Burkina Faso: 2002

Click to View XT2DX videoQTH: Splendide Hotel, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, West Africa.

Zone 35; Latitude 12º North, Longitude 1º 30′ West. QRA Loc. IK92fi

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The XT2DX – Burkina Faso team in 2002 was:

G0MTN Lee Volante
G3PJT Bob Whelan
G3SXW Roger Western
G4BWP Fred Handscombe
G4PIQ Andy Cook
GM3YTS Robert Ferguson
K4UEE Bob Allphin
K5VT Vince Thompson
KC7V Mike Fulcher
KY7M Lee Finkel

Antennas: Numerous!

Rigs: Seven one-kilowatt stations.

Claimed score:  15,234 QSOs; 181 zones; 699 countries = 39.9m points.

Note from team: This was the VooDoo Contest Group’s 10th entry to CQ WW CW contest from West Africa and our 2nd year from Burkina Faso. We hope to meet you on the air again next year, maybe from a new location. Special thanks to our good friends Hugo and Moussa at Signec Telecom and to all the wonderful people of Ouagadougou who welcomed us so warmly.

Photo gallery at bottom of page.

The following was published in the Chiltern DX Club members’ Digest.

Turkeys in Africa

By Roger Western, G3SXW

DXpeditioners beware. Not everything can be pre-planned. Rigs, antennas, visas, yellow-fever certificates . . . . but turkeys?

Christmas lunch? Well, turkey of course. I hope that you enjoyed your’s, with all the trimmings – roast potatoes, stuffing, sprouts, gravy. Yum-yum. Very special. A wonderful yearly feast. But what about our American brothers? They have turkey for Thanksgiving at the end of November. What do they do at Christmas, I ask myself. Eat turkey again? Only four weeks later. Rather takes the gloss off of it, no?

Christmas. Thanksgiving. It’s all about family togetherness. Warmth and kindness. The giving of presents. Jingle bells and snow. Well, no – actually it’s not. It’s all about turkey. We all know this basic fact of life but it was fully brought home to us in November when visiting West Africa. Not much snow there. Of course, our Titanex antenna was transported as check-in luggage in a ski-bag but no-one thought to ask why we were taking skis to the equator. “Carry on, sir (takes all sorts)” – seems to have been the general reaction.

So we ended up in Ouagadougou. Life-long DXers don’t need telling that this is the capital of Burkina Faso, otherwise known as X-ray Tango Two land. We were on our way to Niamey, the capital of Niger, known to the initiated as Five-Uniform. ‘We’ consisted of a group of five Brits and three Americans, and it was five days before Thanksgiving. Preparations needed to be made for this momentous event. Actually, it occurs every year just 48 hours before the CQ World-Wide CW contest so our team is well-used to a special toast and a tip of the glass on that evening. Not actually every year – each seventh year a quirk of the calendar makes this celebratory Thursday evening (always a Thursday) one whole week before the contest.

But back to the main point – turkeys. Our host in Niamey (our American cousin Jim Bullington, 5U7JB) had asked whether there was any way in which we could manage to bring a turkey with us, because you just cannot find turkeys in Niger. This would be a special treat for their Thanksgiving celebrations. We readily identified with this plea for succour, understanding as we did the deprivations of living in just about the poorest country in the world. Our three American team-members were especially keen to help out.

Scouring the Countryside

One of our team offered to ship a turkey from USA by FedEx. Unfortunately we didn’t have a physical address to which to ship said turkey (no-one has physical addresses in Niger, only Post Box numbers) and besides the shipper could not guarantee frozen-transportation all the way from USA. So this suggestion, generous though it was, was still-born.

We couldn’t possibly take one as check-in luggage so we were reduced to one last option – finding a turkey in Ouagadougou. We recalled that the previous year another brave soul (Jim Knowlton, 5U7JK, also an American) had talked of driving from Niamey to Ouagadougou just to buy a turkey (a whole day’s driving each way) so we felt there was a good possibility of finding one there. We were due to drive from Ouagadougou to Niamey ourselves. If we found a turkey we could buy an ice-chest and a sack of ice and keep the bird frozen all the way to deliver it to our kind host.

We had been in Ouagadougou several times before and were very familiar with the one and the only European-style supermarket in town. So we felt confident that we knew what to do. This was added to our ‘to do’ list some weeks before travelling to deepest, darkest Africa.

Super-marché

So we turned up en masse (see, I speakie Frenchie), about five of us to find a turkey at the local super-market. This is a large establishment, run most efficiently by French people, offering every delight to please the ex-patriate community. We prowled the aisles, hunting for turkey but none was to be found. We eventually found the boucherie (c’mon, keep up, that means butcher) and spotted fresh chickens and something that looked like a duck. But no large birds like turkeys or geese or pheasants.

