Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Alphabet project done...and lots of rain. Finally!

As the school year comes to a close, so do most of my work projects...like one that I've doing for the longest time with the CP2 (1st grade level) students at two primary schools in my town: the Alphabet and Literacy Project! I love working with kids. <3

Aaaand on another note, rainy season is sure upon us. One day, it rained SO hard and for so long that it flooded my courtyard. See the pictures below to what it was like!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Passing the proverbial torch: PSDN training

Can somebody please say "full circle" again?! This Peace Corps thing does it to you, and I feel like this won't be the last time I say I'm coming full circle, haha.

Immediately after the MAP Conference/visiting the host family in Komsilga, I headed straight into new PSDN training. PSDN stands for Peer Support and Diversity Network -- essentially, a group of selected Peace Corps Volunteers that provide emotional and mental support to fellow volunteers.

Sadly, Bovard (my fellow Co-Chair) and Mike (Training Manger) couldn't make it, so it was Stephanie and I that were leading the group of new blood, so to speak! Lots of work but also lots of fun, and I'm very confident in the newest batch of PSDN members for Peace Corps/Burkina Faso. Good luck!

This woman is amazing! <3

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Visiting the host family one last time in Komsilga!

Because I was in Ouahigouya for the MAP Conference already, I decided to take a trip to visit my host family in Komsilga one last time. Coincidentally, all of us that lived in Komsilga (our host village) during training two years ago (Marita, Coleman, Charley and I) were all in Ouahigouya at the same time and decided it would be best if we all biked together!

We headed out the day after the MAP Conference in the morning, buying little gifts for our host families in town (mangoes, bread, coffee, etc.) and took the less-than-an-hour-but-always-seems-longer-because-of-the-heat bike ride to Komsilga. Biking there was just like I remembered it -- but I felt like I completely different person biking there. Like I was truly coming full circle with my Peace Corps service.

Coming down the hill when you first arrive in Komsilga, it looks like this. Literally, in the middle of (seemingly) nowhere. Here's a good shot of Coleman and Marita biking in, with the Komsilga sign in the foreground and the new mosque in the background.

In Burkinabè culture, protocol is absolutely essential to follow. So we first said hi to the chief of the village, giving him kola nuts as is tradition, before visiting our host families. The chief said it meant a lot that all four of us returned, and he continued to give us benedictions of good health, that our families back home are doing well and that we continue to make this world a better place. I think when he said the last thing, I started to tear up...and it's funny because he was speaking in local language. And while I don't understand much Mooré or Jula, his facial and body expressions said it all. Powerful stuff!

We first went to visit Charley's host family because he had to leave a little earlier. Afterward, we visited Marita's and I swear, her host mom is so freakin' amazing!

Charley and his host family.

Marita with her host family.

Then it was my turn to visit 'home'...weird, because I was there almost a year ago when I was working PST as a PCVF/P. But to think I'm coming back for the last time to say goodbye to them was utterly surreal.

The great thing about my host family is that their compound is a little isolated from everyone elses. When you think stereotypical African village of huts and animals everywhere, this is it! And it's on its own little hill which makes it that much more picturesque.

My host family's compound. The hut I lived in during training in 2009 is the second from the left.

Marita and I chilling on my porch with my host dad, Mamadou, in the background.

Giving the host family some gifts -- mangoes, bread, coffee, etc.

My ever-growing host family and I!

With Charley, as this would be our last picture together in Burkina Faso before he heads off back to the U.S.

After Charley left and Coleman was still at his host family's place, Marita and I just relaxed at my host family's compound, taking a nap as if it were typical Sunday afternoon in Komsilga with no worries in the world.

We had been at my host family's for some time now, realized that the sun was setting quickly and needed to head back to Ouahigouya. So Marita and I dropped by Coleman's host family to say a quick hello before leaving.

Coleman and his multilingual host dad. Funny, funny man!

As we were biking up the little hill and heading down it to where we would no longer see Komsilga, it became bittersweet. Very bittersweet.

But I came to the realization that while it may be goodbye as a Peace Corps Volunteer, only God (or whatever greater being/force you believe in!) knows whether or not I'll return to West Africa, specifically Burkina Faso, in the future.

I'll leave you with this last photo of me in Komsilga with my host family's compound in the background...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Men As Partners (MAP) Conference

Do you ever have those moments where you tell yourself: "Man! If I only knew about this/had do this sooner, it would've made life a lot easier?"

Throughout the whole Men As Partners (MAP) Conference (in French, Hommes Comme Partenaires), I kept telling myself that. It would've been perhaps the most effective training I could have received as a male Girls' Education and Empowerment (GEE) Volunteer and it was bittersweet that I was getting this training at the end of my service.

In any case, I thought it would be good to bring an extremely motivated and engaged counterpart, my friend and the President of the Parents' Association at my primary school (called APE - Association des Parents d'Elèves), Nazaire. I decided that he would be the best counterpart for the volunteer that replaces me, and what better way to introduce him to Peace Corps, our approach to community development and gender equality than by bringing him to the MAP Conference!

In essence, the MAP Conference compiled about 10-12 Peace Corps Volunteers from various regions in Burkina Faso, and each was asked to bring one motivated, male counterpart from their communities to participate. It was led by the Gender and Development (GAD) Committee of Peace Corps/Burkina Faso, and was the first of its kind to be done here.

Overall, an absolutely amazing training! We talked about gender roles, did many activities that you can find in our Life Skills book and were able to put to practice many of the things we learned throughout our 3 days of training.

My hope is that my replacement volunteer will have an easier transition to site when he/she arrives in September, and will have a counterpart that better understands Peace Corps, the GEE program and can work well with the new volunteer to get projects and activities going faster!

Nazaire and I during the last day, handing certificates to our counterparts.

Group picture -- all the volunteers and our counterparts.

One of my Peace Corps favorites, Lorena! And our matching US/BF pagne outfits. <3