Hommes Comme Partenaires! (Men as Partners)

23 05 2011

Salut! Je viens de terminer avec l’atelier “Hommes Comme Partenaires”.  The conference was awesome! It took place in a northern city of Burkina Faso called Ouahigouya.  If you have a good memory, you will recall that it was the village where our first trainings where held when I arrived in Burkina Faso exactly 11 months ago today.  To say that it was interesting being back in Ouahigouya would be an understatement.  I couldn’t believe just how different everything seemed to me while all still being so familiar.  It’s as though I was looking at a memory of my past but through someone else’s eyes…someone better adapted to African life, more comfortable in their skin.   I really appreciated the experience of being able to see that village again now.  One night we went and had dinner at one of the very first places I ate, Madame Coulibaly’s.  I vividly remember that first avocado sandwich I ordered that day.  I remember being so nervous about ordering myself a sandwich and how proud I was afterwards when I realized she understood my demand and was indeed going to give me a sandwich.  Compare that timid scared Keith to the Keith who is now giving presentations, holding business meetings, and living everyday in French and Dioula, and even more foreign language.  It was incredible to see just how much I have changed in only 11 months.  Oh and for any other volunteers from my stage who might be reading this blog…yes Ouahigouya was still as hot as hell!!! I’m so grateful I live in the Bobo region where it’s less hot.

As for the conference, all I can say is AMAZING! I was truly happy with how the overall conference turned out.  Of course there were a few small bumps in the road, but I think as a group, we handled them pretty well.  I ended up being a lot more involved in the conference then I had previously expected.  I lead two sessions and helped in several more.  I think I added some good perspective and some useful examples/stories to help stimulate the conversation.  The Burkinabe counterparts that attended were also amazing.  They were open, engaged, and really excited about getting back in to their communities and bringing back some of what they learned.  It was great to see those “uh-huh!” moments on some of their faces as they came to some new realizations over the course of the three day workshop.  I think one of the greatest moments was on the last day when we sent the volunteer/burkinabe pairs out into the community of Ouahigouya to give small sensibilisations on topics that we had covered the previous two days.

This conference couldn’t have come at a better time, since you all know I was hitting a low point in relation to my motivation and feeling of accomplishment.  This workshop showed just how much I can do, even on a small scale, to change even one person; to be able to be an advocate for change in Banzon, one villager at a time.  I think after the success I saw during the Men as Partners workshop, I really want to try and use the new Technical Center that I’m building to hold sensibilisations on similar topics that we discussed.  I think Banzon would really benefit from some of the same lesson plans that we used.

So now I’m sitting in Bobo at the Peace Corps office getting ready to head back to Banzon tomorrow! Super excited to get back and just dig in with work and closing up some loose ends.  Tonight for dinner I made a really delicious spinach pasta with garlic gouda, chorizo, and provençale sauce. It was rather indulgent, and kind of expensive, but since I’m heading back to village I decided to splurge 😛

I’m hoping to make some moves with UDTER, my ADF associated women’s group, since I had a meeting with the Ouaga counterpart and we worked through some of the roadblocks.  Fingers crossed for that! Also I need to make the final push in setting up all the students who are going to attend Camp GLOW this summer.  I need to get a list of 32 students’ names and get their parent permission slips as well.

Well I guess that’s all for now…just wanted to write a quick update while I still have electricity and internet!

Really missing my family and friends these days, but also really looking forward to the next few months here ❤


Projects, camps, and grants…OH MY!

15 05 2011

]I wanted to spend a blog post talking about how I reacted to the whole scenario of my vacation mixed with the events that occurred in Burkina Faso while I was in France. After sitting down and writing it all out, I feel a lot better. I’m not sure if I feel the need to publish it anymore…I don’t want to just whine. I will probably send some people separate e-mails with a little summary of how I felt and that’s that.

