My last few days have been a littttle eventful here in Burkina. To fully explain what is going on here, it’s easier to give a little insight into what was supposed to happen…
So the last time I posted I was in Ouaga. I spent two nights there, getting oriented to training and all that. Friday came and we all took a bus to Ouahigouya. There, we spent three nights in a hotel, meanwhile getting to know the area, getting our bikes, and preparing for ‘adoption’ into our host families. On Monday, we had a ceremony where we all met our host parents and went back to their houses with them. My host family was small in comparison to many others: I had a host dad named Richard, a mom named Florentine, a brother named Brice and a one and a half year old sister. They were really nice, Catholic, very patient with my lack of French language skills, very accommodating to my veg needs (no I haven’t eaten meat yet).
I spent three nights in my host family, and was really beginning to become accustomed to the daily routine of 6am wake up calls, a full day of training, and returning home to eat dinner at home and spend some time watching world cup games or my brother teaching me French before retiring to the lovely oven of a room that they were providing me. This was supposed to continue for the full 9 weeks of training.
On Thursday, the last block in our training schedule was reserved for a “community meeting” where all the sectors (GEE, Heath, Secondary Education, etc.) were going to get together to discuss the highs and lows of the week, our plans for a fourth of July party (yay America) and a few other things. We started the meeting of and were told that our security officer had an announcement to make and would be joining the meeting shortly. Congo, the security officer entered the meeting a short while later to tell us that the Country Director had received notice of a kidnapping threat in our town of Ouahigouya. The ‘warden message’ wasn’t read to us at the time, but we were told that we would be spending a night in a hotel in Ouhigouya and not returning to our host families that evening. The health volunteers, who were living in families in villages surrounding the town, were told that they would be escorted to their villages at that time to pack up all of their belongings before returning to spend the night with the rest of us in a hotel.
Once everyone was finally together and somewhat settled throughout two hotels, Congo then came around to read us the warden message which went a little something like this:
"The U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou is issuing this Warden Message to update U.S. citizens on security concerns in the vicinity of Ouahigouya, Burkina Faso.
The U.S. Embassy has information that a group associated with Al Qa’ida in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) plans to kidnap an unidentified U.S. citizen in the vicinity of Ouahigouya, Burkina Faso. If the group is unable to locate a suitable U.S. citizen in the area, it intends to find another westerner to kidnap. The U.S. Embassy has declared the city of Ouahigouya and surroundings off limits to official U.S. government travelers unless prior authorization for such travel is expressly given. U.S. citizens are strongly urged to exercise caution and avoid unnecessary travel to this region.
This information is distinct from and in addition to the Warden Messages issued on June 5 and June 7, 2010, regarding the northern border regions of Burkina Faso."
We were told that we would be traveling to Ouagadougou in the morning, that the Peace Corps would be going around to all of our houses to collect our belongings, and we would most likely be staying in the capital for two weeks. Friday we arrived back in Ouaga, and yesterday our things finally met us here.
This chain of events was somewhat disheartening and a little frustrating to a lot of us. While we only had a few days to spend with our host families, there were volunteers in the region that were forced to pack up their things after almost two years in their villages. As of now, our training is supposed to start back up tomorrow and we will stay here until new host families can hopefully be arranged somewhere else in the country. Our director seems optimistic that training will remain on schedule and things will go back to ‘normal' as soon as possible. The things I’m certainly not complaining about right now are the WiFi, air conditioning, and plumbing- however it is going to be difficult to readjust to training in a whole new location, and without the total immersion that our homestay experiences were giving us.
Despite all the chaos, we had a nice 4th of July celebration today. We were able to rent out the pool at our new training site. We spent all days swimming (yay), eating hamburgers, and doing other American things. I think everyone is still in pretty good spirits and hopefully this little hiccup won’t effect our swear in date too drastically.
I received my first letter this week (thanks mom!) so I know it is possible to get mail, yay! Hope all is well in the land of the free and that everyone is having a fabulous holiday. I miss and love you all!