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!!!!

Mwah!

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3 responses

13 12 2010
Linda Bastoni

Keith — I enjoy your blogs very much and I’m glad you are embracing this wonderful opportunity and having such a great time. Stay safe, learn lots and live fully! Have a wonderful holiday season. We miss you too!
Linda B.

13 12 2010
Karen

Loved the story about the parade and I can imagine poppop looking down on you and laughing as you marched but at the same time very proud. He did hid share of marching in parades over his lifetime!!!!

We will miss you more than you know at Christmas. The last part of your blog had mommom and I in tears knowing how this year will be so different with you not here especially during the game night! And who knows who is going to win the Christmas Trivia game with you not on their team. It will definately be up for grabs this year.

Well as you are cooking up your Christmas feast for your friends know as we our cooking up ours for the family I will be thanking God for givings us YOU!!!! You are amazing and I wish you a joyful and blessed Christmas and New Year.

13 12 2010
Karen

keith, this is aunt marian and uncle mike and we just read your blog. we are so proud you. Mike says he thinks you would have made a good soldier! You are all heart and compassion. You don’t let anything stop you from you mission. God bless you and keep you.

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