So in any case, how is my work going? Well let me break it down for you by group/projects:

Faso Gnataga: The literacy campaign is coming to an end. We have successfully carried out the Dioula/Moore alphabetisation classes and, as a whole, our teachers and the auditors feel as though there was a strong attendance record and enthusiastic students. The financial accounting side of things were a little more shaky. I worked really hard with the association on trying to keep good track of expenses and receipts and overall this went well. The problems started when it came down to me trying to streamline their reporting process. They are rather stuck in their ways of doing things and when I tried to explain more efficient ways to get things done, they were adverse to changing it. Also, I was really frustrated that the work they kept wanting to give me was just busy work. For example, they keep a running handwritten track of their expenses and savings, and they asked me to re-copy their handwritten files in a newer clean book, exactly the same way, while they sat and watched. I did not come to West Africa, with hopes to bringing some kind of capacity to a village in need, just to sit down and re-copy itemized expenses while I sweat through all of my clothes. Anyway, this is something I’m going to confront them about, so we will see if this changes.

Also with Faso Gnataga, as many of you know I am working on a construction project to provide both Faso Gnataga as well as Banzon on a whole a new Center for Literacy and Technical training. I worked really hard on getting my grant application approved and through all of the necessary steps and it is now available on the Peace Corps Website!!! I have already reached out to a lot of you, or my boyfriend or dad or several of my great friends have forwarded it to you. It will be a great addition to Banzon and will allow Faso Gnataga to do continued development work even when the literacy campaigns aren’t in session. Please go and check out the website here and donate…any amount will make a difference. We are currently at about 37% funded so I still have a lot to raise. Please, please, please forward this on to friends and family as I feel really strongly about this project and think it will be a great addition to Banzon. See my project here: https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=686-144

Lastly, back in January, I applied for a small assistance grant from the U.S. Embassy in Burkina Faso. Faso Gnataga and I would like to start a grain storage campaign where they buy grains (like corn, rice, sorghum, etc…) when the prices are cheap and then re-sell them during the season where their prices are higher. So my counterpart, Ouya, and I filled out the application and forwarded it onto the Embassy representatives. I believe that they have gotten through all the applications and chances are good that we will be getting that grant as well!!! So I’m super happy about that as the grain storage program will be a great way to create a sustainable stream of revenue for my association so they can keep building their efforts.

UDTER (Timpia): I don’t know if many of you know about my second host association. UDTER is a women’s union who buy rice in bulk from the community cultivators and transform it into what I guess we would call parboiled rice. This women’s group is rather successful, benefiting from already having two years of funding from an NGO, and who have also signed a contract with the African Development Foundation (ADF), a US Government program focused on building capacity for African entrepreneurs. So, what do I do with them? Well, I am basically there to help them keep on track with their accounting, financial reporting, and schedule. It has been somewhat confusing thus far with them because I’m coming in almost a year after they had signed this contract. Even now, some eleven months after, they only just received their first disbursement of funds and still haven’t received their initial formations, their computer and electronic generator, or other materials needed to upscale their production. Therefore, I have spent my time recently meeting with the ADF on ground representative to get a better feel for what’s going on, what is holding up their progress, and how to avoid these roadblocks in the future. I had a great meeting with my ADF counterpart on Friday morning! I was happily impressed with my level of comprehension of conducting a conversation about financial reporting and accounting in French, even though afterward I could tell I was really mentally fatigued haha. Right now, I feel a lot better about the whole situation and have a clear list of action items and deliverables to go back to village with. This should be a really rewarding and challenging facet to my Peace Corps experience, so I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops.

Men As Partners: Actually, starting this Thursday, I will be attending and help facilitating the first annual Men As Partners Workshop here in Burkina Faso. The purpose of this three day workshop is to educate Burkinabé men on how to become positive examples for other men in village to follow. By positive examples we mean men who treat women respectfully and equally, provide proper nutrition to their kids, practice family planning, and appreciate their children’s education. We will cover all of those topics with both Peace Corps volunteers and their chosen counterpart from village whom the volunteers thought would be good positive examples in the future. I’m really looking forward to this and will try and write a good summary of what happened after we finish this saturday.

