Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The trainees come for a visit...

Every year during PST, the new trainees either do a site visit or do something called 'demystification' (or 'demyst' for short). Demyst consists of a small group of trainees, accompanied with their language teacher, who visit a current Volunteer for a couple of days to see how life is like in Burkina Faso. It's a great way to get a better idea of how your life will be like for the next 2 years...also, it's a way to get away for a couple of days from the hecticness/craziness that is PST!

When they arrived on Friday in the afternoon, it was pouring rain. I mean, raining cats and dogs to the extreme! There were mini 'streams' all around my house and I was drenched as I biked to meet them on the main road. When they arrived I could tell they were completely exhausted because it was their first time on transport in Burkina. We ended up relaxing and snacking at my house. One of the trainees, Paula, used to teach Yoga around the world, so we did some Yoga at my school -- that hurts! I did Bikram Yoga with one of my best friends once a couple of years ago. That was intense but the Yoga I did in Burkina...for some reason, my body could feel it more. Anyway, I had the trainees get water at my pump for the first time. Absolutely hilarious! As nightfall hit, my neighbors came by and cooked the national dish of Burkina Faso -- -- with leaf sauce. has the consistency of jello and grits & looks like mashed potatoes. Hard to explain but actually really good -- really, it depends on the sauce.

Getting water at my pump! Talk about a workout. Seriously!

Some of the trainees enjoying tô with leaf sauce. So good! You can see my neighbor, Madame Constance, to the left of the picture.

Saturday was the big day where we did a long walking tour of my site. We met all the authorities that were there (the mayor, the police, etc.) and I was able to show them centre-ville (downtown, but not in the American sense...don't get it twisted, haha), the market, etc. Before the trainees arrived, I talked to the Directors of my high school and primary school, asking if I could borrow the classroom keys so the trainees can observe a typical Burkinabe classroom and make their observations/comparisons. So we were able to do that as well. In the end, it was an absolutely tiring and busy day, however, I think they got a better idea of how their lives would be like for the next 2 years.

At the sign nearby my house. Getting ready for a day full of walking and getting to know my site.

At the end of the day on my porch with some of the neighborhood kids (including a couple from my Girls' Club!).

Sunday was the final day and I offered the opportunity to see Jon's site. Jon was up in Ouaga teaching English at a summer camp-type thing, but we have the keys to each other's house, so I thought it would be a good opportunity for the trainees to see more of a village (since my site is more of a small town). Jon's counterpart, Papa, is seriously the best -- super motivated and willing to go above and beyond his 'call of duty,' so to speak. I texted him the night before, asking if he'd be able to give us a little tour. We saw Jon's house, dropped by the church, saw the market/common meeting grounds area and also took a look at the lake. Coming back, it was more relaxed and Jillian (another GEE volunteer in my area) came by to speak with the trainees on her life here, the activities she's implemented at site and to answer any questions they had -- all under my neighbors' big, shady tree. And Rachid made them try traditional African tea (3 glasses, which each consecutive glass getting sweeter and sweeter)! For dinner, I invited my neighbors and Frederic, the French volunteer at my site, to eat some American and Mexican food...totally improvised. We had tuna pasta salad, grilled 'cheese' sandwiches, village tacos (thank God for taco seasoning from the US!) and cucumbers with vinegar and black pepper. Mmmmm!
This is at Jon's site which has a little lake. The trainees are with Papa, Jon's homologue.

Drinking dolo, local millet beer here in Burkina Faso.

The trainees trying African tea for the first time. That courtyard under the tree is where I probably spend most of my time (chez the Ouattaras). Rachid's laughing in the background!
Mixing tuna pasta salad. With no electricity and multiple ingredients, it apparently takes 3 people! This picture is deceiving because it was super dark.

Grace-Victoire, the baby daughter of Madame Constance. So cute!

