One way to start off an episode of the Amazing Race with a few guffaws is to send the teams to a place most of them can’t pronounce.
” Oogadoogoo? “
Can you say Ouagadougou? (roughly pronounced aWa gaa doo goo) The blonds, Shana and Jennifer could. So could Azaria and Hendekea. The rest of them were fairly hopeless, but raced off with zest and determination to the airport in Amsterdam, the city of Episode 2, to catch a flight to Burkina Faso, West Africa via Paris. Some, though, were still not sure where they were heading for the third leg of this Amazing Race journey, even after they jumped into their taxis hoping to get on a plane first.
After reading the destination card, someone shouted, “Find out where the hell is it!” “I think it’s in Africa,” said someone else. Of course, Azaria and Hendekea, the self -proclaimed geniuses, knew where it was. “We’re from Ethiopia–so we’re comfortable,” they said, a little smugly, perhaps. Comfortable or not, they didn’t make it on the first plane.
Only Nate and Jen made it on the 7:20 am Air France flight. This strategy is called– if the flight is full, get on the waiting list. The rest of the gang were on the 8:00 a.m. flight –even Christina and Ron, who huffed along, gallantly racing through the airport while complaining that his hernia was acting up. Gotta give it to Christina–she didn’t break her stride. I had the feeling that she’d have dragged her dad by the legs if she had to in order to get him on that plane.
That flight, of course–since this is real life– was delayed due to mechanical failure. Even so, the teams tore through the Paris airport when they landed, and made it on the Ouagadougou flight–the only Air France one of the day. All were happy once more–except for Nate and Jen, who earlier had barely restrained their glee when they first settled into their seats, thinking that they had the edge. Nope.
“There’s the grandpa,” said Jen when Donald sauntered onto the plane.
“Damn,” said Nate.
You could almost hear the growl in her voice when Jen added, “Glad you made it.”
With a quick series of camera shots, Burkina Faso was introduced before the Air France plane landed. The one shot that irritated me was the one of the masked dancers. It’s the cliche shot that’s meant to capture the exotic, I suppose, but has little to do with what daily life is really like in West Africa. After that though, I found that much of the footage was an accurate portrayal of what Burkina Faso would look like to the average Westerner. I particularly loved the shots of women carrying large enamel bowls filled with goods on their heads–very typical and astounding.
The blonds, Shana and Jennifer, for example, found out that their sex appeal wasn’t going to keep them from being taken by the taxi driver who drove them to the train station. They established the price before they got in, he agreed, then switched the amount they had to pay once he got them to where they were going. The problem was they gave him a larger bill and wanted back change. Travel advice? If you’re traveling in a country where people bargain, never expect change back. Give the exact amount if you can.
As with a lot of travel in West Africa, the adage “hurry up and wait” applied here. The teams found out that the train to Bingo, a remote place in the middle of nowhere, wasn’t leaving until the next morning. This gave me the opportunity to want to smack Donald upside the head when he made sleazy comments about the sisters. He pronounced Marianna and Julia “feisty,” “hot” and a “little bitchy, but not bad.” Blech!!!
The train ride to Bingo was one of my most favorite sections of this episode. I took a 36-hour train ride from Dakar, Senegal to Bamako, Mali once, and the scenery outside the train window looked the same–vast, scrubby and dry with villages dotting the landscape. For the most part, the teams handled being in a place that was a far cry from Ireland and the Netherlands well. If any of you thought that Shana and Jennifer might have been overacting to those flies, you can’t imagine what the flies are like. Relentless and EVERYWHERE. It’s startling how many flies can converge, even on a sleeping child. It is possible to get used to the flies, but they drove me NUTS when I first moved to The Gambia. NUTS. Plus, it’s hotter than the blazes in this part of West Africa, and I bet since it rained during this episode, we’re not talking dry heat. So, I’m cutting Shana and Jennifer a break here. I can relate– and I love traveling in Africa.
Once the teams hopped off the train in Bingo, a village that didn’t appear to have one house, they were to decide which team member would milk a camel filling a calabash bowl up to a predrawn line and then drinking the milk, once the Tuareg man in charge of this activity proclaimed the bowl was full enough. This was the Road Block. Some teams breezed through this after they got the hang of it. “Nathan, you’ve got to be gentle, you’re handing a nipple,” advised Jen. Of course, blond Jennifer complained about the flies and bugs in the milk. I still can relate. TK pronounced the milk “grainy sweet and warm” after he downed it.
One by one the teams managed to get this task done, but oh, poor, poor, Lorena. She was on her hands and knees weeping in the dirt, in the rain, her calabash empty. At one point, I wanted to jump in the TV and milk that damned camel for her. Poor thing. Watching her suffer was awful in a way. It reminded me of my own hours of desperation while traveling. Always, though, rescue comes. In this case, Julia was the angel of mercy. As she and Marianna were leading their camel caravan off, she told Lorena to milk a camel that had a baby camel near it. Worked like a charm. Soon Lorena’s mouth looked like a “Got Milk?” magazine advertisement after she downed the good stuff.
While people struggled to milk camels, those who finished had to lead four camels through the Savannah to The Detour. This was where the teams had to decide if they wanted to “Teach it” or “Learn it.” Teaching it meant teaching school kids 10 English words, while learning it meant learning 10 Möre words with school kids as teachers. Möre is the language spoken in this part of Burkina Faso. This segment was my other favorite. Part of my Peace Corps job was working in a village school similar to this one. Plus, there’s something fascinating about how people learn. Of course, smarty pants Azaria and Hendekea split their word list in half so each of them only learned five. Maybe they are smarter than the rest of us common folk.
Their brilliance found them finishing in first place. This time this brother and sister duo won a trip to Bermuda. And what does Julia’s goodness get the two sisters? Going home. She and Marianna came in last place. They made it to the detour fine, but got a bit stuck on the language lesson. Lorena and Jason breezed through a little easier, particularly since Jason told Lorena he still loved her despite her serious melt down with the milking task.
See, if Julia had only left Lorena shrieking in the dirt with her spilled milk, these two women that Donald lusted after would still be in the game. But, perhaps Lorena would have ended up in a mental institute and Julia would have felt guilty that she didn’t help when she could have.
**Amazing Race photos from The Amazing Race Official Website