Camp G2LOW: I am also participating in a great camp this summer. Peace Corps around the world has a camp called Camp GLOW which stands for Girls Leading our World. It has shown to be very successful and rewarding and thus many different countries have started their own programs in hopes to gain the same results. Our program stands for Girls and Guys Leading our World. For our camp, we are hoping to educate both young girls and young men! We think that if you really want to help create gender equality, not only do you have to start at a young age, but you need to include boys as well. Here is a quick blurb from the lead volunteer’s blog about our camp:

Project Description:

Excited by its success in other countries, Peace Corps Burkina Faso has decided to host its first Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World). In hopes to become the 23rd Peace Corps country to house a Camp GLOW, we also want to make Camp GLOW even more unique by giving it a small twist to transform it to Camp G2LOW (Girls and Guys Leading Our World). There is no denying that, in Burkina Faso’s patriarchal system, there is a need to empower women, but it is our belief that the only true way to empower women is to educate young men, and teach them the importance of working with woman as equals. Camp G2LOW is a week-long leadership training camp geared toward school-age male and female students across the world.

Camp G2LOW -as it pertains to Burkina Faso- will focus on three subfields: 1) healthy lifestyles, 2) development of leadership skills, and 3) promotion of gender equality. In order to address the subfield of healthy lifestyles, camp counselors, which will include Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) and host country nationals (HCNs), will lead educational sessions focused on proper hygiene and safe sex practices, as to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and lower the rate of unwanted pregnancy. To develop their leadership skills, Camp G2LOW participants will take part in activities to teach critical thinking and decision-making skills. Lastly, camp counselors will aid in the promotion of gender equality by leading sessions that focus on ending domestic violence, as well as working with members of the opposite sex as partners on the same playing field.

So overall, I have plenty of work going on right now which makes me really happy (aside from the bizarre busy work with Faso Gnataga). I’m slowly getting back in to that happy place I was in before I had left for Paris. I knew that it was probably a small bit of depression because I had just spent two amazing weeks in a beautiful city with my boyfriend, so I’m gladding I’m starting to get over it. I’m looking forward to the next few months of work as it should prove to be very productive and I can finally start to feel like I’m doing something measurable/tangible rather than just these very amorphous blurry goals I’ve been setting and reaching.

Also – I need to get back into my hardcore Dioula training. I have fallen off the wagon a bit, I mean don’t get it twisted, I can still chat it up pretty well and at a good level, but I need to step it up. I have been at site now for 8 months and it’s completely unacceptable that I’m not yet fluent 😛 haha.

Also, I brought back three great French grammar books from Paris so I want to work on that as well. Need to keep pushing this language learning so I can make the most out of my immersion environment while I still have it.

OK, I think that’s all for tonight. I’m so sorry I dropped off the radar for four months, I’m going to try and be better! I miss you all so much! Love and hugs xoxo

– Keith


Its been quite some time

4 05 2011

Hello hello!

First I am sooo sorry I haven’t written since December. I have no excuse except I didn’t feel compelled to write since I speak to a lot of my friends and family regularly. But now I feel the need to write about what’s been going on recently and how it has affected me mentally and emotionally. I will type it out once I’m in bobo this Friday. Until then know that I love you all and miss you like crazy.

Also please check out my Peace Corps project online and donate!!! Banzon needs your help!


Happy 50th Birthday Burkina!

12 12 2010

Aw ni su! Somogow do? Barada do?

Hey everyone! So I have been in Bobo-Dioulasso for 11 days now…exciting, relaxing, stressful, and exhausting.  I have had a great time, gotten to hang out with a bunch of my close volunteer friends, and was able to be a part of some amazing things while I’ve been here.  Let’s talk about what I did!!!

