who is a priest. He is renting a two-bedroom apartment where he lives together with a countryman of his. He goes often to the Immigrants Joint, either to attend English and guitar classes or to watch the movie on Sunday evening. While speaking in Greek, telling me all about his country, he gave me the contact of his brother, in order to meet him in Ouagadougou.

We finally met Cyrille, Philippe's brother, in Ouagadougou!

We finally met Cyrille, Philippe’s brother, in Ouagadougou!

   So, here we are in Ouagadougou, one year later, eating brochettes with Cyrille, Philippe’s brother. When we called him and told him that we were in town, he immediately came on his motorcycle to meet us. Cyrille is ten years younger than Philippe. He is a nice, low-key and well educated guy. He holds a Master in the faculty of water treatment and apart from his mother tongue he speaks French, as well as English. He is working on his specialty eight hours per day, five days per week and he has a salary of 200 euros per month. That is considered to be a good salary by Burkina Faso’s standards, so Cyrille is quite pleased.

   Contrary to his brother, Cyrille does not plan to immigrate. His supervisors sent him for training to France for two weeks but he did not really enjoyed life there. He thought of it as quite hard to live, since everything is expensive and people do not socialize easily. He prefers life in Burkina Faso, where people are very sociable and they have solidarity.

   By meeting both Philippe and Cyrille, we were quite satisfied about accomplishing our mission. No need to hide that we were eager to arrive in Burkina Faso for this reason alone! We were delighted to finally meet two amazing guys who had many things to teach us about life in their homeland as well as life in our homeland too…

 

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