Friday, June 25, 2010

Bienvenue a Burkina Faso

We've been traveling for over 24 hours (it feels more like four days) and have finally arrived in Burkina Faso! We got in around 9pm Wednesday night, and our intro to Burkina was a blast of hot air as we walked down the stairs of the plane. We waited outside the building for 10 minutes or so because the electricity was out, which was no surprise once we entered and saw that the airport was under major construction. The place looked more like an incomplete one-story office building than the airport of a capital city. Finding our luggage took some time as the airport staff unloaded hand carts while everyone crowded around the area, but we were quickly ushered to our lovely hotel and given food and water. Peace Corps has guided us the whole way and are easing us into the country. The hotel we're at actually has a weak wireless internet connection, showers, western toilets, lizards, and air conditioning, but all of that will change when we move to our training site on Friday.

Today was a busy day meeting our program directors, medical officers, and language instructors plus taking care of a few admin items like bank accounts and walk around money (a small amount of CFAs -- pronounced "say fuhs" -- for meals and other items). We had a delicious dinner at our country director's house of couscous with chicken and a yummy liquid yogurt with chunks of fruit and pearl millet, plus chocolate chip cookies and salad, which will become luxury items over the next two years.

Tomorrow morning we'll get a few vaccines (rabies, meningococcal, typhoid, hep A & hep B, and maybe a couple more for good measure). We started anti-malaria meds today and look forward to potential side effects like insomnia and vivid dreams when we do sleep. In all seriousness, the medical care is excellent, and we were told that we'll become quite close with our PCMOs (Peace Corps Medical Officers) since we’ll call them with all our various medical issues, small or large. In the afternoon we’re heading to Ouahigouya (why-he-goo-ya), which is our training site for the next two months. We'll spend a couple of days in a less nice hotel, then we meet our host families. We're excited to see more of the country and its people as we've been in the protective, American-friendly, training bubble so far.

We're getting to know our fellow trainees, which are a pretty awesome group. I've been surprised at how representative of the U.S. we are, as if you walked on a college campus and picked out people at random. Obviously we all decided to join the Peace Corps and with our idealistic hopes, we tend to be more liberal, but overall a great group and support system for the next two years. There are a few other couples and a handful of older women (lovely ladies who could be our mothers and grandmother – never too late to join the Peace Corps!) as well.

We have cell phones! Peace Corps provided us with SIM cards and we'll purchase phones in the next few days, so feel free to give us a call. My number is 74 29 02 85 and James's is 74 29 03 58. Country code is 226. All incoming calls and texts are free for us, and it costs us dollars a minute to call the U.S., but we can text you for 90 CFAs (say-fuhs), which is roughly 20 cents. It's much cheaper for you to contact us, ~40 cents a minute from the U.S. to Burkina using Skype. As trainees and later as volunteers, we don’t receive very much money, so we may not respond, but know that we'd love to hear from you. Don't forget that we’re five/six hours ahead of central standard time depending on daylight savings (right now it's five hours), and we tend to go to bed pretty early (sleep 10pm-6am Burkina Faso time). The heat and travel tire us out....

More posts to come as internet permits!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Today we move to Africa

It was incredibly difficult saying goodbye to our families and friends, but it's exciting to start this chapter of our life. Most everyone has been supportive, which makes all the difference as we prepare for two years and two months without electricity, running water, regular internet access, or family & friends.

We're in Philadelphia for Staging, which is basically a day of setting expectations and getting yellow fever vaccines (more shots given in host country) before flying to Burkina Faso. Our Staging group is fairly large -- 57 volunteers in total with another 20 or so Education volunteers in country -- and diverse in terms of background, age, relationship status, and experience. We've been enjoying the "last times" as much as we can -- hot showers, soft beds, American food (chocolate, cheese, and good beer :) ). We'll post more later since we're packing up now for the next leg of our trip -- bus to JFK (3 hrs), flight to Paris (8 hrs), airport wait (4-5 hrs), flight to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (5 hrs), then shuttle to our hotel. We'll be living with a host family for the next two months of training in Ouahigouya.

Today we move to Africa. It still doesn't seem real.

Friday, June 11, 2010


We're glad you could make it! James and I will share our experience serving with the Peace Corps here, so check back often for updates and pictures. We hope to see you again soon :)