It’s been a few weeks since I last posted so hopefully I can think of something interesting to say. Our time in Ouaga is up, but the plumbing and wifi were nice while they lasted. The past few weeks have been pretty much non-stop training from 8-5 every day: we spend several hours a day working on language (I think I’m getting a litttttle better) and then have other sessions about health, safety, and GEE related activities. It has been long and exhausting but the bucket bath when I get home usually makes for a nice end to the day.
Two weekends ago the GEE group got a little break from training to go on ‘demystification.’ We were split up into groups of three or four and traveled to a current volunteer’s site for three nights. The town I visited was a provincial capital and most of Friday was spent in transit. We left Ouaga around 7 on Friday and took a bus halfway to our village. Apparently we were pretty spoiled because our bus was complete with upholstered seats and we were lucky enough to have some Chinese action flicks dubbed in French for our entertainment. We stopped for lunch before continuing the rest of the way on a bush taxi. Bush taxis are a primary mode of transportation here in Burkina and the staff and volunteers did a good job of talking them up beforehand. I unfortunately missed the day of training where a bunch of the LCFs (Language and Cultural Facilitator) presented a skit (complete with a live goat) about the conditions of a bush taxi. The gist was that there would be upwards of 20 people in a van, the taxi has a high likelihood of breaking down, we would probably share it with some type of animal, and people just might hand us their children to hold for the entirety of the ride. My first bush taxi experience wasn’t half as bad as I was expecting. I was with a group of nine people who piled in first, but before leaving the town, what was probably meant to be a 15 passenger van was carrying 22 people. I was a little disappointed when there wasn’t any form of livestock on board (no comparison to another group who had upwards of 20 goats on top of their van) but we did have a couple of men standing on the rear bumper, hanging of the back of the van for the entirety of the two hour drive. By the time we finally arrived at the volunteer’s site, it was probably about 3 in the afternoon.
We stayed with a volunteer, Joanna, who lived in a small house that was part of a family compound. She had two rooms in a house to herself and electricity (!) that she shared with the other houses in her courtyard. We spent the weekend visiting her school, library, and meeting various people she worked with. Oh, and did I mention an LCF came with us? So of course we had our 2 hours of language each day. It was quite a relaxing weekend and a much needed break from training. The idea behind demyst was to be able to see the type of work other volunteers are doing, see how they live on a daily basis, and give us a better idea of what we are looking for in a site (running water and wifi?). Monday we returned to Ouaga before continuing to our new training city. There was a minor miscommunication where we thought we would be staying the night there before moving on, but we were able to make an afternoon bus and met all of the other trainees here that night.
Last Tuesday it was back to the 8-5 grind of training. That Friday we got new host families (yay!). This time around they paired everyone up – apparently it’s a bit difficult to find 80 families willing to host trainees in a matter of a week, strange. Now I’m living in a family ‘compound’ with another Secondary Education volunteer. We have our own ‘house’ which consists of two rooms: one sitting area and our bedroom. The house is complete with an indoor shower (corner of the room with a hole in the wall) and electricity. The family owns a small restaurant/kiosk that they run out of the front of the house. I’m still not entirely sure the how the family is structured, but I do know who the mom and dad are and there is one sister who eats with my roommate Roxanne and me every night. Although I don’t interact with them as frequently as I did with my family in Ouhigouya, they have been really accommodating and welcoming. I do have to report, that due to my lack of French skills and fear of being an inconvenience, I have given into eating meat. I had my first chicken wing last week and it wasn’t half bad. Thankfully I was in the shower when my family caught and slaughtered the chicken in our courtyard – I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet.
As far as ‘work’ goes, we started girls/girls and boys clubs last week with the students in “model school.” Model school was set up so the SE trainees get a chance to practice teaching, so a ton of kids basically signed up for summer school and a lot of them have been awesome enough to sign up to come in on Saturdays to guinea pigs for the GEE trainees. I’m working with two other girls with a group of troisième kids (basically ninth graders) in a small theater club. The first two meetings went really well and while there have been the expected snags due to communication difficulties, the kids seem to really be opening up and enjoying themselves. You don’t have to be in this country for more than a day to realize that just about every Burkinabe is a natural born actor.
In other news: I went to the tailor for the first time last week to have a couple of skirts made and they turned out surprisingly well. The way people buy most of their ‘traditional’ clothes here is they go to the marche and buy pagnes (rectangles of fabric), take them to a tailor, and have something custom made. A couple of people’s host families have gone crazy taking them to the tailor or having tailors come to their houses. My experience was part of a French lesson to basically see if I was capable of completing the entire transaction – and I did it!
There’s not too much else to report. I’ve been pretty healthy so far, which is more than a lot of people can say. I missed one day of training which I’m pretty sure had something to do with eating vegetables in a restaurant that weren’t bleached to my tummy’s liking. I think my body is starting to acclimate to the food and weather slowly but surely. There have been a few nights that I’ve even had to pull up a sheet over myself in my sleep which I thought would never happen. Luckily we are in a big enough town that we have easy access to internet cafes, can get cold drinks whenever we want, and have decent selection of fruits and veggies.
I guess that’s all I’ve got for now. I have been getting mail (yay!) so the address I have posted does work. Thanks to Al and Tines I have the beginnings of a small pantry, and art for my walls in the form of post cards provided by Ouisie. Hope everyone is doing well at home, I certainly miss everyone like crazy and will try to be better about updating on a more regular basis. Until next time!