First, I arrived in Bobo on the 2nd of December for a Gardening Formation.  There were about 20 of us volunteers who came in to Bobo to help give gardening formations to two target groups: prisoners and women living with AIDS.  I wasn’t in Bobo for the gardening project with the prisoners, so I had the opportunity to work with the women living with AIDS.  It was a great experience that taught me a lot and allowed me to have some great interaction with some extremely interesting and friendly Burkinabe women.  We spent two days going over the basics of what a garden is, what a garden can provide for us, and what the best practices are to ensure a good return. The instructor was my Tech Trainer from my initial training back in the summer, Andre.  He is such an amazing resource here in Burkina and I admire his skills, knowledge, and never ending positivity so much.  The first day we did introductions and basics on what a garden is before we actually got a chance to go outside and get our hands dirty.  We transformed a small plot of ground around the women’s center into four different gardening beds.  This was a really exhausting process but was super fun.  I never realized how hard it is to create a good garden.  Before that day, people around village had often made remarks like “Oh are you going to go into the fields and cultivate? You can’t, your too fragile” or “Just let us garden for you” and other small funny comments along that line.  I always thought it was just joking or a little rude, but I realized it was kind of true when after about twenty minutes or less of gardening with the local tool called a Daba, I had not one, but two blisters on my hands! Haha…guess they were right huh? I really enjoyed learning how to transform a regular plot of dirt into a well functioning garden space.  It allowed for a lot of interaction with the women who already knew so much about gardening and even ended up teaching us some stuff as well.  I of course took every chance I could to speak in Dioula with the ladies and ask any fun questions I had.  They absolutely loved it.  It was in this gardening trip that I realized I’m not the only one obsessed with Dioula.  My good good friend Erika Marshall is also a Dioula freak! We spent every waking minute over the past ten days trying to infuse Dioula into everything we did hahaha.  Needless to say, there were a lot of people that were annoyed by us after about thirty minutes.  She is really good at Dioula and it ignited my desire to learn once again.  We sat down often and exchanged notes and tried to teach each other little nuances we might have picked up in our own villages.  IT WAS AMAZING!!!

The next day we actually got around to transplanting some tomato plants from the nursery and planting some bean, hibiscus, and moringa seeds.  After two days of gardening we were extremely exhausted and extremely dirty…many rounds of showers and naps ensued!

The second reason why I was in Bobo for this long was to march in the 50th annual Independence Day parade for Burkina Faso! I was super super excited when I heard about the opportunity to march in the parade and signed up as soon as I could.  It was a really intense experience seeing as we had 4 days of practice before the actual event.  No joke! The Burkina Faso government really wanted to make sure everyone was good at standing, waiting, standing, waiting, sitting under a tree, standing again, waiting, and finally marching about two miles.  We had to get up at either 6 or 5:30 every morning and go stand in formation for about three hours for four days.  A basic summary of what one of the practices was like would be:

1. we would show up, in two waves since the car Peace Corps provided wasn’t big enough to transport all of us at once

2. stand around for about twenty minutes then decide to sit down on rocks or cardboard or a tree stump and listen to music or play Monopoly Duel (an awesome card game I suggest you all try out!)

3. hear a whistle so stand up and run into our formation lines as a random car with soldiers drived past staring us down and verifying that we could make straight lines

4.then more sitting along with buying of random street comestibles such as bread from Ghana, peanuts, bananas, meat sandwiches, and various cold drinks like water sachets, frozen bissap sachets, mugujii, etc.

5. Then more false alarms with gendarme (soldiers) coming over and making us get into formation.  P.S.- short side story…we had a specific gendarme gentleman assigned to us to keep us on track and help us march correctly and everything.  His name was Jean Luke…and I totally had a crush on him (sorry Tim, don’t worry it was definitely like a third grade crush and not threatening at all haha).  He was super nice to us and was very patient since we were never doing what we were supposed to be doing, we were rowdy, and we looked like a mess marching the first couple of times.  He had the brightest smile and he really enjoyed hanging out with us…for the short 5 minutes spurts where he wasn’t being all official and hot…sorry Tim.

6. Then finally we would get around to a dry run of the march.  The parade route was pretty much a two mile straight shot all the way to the big football (read soccer) stadium.  And oddly enough we had to do a very dictator like march…you know the whole straight arm swing straight leg left right left right left walk.  I found it kind of alarming at first and felt uneasy when we practiced walking past the president’s seat and we had to turn just our heads and keep marching like that…reminded me too much of old videos of Nazi Germany.  But it ended up being really great and we looked amazing by parade day.

