Saturday, August 1, 2009

Site visit!

Last week, we spent most of our time at our sites…finally!! We had a couple of days of training with our counterparts (counterpart = a person in the community that is assigned to each of us to aid in integration, meeting key people in our communities, etc.) and took public transport all throughout BF to spend a couple of days at our sites.

I’m fortunate to live about 17km away from another fellow GEE trainee/volunteer (Jon -- special shout-out to his grandma who I've heard has been reading my blog!) so we headed together the whole way with our counterparts...who, by the way, are ridiculously hilarious! The further south we got, passing Ouaga and various other big towns, it got progressively greener and greener. We stayed the night at a hotel in Gaoua (our regional capital) and were able to explore the huge market. Gaoua is about 40+ km north of my site. The next day when we had to head back to the bus station, I was really thrown off because I saw a Japanese guy at the bus station. Seeing another Asian here in the middle of BF was quite a sight, and I’m almost certain he was a Japanese NGO worker.

After an hour bus ride from Gaoua, I finally arrived at my site! Because I’m closer to the Cote d’Ivoire border, it literally felt like I was in another country…and for several moments, I didn’t think I was in Burkina Faso. My site looks more like the Amazon or the tropical parts of the Philippines. Lush greenery everywhere and hills…absolutely incredible! So different from what I’m used to up in the north of BF. I began to slowly realize how lucky I am: next to the goudron (paved road) which makes all the difference when it comes to biking/transport; the last bus station stop coming from Ouaga; relatively close to a market and other small boutiques/stores; live next to fonctionnaires (civil servants/teachers); live right across from the primary school which is coincidentally next to a water pump…and did I mention lots of greenery and hills everywhere!!!!

To have my own house is a mixed blessing. Outside, I have two little gardens which the volunteer I’m replacing planted, a little storage area, an outdoor latrine and shower area, and an elevated porch. Inside, I have a big living room/kitchen area and two bedrooms…absolutely huge for someone like me that loves being around people all the time!

A picture of where I'll be living for the next 2 years in the southwest of Burkina Faso! Pictures don't really do the area any justice. More pictures to come when I decorate it and make it my own after training.

I was able to meet the local authorities (thanks to Jean, my counterpart and teacher at another primary school...I’m starting to see him less as a counterpart and more as a friend since we seem to be around the same age and relate to each other more.) but since I had a lot of time to myself, I realized that that loneliness will probably be my biggest obstacle since I have this whole house to myself. I’ll definitely get a dog or cat to keep me company. I'm more of a dog person but a cat seems like more of a practical option since they're really independent and can eat all the little lizards and spiders that are in my house...I just love dogs so much more so this is definitely a tough decision! It’s also a little comforting to know that I haven’t met everyone in my community since it’s rainy season/vacation time so people are either out cultivating or out of town. The Burkinabè down south are different from the ones I live with now – more independent, don’t care much for greetings/salutations, and are little more distant. Just another thing I’ll have to get used to but I’m hoping it won’t be too bad.

After staying for a couple of nights, I had to head back by myself on transport…with my bike. Public transport is great since I’m on the goudron but it sucks when I have to bring my bike because it’s such a hassle! After several hours of bus riding, I got to the Transit House in Ouaga with some other trainees…and we all treated ourselves to some pizza!! We headed back to Ouahigouya the next day to the training center and celebrated Devin’s birthday!

Colette, Devin and I at the training center in Ouahigouya. Note the cute flower thing one of our fellow trainees made for Devin's hair. Us three...I swear, we're attached to the hip but I love every moment with these two!!

The following day, we headed back to village…by that point, it had already been 11 days since I’ve seen my host family. I don’t think I’ve been so excited to see them and my host dad even hugged me out of happiness! It was a nice little welcoming and they gave me some tea. Sadly, my host grandfather had left for the rainy season and wouldn't be coming back until well after I'd left for my site. Even though he didn't speak any French, he was such a calming presence because he reminds me so much of my grandparents back home (who I miss terribly)! When I went to bed that night, it really hit me that I’m done with training in less than a month and will be moving to my site immediately after! Crazy! PS: keep commenting, please!


MeganElizabeth said...

Hi Michael!

Wow it sounds like you are having a great time down there! I love the pictures! Amazing! Your new house sounds big and looks beautiful! They really do seem like two different countries. I hope you do get a pet or something to keep you company. I can't wait to hear more and more about your trips! One quick question: will you have a different mailing address once you move to your new location? I have been planning to send you some things, so I just wanted to check. I miss you very much and I love you! You're amazing!

cecilia said...

is that the back of the house? is it by itself, no other houses nearby, a neighbor maybe? it's okey son, i'll try to call you every other night when you get to your site.

i'd suggest you get a cat, i think it's more practical bec. of all your little visitors in the house. hahaha

it would be nice to have a dog but you'll get attached to it. you wouldn't want to leave the dog after your 2 years assignment, would you? i'll send you benji's pictures in place of having your own dog there. hahaha

janeth said...

Hi Mikey
Sounds like everything is going well. I love reading your blog, meredith and i have conversations about the awesomeness of your blogs and your adventures. Just want to say hello, and that I'm always thinking of you. love you and miss you
And yah for the end of training and your new home and you should have a cat/kitten, it'll be great