Saturday, October 6, 2012
Friday, October 5, 2012
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Monday, July 30, 2012
It's that time again - time to celebrate my 3rd birthday in Burkina Faso.
This birthday was bittersweet. Not only because of my ever-advancing age, but all of our friends from our training group are leaving. Soon they will all be in the first world while we continue using latrines in the BF.
There was one bright spot however - someone scrounged up two candles - a 3 and a 2. I was delighted that I am not yet 32. Happy birthday!
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Saturday, July 7, 2012
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Monday, April 9, 2012
Sorry U.S.readers - there are lots of inside jokes here, but you get the idea.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Monday, March 5, 2012
If not, enjoy the latest from Burkina!
I could not have been more wrong. After ten months in Africa my body more closely resembled the rotund Jason Alexander. What little muscle I had quickly disappeared without a high-protein diet coupled with a weightlifting regimen.
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Saturday, February 18, 2012
A bottle of the finest wine $3 can buy. (Yes - a glass bottle!)
1 summer sausage courtesy of care packages
1 loaf of bread, toasted
2 rounds of FLAVORED Laughing Cow cheese (from America)
1 sachet (read plastic bag) of green olives
Unfortunately, half the items on our list can't be replaced once they're gone.
An added benefit of a two-person happy hour? No boring conversations about kids' soccer games or kitchen remodeling.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
|Birthday at the Cheesecake Factory!|
One week after returning Nicole became our very first visitor! She braved the 24+ hour trip and ventured into the unknown of Burkina Faso. She got her fair share of "you're going to Burkina what?" only to enter a land where many couldn't pinpoint the US on a map. Guess it works both ways. We spent time in our village where Nicole got so acclimated to living cheap, bucket baths, and latrines that other Peace Corps Volunteers mistook her for one of our own. We painted signs for Siaka's restaurant Marley's since I learned the previously week that James has zero art skills, then visited the waterfalls, domes, and hippo lake, played soccer with kids, and toured the village health clinic, where Nicole deftly diagnosed and treated our neighbor boy Issouf of ringworm. Put Nicole's bike skillz to the test when we traveled south to Niansogoni to see the cliff dwellings, then briefly stopped in Bobo before going on safari and seeing ELEPHANTS! Including cute 2 ton babies. I'll attempt to post a video later when I'm not writing on the iPhone in village in the dark. It was fun getting a new perspective on Burkina and life here.
After seeing Nicole safely off, we boarded a hellacious 24 hour bus ride sans air conditioning to Togo. Arriving two shades darker due to the dust, we spent hours washing our clothes and James's peanut butter covered bag. Sidenote: If you decide that you too want to bring 5 gallons of peanut butter from Ouaga to Lome on a bus, please make sure that it's closed well and won't explode all over the undercompartment of the bus and everyone else's luggage. Thanks.
We met up with our second brave visitor, John, and were off to see Ganvie, the village built on stilts in the middle of a lake in Benin. Beautiful – the Venice of West Africa. It was like any other villages we've seen except people took canoes instead of bikes and farmed fish instead of corn. There were boutiques selling phone credit, packets of spaghetti, and sachets of gin, women paddling around selling vegetables and other wares for making dinner or braiding hair. People collected (in canoes) around the water pump (yes, a water pump in the middle of a lake) and it became very dark at night without electricity. By some miracle the rickety two story place we stayed had lights and an actual shower and though James lost his iPod through a hole in the floor (retrieved by the nice lady selling booze and knitting in the courtyard), the place didn't collapse like I thought it would.
No time to rest as we rushed north to Mopti, Mali to see Dogon Country. Amazing. We hiked for three days through cliffs, celebrated New Year's in style, and ended at the awe-inspiring cliffside dwellings. Our guide Oumar was amazing as was the company.
Then life got pretty quiet. I enjoyed that for about one day then started in on school stuff. Incredible how much progress has been made! Met up with the President and Secretary of APE (parent's association) to buy the roof in Bobo then back to Banfora for the remaining supplies. The masons arrived January 16th, and they've been working non-stop. Already the building is unrecognizable, and I can barely keep up with pictures. Note on cameras: our Sony TX5 dustproof, waterproof, shockproof camera lasted about 6 months in Burkina before breaking. We're trying to get it repaired for the second time, but it's not looking good. If any Sony employees read this, I believe your company owes me a camera that can handle a little bumpy, dusty adventure. Pathetic attempt but I'll give you one more shot.