The day of the parade was absolutely amazing.  We showed up super freaking early around 6 am.  It was still dark out, a wonderful chill was in the air, and all of the parade groups were donning their best 50th anniversary fabric in different blues, greens, yellows, and browns.  Everyone was super excited to see the American groups decked out in very traditional outfits (the girls even had to wear foulards which are pagnes wrapped around your head like a hat).  We received a lot of encouragement, smiles, hand shakes, and laughs.  After that a lot of pictures ensued as anyone who has recently looked at my facebook profile could tell you.  Everyone wanted their picture with us, and I wanted my picture with everyone haha.  Once the parade actually started the energy was crazy.  The crowds lined up on each side of the street were really excited to see us and all the other groups.  I was marching on one of the ends so I was able to shout some Dioula out to the bystanders which they loved haha.  There were some Obama chants that happened along the way, lots of applause, maybe one or two taunts, but overall they loved us.  After the parade people who habe seen me have been congratulating me on a good march since they were either at the parade or watched it on TV.  It’s been such a cool experience.  I can’t believe that I am 1 of 25 Americans that can ever say that they marched in the 50th Independence day parade of Burkina Faso!!! I will never forget this experience and want to thank everyone that experienced it with me whether it was chatting under a tree during practice, relaxing at the bureau, catching up on Dexter/Glee/Modern Family/Cougar Town/ Vampire Diaries (yes I do watch that!), indulging in really expensive, delicious food, or grabbing a drink at night after a long day.  I have had such an amazing eleven days and couldn’t ask for better friends or experiences right now.  I know that if you speak to me I can complain a lot about missing things like running water, ice cream, donuts, or cold weather…but honestly this experience is so amazing and I’m loving almost every minute of it.  I have never come out of my shell like this before and I’m seeing just how outgoing and confident I can be even in a whole new world with strangers, even stranger languages, and no family.  I can only imagine the strong confident person I will be when I get back to the states in two years and hope that I can continue to share this experience with those of you who are following my blog.  Thanks to my family and friends back home who have given me continued support, wonderful care packages, and warm wishes. I miss you all so much, especially during this holiday season.  But just know that as I’m cooking up a storm on Christmas day, wearing my newly tailored Christmas pagne shirt and drinking tea with my courtyard family and village friends, it is all of you that helped me get here and helped me be who I am today.  If I don’t talk to you between now and the holidays have a merry merry Christmas and an absolutely amazing new year!!!!


almost 5 months already?

17 11 2010

Hi everyone! I’m so sorry it has taken so long to post. I’ve been really occupied lately and when I have had access to real internet there have either been too many people around or I had to run too many errands. Anyway what’s going on with me?!

First I have made some improvements as far as dioula learning is concerned. I found two great books in Bobo for learning dioula. One is actually an introductory course written in French by some local company that does a pretty good job of explaining grammar and simple sentence structure things I had been missing before. The second is a book of fables for children like fairy tales and stuff used to teach children some important morals. So I read the fables and try to translate them into English. When I don’t understand something I just sit down with one of my friends in village and chat about it. It has been a great bonding experience because surprisingly a lot of my friends here can’t actually read well in their own language. So they ask me to read aloud to them and then they can explain what it means to me in french. They find it really impressive that I can read in dioula, even if I can’t understand it lol. They also seem really impressed that I’m interested enough to want to sit and read a book in dioula. They seem even a bit flattered that the local toubabu would take the time to do that. Also my current tutor and I have moved on to a different book and we are working on more translation type stuff which I like. It allows me to pose more grammatical questions, not that he can always explain what I want to know. I can’t tell you all how frustrating it gets sometimes. I want to know why this word is here, why those two words together mean that, what does this structure mean etc. But a lot of times in dioula you just can’t translate literally, it honestly doesn’t work. For example there was a sentence that I directly translated into “a person didn’t take from another person” but in the context of the story it meant we are all the same and that we aren’t separated. I just don’t see how I will ever be able to make that leap between literal translation and understanding what the person actually wanted to get across. Why can’t they just say we are all the same? Doesn’t that expression actually exist in dioula? And how will I ever understand that in spoken word? It is one thing to digest that in a written context, but when just listening to someone speak? Oh boy haha. I will just have to hope that with enough practice it will come.

