Sunday, July 19, 2009

Site announcement and trip to Ouagadougou!

On Thursday (July 9th), after waiting for almost a month now…the time finally arrived. Our site announcement a.k.a. where we’ll be living for the next two years after training!

Seriously, the days and hours leading up to it felt like getting ready to open up presents on Christmas. I couldn’t help but feel all these knots in my stomach but the wait was well worth it.

The PC staff created a huge map on the floor outside of our training center. Our LCF (language instructors) blindfolded us and guided us to our site location on the map. We took off our blindfolds and saw our site name below us but also saw who we’d be relatively close to (a.k.a. our lifelines when things get rough). We headed inside and were given little paper stick figures of ourselves to place on a map on the wall. We’re pretty much scattered all over the country!

For me, I’m the furthest trainee/stagiaire in our training group (also known as ‘stage’) south. I’m essentially in the Southwest, bordering Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana! I’m replacing a volunteer who is ending his service by the end of July. I’m actually really happy about my site because I’m not too far south of Gaoua (one of the regional capitals like Ouahigouya), will be living near a paved road, am not too far from fellow volunteers, and will have a market where I can have a relative variety of food (more fruits and vegetables!). Access to transport that heads to Ouaga and Bobo-Dioulasso (the two biggest cities in Burkina) isn’t bad at all (so I’ve heard). And since I’m in the South, the weather is a little cooler, there are hills and greenery, and there’s just a lot to see (heard there were cascades and some archeological ruins in the area too…probably far from me but not as far if I lived up in the North). French is widely spoken in my village but I’ll also be learning Dioula and possibly, Lobiri. Dioula is a local trade language that’s not only used in Burkina Faso but also in parts of Mali and Guinea too. Excited to learn another language. Niiiiice!

A lot of us went out for dinner later that night and coincidentally, the guy that I’ll be replacing was in town (at our same restaurant!) because he came up to Ouahigouya to visit his girlfriend (also a fellow PCV). He basically gave me the low-down on everything and said that the house I’ll be moving into (his house) is actually a fonctionnaire (civil servant) house with a living room and two bedrooms. There’s a latrine outside and also an outdoor kitchen area which makes where I live sound huge. He said that he planted some flowers and made a little garden to make it a little homey, and will be leaving a lot of his old furniture and stuff for me!

Overall, things are looking good but I want to read up more on the Southwest, particularly the region where I’ll be in. I think two of my biggest fears are having everyone compare me to the past volunteer and not being seen as ‘American’ (what’s new, haha)…but after talking with the current volunteer, it seems that won’t be as bad to adjust! We’ll see…ca va aller!

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Fast forward to yesterday, we were in Ouagadougou (the capital city…called ‘Ouaga’ for short) on Friday and Saturday. We took the coach public transport buses for the first time (our main mode of traveling everywhere) and those were packed. And because I felt a fever coming, it was one interesting ride…we finally arrived at Ouagadougou after a couple of hours and headed straight to the Peace Corps Burkina Faso headquarters. Literally, everything was there…the director, other PC staff, our mail, the medical units, computers and a mini library for the volunteers, etc. etc. Fortunately, I got checked out by one of the medical officers and they gave me the right meds needed to get me back in check!

We headed to the Transit House in Ouaga. If I’m not mistaken, every country with Peace Corps volunteers has at least one Transit House which is solely for volunteers. Basically, it’s a house that volunteers can go to a few days a month if they want to get away from site for a little bit…filled with couches, a kitchen, bathrooms with toilets and showers, shelves of books, rooms, mattresses on screened porch area, etc.

Ouaga has SO many ethnic restaurants and Devin, Colette, Marita, and I were on a quest to get Chinese food for lunch. We finally found one called “L’Orient” and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to be in a Chinese restaurant. Legitimate Chinese food…all I could think of was wonton soup and I ordered so much of it, I was beyond happy. The only thing is that food in Ouaga is expensive (compared to everywhere else in BF) so I’ll have to be sure to splurge whenever I’m in Ouaga. We had dinner at one of the Associate Peace Corps Directors’ house and we had Mexican food! So damn good, with guacamole and sour cream. I felt like I was in heaven…Chinese for lunch, Mexican for dinner.

The next day, we ate at this restaurant that had an endless supply of American food and I was beyond happy (again). Having this much variety in food was enough for my little heart to handle! While we left to take the bus back, it was the funniest ride ever sitting next to Colette and Devin. We had a random child under our seat who kept kicking us with her feet…the most random thing ever! That said, I can’t wait for more adventures in Ouaga. With a city that big in BF (and so central to all the volunteers), I’m sure we’ll all be meeting up as many times as possible during our 2 years of service. SO EXCITED!!

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