So lately James has been working hard with Siaka on his restaurant repairing the hangar and preparing to construct sleeping huts. He's also been spreading La Vie Chère internationally and prepping to repair the canal with the Rice Association.
I've been virtually living at the school. Every day there's a new problem to solve (Umm, what do you mean you didn't measure correctly for the roof?? Ok, I guess I'll climb the ladder in my skirt and show you masons how it's done) or cool new thing to see (400 liter cement handwashing stations!).
Overall the village has been amazing. The parents are motivated to help in any way they can (example: Paul's dad who is nicknamed "The American" repaired the metal doors and windows at cost, which was a third of the price if someone else did it). People constantly tell James and I thank you, and we remind them that it wouldn't be possible without their help, too.
This is definitely not a typical Peace Corps project. Most volunteers do few if any funded projects and when money is involved, it's usually less than $1,000. Part if it depends on resources (Karfiguela's school wouldn't be possible without your support and the grant from the US Embassy) and part of it depends on your view of development. Volunteers can effect change just by addressing a community's mentality.
Example: A PCV can conduct sensibilisations (awareness campaigns) and hold informal causeries (chats) with community counterparts and say, "God isn't the only one who decides if you get sick. You have some control. Wash your hands with soap, eat nutritiously, and go to the CSPS (health clinic) right away when you're sick instead of the traditional medicine man. That's how you can stay healthy."
Another really effective tool is to find the “Positive Deviants” in your community and empower them to be agents of change. Positive deviants are the rare people doing things differently, with better results. Maybe it's a mom feeding her kids well or a dad who's sending his daughter to university.
But sometimes, you can only talk so much. You can tell kids they're supposed to wash their hands with soap, but if there's nowhere for them to do this, how can they change their behavior?
When we arrived in village 1.5 years ago, the primary school made the top three list of most needed projects for every group we talked to from the chef du village to the women's associations to the rice cooperative. What was once a sore point for the village - an outside group came almost 10 years ago to build the school then bouffed (stole) the money and left, leaving the building and teacher housing unfinished - is now a source of immense pride. The entire village is excited to have a finished building since almost every single family has kids there, and the teachers and students are most excited of all.
I couldn't be more impressed with the way the APE bureau has stepped up to manage. Once they found out that I hadn't budgeted for paint, they became even more dedicated to finding the lowest prices for materials so they could have a beautiful finished building. Of course they leave all the tedious paperwork to me due to technological and literacy restraints, but I love it because it takes me back to Excel spreadsheets and crunching numbers, making budgets, and performing risk analyses. I miss being an accounting nerd :)
Enjoy a few pics:
The second saddest thing this week was noticing that one of the little boys who hangs around our house has a dislocated shoulder. I took him to the CSPS (remember our PC vocab from earlier?), and after looking at his arm and consulting with the boy and a couple village ladies, the major (head nurse) told me that the boy had dislocated it three years ago and he would have to go to the hospital in Banfora for surgery. When I asked how much that would cost, he said at least 75,000 CFA. I sucked in my breath. That's over half a month's stipend.
Would the major please explain to the little boy that he needed this so he didn't grow up handicapped?
Yes, the major said, but it wouldn't matter. The family can't afford the surgery and in the parents' mind, they can just have more healthy kids rather than pay the money to fix the one they've got.
Major, what can we do? Isn't there some group that can help?
Maybe, he said. Action Social. In Bobo. (It might as well have been in Paris). But I was white. Wasn't I going to pay for it?
I don't have that kind of money, I said. Please tell his family about Action Social. Explain that the boy's life will be so much better.
Ok. I'll try.
This must be one of my longest posts yet. Sitting here thinking happy thoughts about the school -- dancing kids! -- and a potential second annual girls camp this spring -- if the Gender and Development committee funds our grant! I'm off to take a bucket bath and go to bed. The sun and chickens will be up at 6 tomorrow :)