Friday, March 19, 2010

Alphabet & literacy project = complete and a success!

After several weeks, I've finally completed the alphabet and literacy project with the CP2 students. I can't wait to replicate it in other schools next school year! On the last day, I told the kids I would bring my camera and take pictures. They went absolutely ballistic/jumped for joy that it took the teacher almost 10 minutes to calm them down completely. I really enjoyed working with this specific class and am now thinking of doing math exercises with them to reinforce their math capacities. Maybe even doing little competitions between the girls and the boys? We'll see!

In any case, I know that you all love pictures so what better way to end this short and simple blog post than with a few pictures. Keep the comments coming, please!!

The kids showing their letters.

I love it!

New haircut: the faux-hawk has just arrived in Burkina Faso

Ahhh yes! After months of growing out my hair, I've decided to cut it once again. Partially because all my friends back home are telling me to cut it, partially because it's getting hot and having long hair is becoming harder to maintain, and partially because I'm all for change.

One of my friends here, Gwen, has graciously offered to cut my hair. For those of you that know me, hair is very important to me. It sounds superficial but we all have our things. Mine just happens to be hair. So we blasted music (Lady Gaga's 'Telephone,' anyone?) and had a good time. I'll let the pictures tell the story. Enjoy!

The BEFORE picture. With old photos of me to give Gwen an idea.

Mid-cut. I love it!

Sweeping up the mess. I have so much hair, it's insane.

With the wonderful stylist herself. Mind you, she did this with a pair of scissors. No electric shaver or anything. She's genius!

International Women's Day!

I feel backed up in terms of blog entries, especially since I feel like a lot has been going on in my life ever since my last blog entry.

International Women's Day (March 8th) is one of the biggest celebrations here in Burkina Faso and fits perfectly with my sector (Girls' Education and Empowerment). I decided to spend it at Jon's and he did the multiple-day event that encompassed girls playing soccer against each other (a sport that you only see boys playing), theatre presentations on the importance of enrolling girls in school, etc. Very interesting and I was so proud of Jon for all the effort he put into making the event a success. It's motivating me to do something similar at my site next year! On the actual International Women's Day, they had a big celebration in the city centre that involved speeches for the village authorities and traditional Lobi dancing. Sweet!

Jon and his homologue/counterpart watching the theatre presentations.

The girls during the theatre presentations.

The march of women wearing the fabric specifically made for International Women's Day this year. I bought some of that fabric and now have a tee shirt made!

Traditional Lobi dancing with the balafons. I love the sound it makes!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Frustrations...and also being reminded that no matter what, I'm still an American.

What a week! To start, I get back to site after a weekend in Gaoua (the Internet connection has been down for some reason and I needed to send some e-mails so I stayed longer than expected). I'm using this here blog as a venting board, so here it goes:

I turn on my laptop on Monday and...nothing. NOTHING! Nothing shows up on the screen, but I can hear the fan under the laptop slowly 'wheezing.' Ugh! So frustrating and I had a feeling this would happen. It's especially frustrating because I do work on this more than I expected (quarterly reports, things for projects/activities, etc.) and the fact that it could be broken upsets me. But Kyle's going to take a look at it so hopefully it'll be okay.

The heat is also getting ridiculous and I'm sweating like crazy. I think I might be getting heat rash on my forearms and hands which is kind of expected since I'm not used to this kind of heat. But damn is it itchy! Stomach problems during training and now this. Oyy!

A tell-tale sign that I've been living here for a little bit: my clothes and sandals are definitely showing it. I'm starting to see all these tears in my clothes, although I will say that was expected. My Rainbow sandals (most comfortable footwear ever!) are starting to tear (the strap on the left sandal) and it makes me sad because I wear these everywhere!

Work-wise, I started my Reading Club with the CE1 students (US equivalent is 2nd Grade). The teacher helped me divide up the class into 9 groups of about 6-7 students, each group with a chef (student leader) who can read well at grade level. Talked with the class as a whole beforehand and told them that after I met with all the groups, we'd do a big class competition to see which group understood the most, with a big grand prize at the end. They all seem motivated and excited!

I met with the first group on Wednesday and of course, they come late. But I was excited to work nonetheless and used the children's books I got in Ouaga. The two books I'm using are about manners/being polite in school and a book on a boy that loves soccer (the most popular sport here in Burkina Faso). I read aloud first and then each student took their turn reading a page aloud. I'd correct them on pronunciation and ask a couple comprehension questions after each page, awarding stickers to those that got the questions right.

I knew that there would be kids that couldn't read at grade level but I noticed one girl who couldn't read at all. I mean, I could hear the group leader whispering the words in her ear as she was 'reading' aloud. It was insane, but it's something I want to target now so they don't fall behind in school later. It's no easy task, and my first group meeting was exhausting but I'm here to help as much as I can.

Some of the Peulh kids on my porch after school. Look at the little boy (Hussein) with the white shoes. So cute! He was initially scared of me but I think we're all good now!

But the optimist in me is determined to not let these frustrations get to me!

This week, I was also reminded of how much of an American I am. No matter how integrated you are in a culture, you still carry traits/parts of you from your original culture. Here's a quick list of mine this week:

  • I wanted to get this Reading Club up and running a while ago but it's been hard trying to get in contact with the teacher. In the Burkinabè culture, whenever you want to start a project/activity, it's customary to consult with many people, particularly authorities, even if the project could be done by yourself immediately. While I could've easily gathered all the students, discussed logistics and run everything myself, I still needed to consult with the teacher.
  • The Ouattaras always mention 'time is money' (I guess it's a saying that they got from the American movies they watch and they always joke how Americans say it all the time). But it's true! It was getting dark one evening and I was talking with Rachid and a few friends. But I wanted to rush out and get bread for dinner before it got too dark/late because I hate biking at night. I grab my bike and as I leave, Rachid says: 'Wow, you always seem to be in a hurry.' Which I guess I didn't really realize until he said it. I wonder if his conception of 'being in a hurry' is my conception of 'doing things at normal speed,' if that makes any sense.
  • My laptop. It reminded me of the convenience we have back in the US. Whenever something like a laptop is broken, you can just drive to Best Buy and have it fixed in a day. No problem. Here in Burkina Faso, not so much...
  • One afternoon, one of my neighbors was washing his moto and he asked if back in the US, I wash my car every week. It was such a random question but it reminded me so much of how much I missed riding in my car. And with my friends! I blame all those years of college in LA, driving everywhere! Haha.
  • Personal space. The concept doesn't really exist here...usually I'm pretty open with people but after living next to the school and having 20 kids peep through your windows and door all the time, it can get exhausting. Like a fish in a fishbowl. But I'm getting a wall soon! haha
  • One of my neighbors is a teacher and she recently had a baby. And now her mother-in-law cares for the baby as my neighbor goes to work. Seeing the grandma reminds me so much of my Grandma back home and reminded me of the accesibility to family back in the U.S. And even if I was far away, all it took was a simple phone call or a drive back home for the weekend.
  • Thinking ahead/the future. A couple of people (like Ali) have already asked me what I'd be doing after the Peace Corps and if I'd be extending for a third year. But I haven't even reached the halfway mark of my service yet! Anyway, it's got me thinking...

And that's that! I apologize if this seemed more like a bitch (excuse the language)/rant list...Heading to Ouaga again next week for a VAC meeting and I get to meet our new Country Director. Holla!