In other news…can you all believe that I have been here 5 months already? I can’t. Everything felt like it was going by so slow but then October was over in what seemed like a heartbeat. Let me name a few things that I am now used to in Africa.
1. I am used to riding my bike through crowds of women carrying everything from fruit to tables on their heads while dodging cows, donkeys, sheep, goats, and pigs all within 100 meters.
2. I have gotten used to having flies land on me constantly. Sometimes I don’t think to swat at them until I realize they have been sitting on my arm for about twenty seconds.
3. I will eat food that I have spilled on my floor without thinking twice. No one wastes popcorn/goldfish/oreos in Burkina!
4. I have gotten used to zero personal space. On buses or just sitting with friends you pretty much should expect to have people on your lap or hanging on you. It is really strange how comfortable men are here with physical touch. I will be sitting with my two guy friends and they will have their feet in the other guys lap and he will be holding his friend’s feet. Or when my friend is sitting and chatting with me he will just rest his hand on my leg or arm and hold it there. Or my friends will walk with me while holding my hand. Its amazing the general intimacy that exists between same sexes here and then to contrast that with the utter lack of public affection between opposite sexes.
5. I’ve gotten used to people either picking their nose or blowing snot rockets right in front of me during conversation like its nothing.
6. I have gotten used to eating weird chewy bits of meat often with bone in it. In the states you wouldn’t see me eat too close to the bone on a piece of chicken. Here you will see me gnawing every scrap of meat off a drumstick… it is actually super attractive.
7. I have gotten used to eating and drinking out of plastic bags. For example all drinks come in little plastic sachets. So you bite the corner of the little plastic bag and suck out either the water or bissap or mugujii (my favorite local drink!). Also if you want some street food like beans or rice or fried potatoes you either have to have your own plate or you’re gonna be walking a way with your rice and beans in a plastic bag.

In terms of work related activities there have been some developments as well! For one I have started an English club with the highschool in my village. Its been really great so far and the students really seem motivated and interested in speaking English with each other.

I also had my first Gender and Development committee meeting. That was great. I got to see how the grant application process works and what kind of work people are doing now in their villages with gender development. I’m going to be working a lot as the liasion between the peace corps office and the individuals getting funding. Yay for a pretty excel spread sheet! Its like I’m back in consulting again!

in terms of upcoming events there is going to be a crazy month in December. First we have a gardening campaign some volunteers will be doing with needy individuals in Bobo. That will be a three day event including some initial training for us volunteers so we understand gardening in Africa better. Then there is national volunteer day which takes place actually over two days on the 4 and the 5. We are going to go around to local health clinics and help clean and organize in hopes to help facilitate better practices. There will also be an event to meet all volunteers from different organizations in Bobo. That will be really cool I think. Volunteers from France and Japan and Canada oh my! Then I will spend the next couple of days learning how to march in Burkina’s 50th Independence day parade. The Burkinabe are obsessed with repetition so we need to practice for two or three days before the actual parade haha. Regardless I think it is awesome I will have the chance to walk in a national parade here in Burkina. Plus we all will be getting matching pagne shirts made! Woo!

Then after those twelve days of glory I will get a short stint back in site and then I have to head off to our language in service training. This will be a week long training in our local language or French if people still need help with that. I’m excited to get to ask some burning questions I’m having and get some better direction on what I can focus on to take my dioula to the next level! That will be from the 15 through the 21st. Then bam! Christmas will be right around the corner. I’m still deciding if I will do Christmas in my village or I might go visit my friend’s site, Oradara, because its a bigger city and its more catholic so it might have a bigger Christmas spirit.

Phew it is exhausting just typing that all out! (especially since its on my blackberry haha).

Ok well I think I need to end this blog here because my thumbs are starting to cramp. But I just can’t believe where I am these days. I’m living in a fifth world country as some people would say. I’m speaking four languages, some much better than others, I’m living completely by myself in a completely foreign culture, I have successfully integrated into a new community and have even made some friends. I even managed to find some friends here who like my sass and who throw it right back at me (in french no less, gosh my short lived French teacher in New York would be so proud.) I spend my nights eating and reading by a solar powered lantern. I sleep outdoors with the music of roosters, donkeys, and other animals that go bump in the night. Instead of a ceiling I fall asleep looking deep into the countless stars and planets that I swear weren’t as numerous back in the states. I wake up to the call to prayer and to the bustling sounds of all the women sweeping and washing and cooking for the new day. I’m just living a much simpler, much more people oriented life and I am certainly learning to love it.

Until next time I love you all and stay safe!

Ala ka sanwèrè yira an na. That’s a dioula benediction that everyone says during the fete of tabaski (which was yesterday) that means may show is another year.


Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry (read – please forgive typos!)

hangars, hang-ups, and heat stroke!

20 10 2010

Well I’m back. It has been a little while, I apologize. It’s just difficult to make myself sit down when it’s super hot and just sitting makes me sweat profusely. Anyway let me move onto the updates.

I never finished that last blog. I have it written down on paper but haven’t finished putting it online with my blackberry. I will have to do that soon!

So first a shout out to the Delaware crew for the amazing package I got two weeks ago! It was full of tupperware which in turn were full of goodies! Canned chicken breast, tuna, some spam just like poppop used to love, candy, oreos, dryer sheets to freshen up the place, a shirt, and much much more. I think I gained 5 pounds just after two days of eating my way through that marvelous surprise! But on a more serious note regarding the tupperware…I used the tupperware to bring some candy to my friends at the restaurant. When they saw the tipperware it was like an American getting the first look at the newest iPhone. Their eyes lit up, their smiles widened, and they were fighting for a chance to hold it. Then one of the girls started talking about how great it would be to have something like that. She said she could use on long trips to pack herself food instead of being hungry on the bus. She mentioned how she could keep her food longer and not worry about having to waste food and how she could make herself a nice sauce and put a small fish in there and bring it to work with her so she wouldn’t have to worry about eating while at work. Something so simple and silly to use has so much use here and there is so much more appreciation. Needless to say, I did not make it home with my tupperware. I ended up giving one to Delphine and one to sanata. I still have a lot (thanks family for sending so many!) but I just felt so selfish for having so many and not caring as much about them.
I forgot to mention my trip in to Bobo to get the package! Well silly me decided I was going to bike all the way into Bobo from my site which is like 60-65 km…never having biker more than maybe 10 at one time lol. I made it about half way and at 35 km I told my host brother we needed to stop and hop on the next truck that is going to Bobo. I was dead! When we got into Bobo I had to jump off the truck and when I did my knees buckeled and I face planted into the dry red earth that takes the place of roads here. That was quite embarrassing and made me look even more dirty than I had already become due to biking in a dusty country such as Burkina. The day was a chaotic mess of biking from and to the peace corps bureau and the post office then back again then to the truck stop. I was so exhausted when I got home but a box of reese’s pieces really helped me feel better 🙂

Mostly everything else is the same here. I have language (either self taught or tutor) in the morning, I go around the village talking to people and seeing what’s on their minds, eat, work out, eat some more, read my kindle, and then pass out. Pretty good life. I really am getting used to living in and belonging in my village. I recently went to ouaga for a short weekend trip and the whole time I was wanting to go back to Banzon. Its nice having friends and “family” here and knowing people and knowing where to get everthing you need and not worrying about being taken advantage of or hassled like always happens in Ouaga. But I did really enjoy the company of some of my closest peace corps friends, some great food cooked by yours truly and Kristin chantry AKA “Trouble” as we like to call her, and of course catching up on Glee, Dexter, Modern family and Cougar Town!

This week has been more work focused. Trying to figure out the right contacts at the rice cooperative who actually know what’s going on with the ADF funds that are coming in because apparently the president of the coop has no clue? And trying to get a copy of the interiour rules and by-laws of my host association as required by my etude de milieu. Also I’m getting things ready for the new volunteers who are coming to my site for demyst next week! This includes getting activities ready, cleaning my humble abode, and getting my new hangar built! That has been going on all day and will finish probably by Friday. We have to wait for the cement to dry and then wait for the seko to be finished (think like basket weave but with bigger plants and its more durable). Overall I think it will cost me around $22.50 US. Not too shabby huh?

As always I have some hang ups mainly language. Maybe I have unreal expectations but I just expected me to be much closer to fluent in french by now and its really irritation when I still don’t know what words people are saying or I stumble through explaining my thoughts. And then there us dioula and I thought by now I could hold a simple conversation, which I kind of can, but it’s seriously like pulling teeth out. It will be fine I’m sure I’m just super impatient…thanks for that gene mom! Haha JK I think that’s a Gallagher jean not just Linda ;P

Well I think that’s all for now. Maybe if I keep these a little shorter I won’t dread typing them on my blackberry so much haha!

