Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mission accomplished: I set Burkina on fire!

After traveling to Ouaga how many times in the past few weeks (for Devin’s farewell and to go to the dentist to get my tooth crown fixed), it’s definitely nice to be back at site. I made sure to stop by Gaoua to visit Kyle and Jon…and to pick up mail from friends and family. I’m just overwhelmed by the packages and letters I’ve received so THANK YOU so much. It’s like a little piece of the U.S./home which is definitely needed here in Burkina Faso every once in a while. After; I stayed the night at Jon’s before heading back to my site.

Getting a package from Patrici and Gina! Thanks, homies!

17 days. More than half a month I hadn’t seen Jon which is bizarre because we live so close and see each other at least once a week! So it was back to old times again, cooking good food, talking about current/future work projects and just laughing about anything and everything. In the Lobi culture, they say that for men, they are first warriors, which explains why using a bow and arrow is such a traditional Lobi thing. So Jon got Kyle and I our own bows and arrows! More pictures to come when we actually practice with a target (I’m thinking after the school year is over and the weather isn’t so hot).

Jon's gonna kill me for posting this. But look at his face! Priceless.

Barack Obama came for a visit!

Look at the bottom righthand corner. It definitely says 123F! It is SO DAMN HOT.

Dorian and Seuss, my favorite kids at Jon's site.

Finally getting back to site last week was such a relief. I feel so welcome now (more than before) and it’s great to have such amazing neighbors. I can’t speak any higher of the Ouattara family! They really just took me in as one of their own, and more and more everyday, I find myself over at their place when I’m not occupied with something at the house, at the school or at the CSPS (village medical center). I’m excited to celebrate Easter with them come the beginning of April! Ali and Rachid are like my little brothers now and Farida, Aïcha and Clémence are like the little sisters I’ve never had. What’s even better is that Madame Ouattara is my Jula/Dioula tutor and has excellent teaching skills. I’ve only had a few lessons so far but they’ve been really good and I’m hoping I can speak Jula before I leave in 2011. It’ll help if I want to work with people that can’t speak much French (proper nutrition for women and their babies, activities with the women’s association, etc.). Jula is spoken throughout Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire, as well as Mali, eastern Senegal and parts of the Gambia (although the vocabulary varies a little) – which, to me, is absolutely incredible. Hèèrè dòròn (it’s very good)!

The bat that lives in my house. Any suggestions for names?

'Nelson Mandela' aka Ali makes an appearance on the blog again.

Helping Clémence with her sugared peanuts business.


Work wise, the alphabet project is extremely successful and next school year; I want to replicate it with other primary schools in the region. The kids go nuts for the stickers as little prizes (thanks to all of you who sent me stickers!) and it’s just a creative approach to learning. Baby weighings at the CSPS are going well. Pretty much a Thursday morning routine. Last time, I helped with over 100 baby weighings! Despite the fact that the babies pee everywhere and the incessant crying, it’s nice to be out there in the community. Hopefully my Jula lessons will help me work with the mothers before I leave. I talked to the CE1 teacher (equivalent is 2nd grade) and I’ll be starting a Reading Club next week, meeting with groups of 5 students after school for an hour. I bought a bunch of French children’s books from Ouaga so I’ll have the kids read aloud, then ask comprehension questions to ensure they actually understand what they’re reading! More projects on the way as March and April approach…


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

February = month of sickness, lots of dust and the beginning of HOT season

Oh February. Damn, damn February.

Sickness. After Devin left, I headed back to site and all of a sudden, started to feel really congested. It started with a sore throat, followed by what seemed like a cold/progressive fever. I'd wake up every night in a sweat and wouldn't be able to fall back asleep. Add that to a build-up of mucus and then it hit me...

The weather! It's starting to get hot, hot, hot. This might be too much information but I'll say it anyway since it's my blog (haha). When I sleep, I usually wear nothing except for my underwear. But at night nowadays, I can barely sleep because there's absolutely no breeze plus the heat is just stifling. Ughh.

Back to sickness, I noticed even my students were coughing up a storm when I came in to do the alphabet project. Seriously, it's like I couldn't even get anything done because they were all coughing away, ten at a time! Apparently if you couple the Harmattan winds + dust EVERYWHERE (no joke) + the beginning of hot season...well, it's almost like a recipe for disaster and sickness. Take for example yesterday. After my dentist appointment, I was in downtown Ouaga and there was a sign that said the temperature. Mind you, it was a little after 5pm when the sun is setting...and no joke, it was 39 degrees C or 102 degrees F. Whew!