Crestfallen, the group assembled to report progress to date (nil) and to formulate a plan. Should we just admit defeat and slink back to our hotel, tails between our legs? Hell, no. We weren’t that easily-beaten. We’d ask the super-market boss to produce a turkey for us. Pah!

Now, the rest of the team assume that I speak fluent French. My secret is actually that my French is only about 10% better than anyone else’s schoolboy French. (But that’s about 99.7% better than any French spoken by our American pals – their French is about 10% less fluent than their classical Greek). Anyway, it was down to me to interrogate the French chap in order to determine whether said establishment had for sale a said turkey.

Trouble was that I had left my English/French dictionary back at the hotel and could not for the life of me remember the French word for ‘turkey’. None of the others could remember either (I didn’t even bother asking the Americans in the group). Of course, the word ‘turkey’ is easily translated into French as ‘Turquie’ but that wouldn’t have helped much anyway as we did not wish to buy a country a bit East of Greece.

At this point G3SXW was reduced, as so often before and since, to describing his needs with means other than words. A description was not easy: “a large bird, like a chicken but much bigger” (en français) was met with a vacant and somewhat bemused if not pathetic stare, the likes of which only the French can muster.

Male or Female

At this point G3SXW and his new ‘friend’, the French manager of a large super-market, are standing beside the fresh-meat display. He points at a duck with a weary, quizzical expression and I say “No, just like that, but much bigger, for the Americans, big feast tomorrow” (in French). You get my drift. Even a Frenchman who had lived in West Africa for several decades would remember what Thanksgiving was all about, surely? Nope. He had no clue.

Now you all remember the ‘Chicken Song’? Yup. You stand like an idiot, with your hands clasped together at chest-height and flap your elbows in and out. To mime a turkey you have to do that and at the same time grasp your Adam’s apple with your left thumb and forefinger and go ‘oggle-oggle-oggle-oggle’. At this point the manager, either in desperation or in boredom, I was not sure which, asked: “Vous voulez acheter un dindon?”.

Being unaware of the French translation for ‘turkey’ this really did not help me much. I understood ‘You wish to buy a blank-blank?’. Help! At this point I had no option but to conclude that he had got my message, knew what I needed, that a ‘dindon’ was indeed a ‘turkey’. So I said ‘Oui’ in my very best French accent. He then said ‘Non’ and stamped away up the aisle in his arrogant, French way. I still did not know for sure whether we had communicated but decided to give up anyway.

We elected as a group to give this up as a lost cause and approached the tills with our purchases – vast quantities of mineral water for the troops, vast quantities of Diet-Coke for K5VT and a selection of crisps, biscuits and Pringles (pronounced in French ‘Prang-less’), whereupon we departed with our load in a creaking, squeaking taxi back to our hotel, managing to reach our destination just a few nano-seconds before the said mode of transportation disintegrated in a heap on the road-side.

The male/female bit (this sub-heading) is that turkeys in French have two words according to their sex. Blimey. A male turkey is a ‘dindon’ (pronounced ‘dandon’)

and a female is a ‘dinde’ (pronounced ‘dand’). When I got back to my hotel-room I was consumed with frustration and needed to check my dictionary. Of course, on reading the female ‘dinde’ I vaguely remembered it. But he had chosen to use the male version. Sod’s law.

Chinese Instead

To cut a long story short (though not very) we failed utterly and miserably to find a turkey in Ouagadougou and went empty-handed to Niamey. We explained to our host, Jim, that we had tried very hard but failed. He was most gracious and set our minds at rest – he knew that this was a long-shot and was not surprised at our failure.

On the evening that he invited all eight of us to his home, a really generous act, we thoroughly enjoyed Oriental cooking from his Vietnamese XYL. The following evening (Thanksgiving) we all went for a very special meal in a Chinese restaurant, across the road from our hotel. We did not see dinde or dindon on the menu and did not dare ask for it but were very impressed indeed with their hot and sour soup which massively blew many heads off. This was accompanied by a large number of toasts to our ex-colonials. Of course ‘Thanksgiving’ is when the Brits give thanks to God that the Americans finally decided to accept independence from Britain. Isn’t it?

Moral of the story – always take your pocket-dictionary with you when shopping for turkeys in Africa. Alternative: turkeys should always take their dictionary with them when visiting the local clinic. But that is another story!

DXpeditioning is not all about operating radios!