I'm a hot, sweaty mess but look at how cute Grace-Victoire looks!
The next day was our long journey back to the new training site in Koudougou, the third largest town in Burkina Faso (after Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulassso but before Ouahigouya). It was my first time traveling to the western part of the country and so far, I'm liking it!
Overall, I will say that preparing for demyst was stressful. I only had a day or two to prepare, meaning telling everyone at my site that they'd be coming, cleaning my house like no other (I regularly sweep my house but this time around, I cleaned everything) and just running around like crazy. But in the end, it was all worth it and I had an amazing time with the trainees and their language teacher. We're even thinking of doing a little reunion once they become settled in their sites and are official Peace Corps Volunteers!
More importantly, demyst made me appreciate my site that much more. Now that I'm moving on to my second and final year here in Burkina Faso, I feel like my footing on the ground much more solid and that, my friends, is an amazing feeling (especially if you look at me from a year ago)!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

PST is in full swing again!

It's been a year since I've been in Ouahigouya but damn, does it feel good to be back. There's something to be said about spending your first three months in a foreign country and calling it "home" -- and coming back after a year elsewhere, it feels like...well, it feels like home. Like going back to the US. I guess it's that sense of nostalgia that's tied to Ouahigouya that's made me feel so comfortable.

Anyway, PST (Pre-Service Training) for the new group of Trainees is finally here and I got here a week before their arrival (around the middle of June) to help prepare with our Technical Trainers, Diallo and Awa. They are absolutely amazing and it's bizarre being on the other side of the training realm. Hectic, exhausting but enjoyable all at the same time!

Before really getting in the full swing of things, Gwen, Marita, Ilana and I headed to my host family's village (Komsilga) to visit the host family!! I was so excited and anxious at the same time -- it's been a year since being there. Fortunately, Ilana was with us and her Moore is really good. Long story short, what I thought would be a quick "hello-bonjour" visit for no more than 30 minutes turned into a three-hour ordeal of greeting everyone. I almost forgot how long greetings were in the north of BF! Greeting the chef (village chief) and the rest of the village community was exhausting but something that I really, really miss, especially since the people in the south where I live are less keen to greet. When I went to visit my host family, it was just as I had left it, except my host grandfather was there. Man, talk about feeling like I was at home for a bit.

My host dad, Mamadou and I, next to the new mosque built at Komsilga, my old host village. My my, how things have changed! But my host dad is still the same -- laughing all the time!

Me with my host family's compound in the distance. Second home!

Fast-forward to June 23, I was lucky enough to go meet the new Trainees (Peace Corps Trainees = PCTs) at the airport in Ouaga. It was overwhelming seeing 57 Americans walk out of the airport and start their two years of Peace Corps service. Fielding all of their questions was quite the experience -- I forgot how many questions I asked as a PCT! We headed up to Ouahigouya, had a great welcome ceremony and started the nine-weeks of training. I don't even know where to begin in describing the hecticness of PST but what I do know is that I love it. In total, there are 79 PCTs here in Burkina Faso and it's the first time that all four sectors (Secondary Education, Girls' Education and Empowerment, Small Enterprise Development and Community Health) are coming together at the same time. Love being busy, meeting new people and getting PCTs acclimated to their new life. Sure, there were a few unfortunate glitches in our training but for the most part, things have been going well! The idea of the Peace Corps family is what keeps me (and everyone else) going.

Welcoming the new Trainees at the airport.

Marita, Jessi and I in our wonderfully awesome and decorative GEE cubicle!

Come July 4, the Peace Corps helped organized our celebration in Ouaga. Cake, cold sodas and beers, burgers, potato salad and chilling by the pool = the perfect July 4th celebration! I also came to the realization that this is my second time celebrating July 4th out of the US. Crazy!

Audrey and I chilling at the pool during the July 4th celebration. Second one for me outside the US!

I'm heading back to site after being gone for almost a month. I'll be having a few GEE PCTs come to my site next weekend for demystification. Demystification (or demyst, for short) is where PCTs visit a current PCVs' site and see how their life is like for a couple days. I'm a little nervous for that seeing as how I haven't been to site for a while due to PST, plus no one will be there since the school year's over and everyone either heads back to the big cities or visits their family in Cote d'Ivoire and elsewhere. Wish me luck!

Note: All pictures are taken courtesy of Gwen, the picture queen. Seriously, she takes pictures all the time and I love it.