It's funny because during training, all anyone would mention is that the end of February to early May (especially April) are the worst months for heat. The Burkinabe even say, "Nous souffrons aussi" meaning "we also suffer" when it comes to the heat. Which can't be good because they LIVE here! Oyy vey.

In any case, let's see...a couple of nights ago, Pascal came by and was kind enough to cook dinner. He's a kid in 6eme (the equivalent being 6th grade at the middle school), his dad is the school director of one of the primary schools and boy, is he smart! I help him out with English and he has a genuine passion to learn the language which is always good for me to see.

Pascal cooking some spaghetti chez moi. Good kid!

Madame Ouattara also just came back from Bobo-Dioulasso (the second biggest city in BF) from an almost week-long language tutor training hosted by the Peace Corps. She enjoyed it so much and said she learned more about the Peace Corps than she would've ever from Anne, Clay or myself (me plus the two other volunteers before me) because they went into such detail about what the Peace Corps is about around the world!

I'm excited to say that I'm starting to learn one of the local languages now: Jula/Dioula! It's a language primarily spoken in Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire but the beauty is that it's a close cousin to Bambara, one of the main languages in Mali. It's a language of commerce/trade so many people in West Africa are bound to understand some of it! This is super exciting because I hope to be able to be somewhat proficient in Jula before I head back to the US in 2011!

Also, a few days ago, I felt like a reach a new level of comfortability at my site. I talked to one of my closest friends back home, Sable, about it last night. It's just a refreshing feeling and I feel like it's not one that's short-lived. I went to church on Sunday and was overwhelmed by the recognition by students and their parents and people I either work or interact with on an almost daily basis. Even with Ali and Rachid, they're seriously like my little brothers -- we joke around all the time and man, it just feels good to be this comfortable. I'd rather be back at site than being here at Ouaga (by the way, I'm here in Ouaga because the crown on my tooth came off as I was eating something back at site...really bizarre so I had to come back to Ouaga to get it fixed).

Well, that's all for now. Catch you all on the flipside, folks!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Farewell to a really good friend.

I don't even know how to start this blog entry but I think the title pretty much says it all. One of my absolute closest friends in the Peace Corps, Devin, left to go back to the US last Tuesday. It's really bittersweet -- while I'm really sad that she's not in Burkina Faso anymore, I completely respect and support her decision to leave when you know it's the best decision for yourself. Due to health and family stuff, she's decided that it's better to be in the US and for that, I respect her for it!

Rachel, Carolyn, Devin, Charley and I outside the Ouagadougou Airport, wishing Devin farewell! Love how Devin is prepared for colder weather back in the US. =)

I'll never forget when we first met in person (we met through our blogs online a month or two prior to staging in Philadelphia in June 2009) and instantly clicked while in line at Air France in Philadelphia. Who would've thought we'd be so close after a mere eight months of knowing each other?

I say this time and time again, but the Peace Corps is such a trip! You're sent to a foreign country with other American volunteers from all over the US, you've never met any one of them before, you're placed in three months of intensive training and pretty much with each other 24/7 and after your swear-in ceremony, are sent to live by yourselves at your respective sites for 2 years. Yet within all of that craziness, you cultivate some of the most interesting friendships in your life. People you'd never meet because you're from different parts of the US but just happen to meet through an experience like the Peace Corps halfway across the world.

Devin -- I feel so fortunate to have gotten to know you during this relatively short period of time (PST, Ghana and all the random, hilarious moments in between!) and can't wait for the time when we reunite back in the US...road trip to California?! Ou bien? Either way girl, you're officially family! Love you!

Devin and I at her airport send-off. Not only do we love each other but we love the color orange on our shirts and bags from Africa. Huzzah!

Strawberries in January!

I tell you, Burkina Faso is one random country. Particularly in Ouaga (the capital), you find things that you'd think you'd never find. Like strawberries. In January?! Whaat?! Unbeknownst to me , it's strawberry season here in Burkina Faso and they are some of the sweetest strawberries I've had in my life! Just thought I'd share a couple of pictures with some of my favorite people...enjoy!

Devin's future career = modeling delicious strawberries such as these. Mmm!

Colette enjoying that sweet goodness. In January, good woman!

Damn good!