Love you all and miss you more than you can imagine.

Ala ka su heere!

N togo ko LEGA Tenga!

9 10 2010

Let me start by saying this post takes place over a few days so it might be a little disjointed. Plus I’m typing this on my blackberry so have patience! Haha

Today I’m going into Bobo. Currently I’m in the truck waiting to leave. Its 7:30 am. I love taking the bus in the morning because the people love seeing me and I feel really welcomed each time I come. This morning it rained pretty hard so I alomost didn’t come, let’s hope the roads aren’t too bad! Yesterday was a fun day, I started with a teeny bit of Dexter then my morning dioula lesson. The lesson was focused on the market place so we went to the marché and reviewed the names of things, how to ask for prices, how to ask them to lower the price, etc. The greatest part was that after I was done discussing everything I wanted with the vendors, my teacher ended up buying for me! It is amazing how generous people are here. They have so little, especially compared to me, but they still use their small amount of expendable income to buy little gifts for me, like my teacher did. After dioula I rested a little chez moi and made some popcorn. This is something I do too often these days. But it tastes so good! Maybe it’s just because in Burkina anything with the slightest hint of flavor tastes amazing, but I swear it just plain tastes better here when I make it on my little stove. I think I’ve gone a little crazy.

When I was dobee devouring the popcorn that should have lasted a normal person two days, I went to hang out with Delphine at the restaurant. It was so hot though that I had to sit in the back where there is the big hangar so it seems cooler. Eventually Del cam to join me as well as her brother and his friends. One of her brother’s friends was currently at university studying math and computers. He is in the process of getting his doctorate! I love seeing cases like that because it is so against the norm, especially in a smaller village like my own. I ate lunch with them at the restaurant because the thought of cooking in that heat did not appeal AT ALL!

I left the restaurant after I was finished eating and returned home. Once home I decided to read some of Le petite prince, only fair since the whole morning was spent on dioula. I’m wishing more and more each day that I could have come into this experience having learned more french. That way I could have spent more time focusing on dioula during stage and not worrying about getting the basic french down. Now I learned a ton in stage regarding french, I was impeased with myself and much I was able to grow in those weeks, but it just would have been better to grow that much in local language. Also the teachers were great and knew how to teach adult learners. I’m learning more and more that that is a rare find here, or maybe its just my current tutor. it’s really difficult now to choose which language I should focus my learning on. I haven’t mastered french yet so clearly I need to still work on that, and I want to live in France after peace corps so I need to get a lot better if I hope to live and work there. But on the other hand, to become a true village member here dioula would be better. When people are just chatting around me, it is not french they choose, it is dioula. I think I just have to spend half my time on french and half my time on dioula. For dioula my focus is vocab and sentence structure and then I can just go to the marché and practice with the ladies. For french I need to keep reading dench literature, magazines, and newspapers to expand my conversational competency. Also I will listen to French radio to better my aural comprehension since radio personalities speak so quick, it will be good practice. Lastly I have to force myself to continue speaking with a Parisian accent. It is really easy to just copy the Burkinabé accent which isn’t how I really want to sound. I love the sound of a native French accent!

Anyway, back to my day…I was reading my book when my host sister, Aminata, started speaking to me in dioula and amazingly I knew what she was saying! She was asking me for help with her rice because the rain was coming and she needed to put it back in the sacks. She was amazed as much as I was that I knew what she was saying and my host mother started laughing in excitement as well. Then Ami told me that I understand more dioula then the previous volunteers and that I was becoming more Burkinabé by the day. Then I picked up the small bundle of straw used here as brooms (which work really well surprisingly) and started sweeping the rice into a pile. Ami loved it! While we were scooping up rice, me Ami and her mom, I told them that the marché ladies gave me an African name. It is LEGA Tenga. LEGA is the last name of my host family. They both loved it and started laughing and now only call me Tenga. We managed to get the rice into safety just a minute or two before the rain hit. In dioula to say that rain is coming you say: sanji bi na na.

*** I’m currently at the maternity ward waiting for my friend Sanata to gave her baby so I’ll have to finish this later. Hopefully I will have good news of a lovely little baby next time!

Talk soon… Love you all!