Sunday, January 30, 2011

And so it begins

So I’ve been in ‘civilization’ now for about 2 weeks participating in IST (In Service Training) and really have no excuse for not posting an update. We have been pretty busy, but if I’m being honest I’ve really just been using my internet access for Facebook. I’ll try to use this opportunity give a rundown of the past couple weeks here.

On the 16th Austin and I caught the bus to Ouaga around 7:30 from the neighboring village of Tiankoura. Unfortunately, we were so eager to hop on the first bus that passed that we didn’t realize we had no clue where the bus station in Ouaga was going to be. Luckily, after the 5 hour ride, we figured out that we had been dropped off downtown, not too far from the volunteer house. I spent one night in Ouaga, saying goodbye to a few volunteers who had just finished their service and were headed to Morocco for their COS vacation. The next day I was headed to Koudagou, the site of our original training, back to our old stomping grounds. Austin and the other Health and SED volunteers stayed behind in Ouaga to have their first week of training, while all of the GEE volunteers from our group were in Koudagou. We spent the first week going over our experiences from our “etude” period, as well as learning a few new technical skills to apply at our sites. Some of the new information we learned was about secondary activities, including soap making, gardening, tutoring, income generating activities, and building community libraries to name a few. Other sessions retained a GEE focus, and we talked more about girls clubs, camps, and received information about how to teach sex ed./ reproductive health etc. Getting back into the grind of 8-5 sessions was a little rough, but it felt fulfilling to have such full days.

At the end of the week, we swapped places with the health and SED sectors in Ouaga. Sunday night our chosen counterparts arrived in Ouaga for a three day formation on Project Design and Management. The workshop was really informative, and although a little tedious at points, I felt like it was really worthwhile to have my primary school director there. The Peace Corps country director here gave a speech about the Peace Corps philosophy of development, how we go about starting projects in our communities, our job descriptions etc. Since we were able to choose our counterparts who we are planning to work with, it was important for them to hear these things directly from the mouth of our director. I’m hoping that this way, my school director will be able to take what he learned and relay the information to the other teachers at the school, and more importantly the rest of our community. The most useful part of the session was being able to take the outline of a theoretical project and apply it to something that we felt is a need in our community. My director and I decided to focus on the process of installing a water pump on school grounds. We felt that if we could get one installed, several other secondary projects could stem from it, including nutrition and hygiene. It was really exciting to finally start the ball rolling with this project and I will be pumped if we are able to actually make this happen.

Coming to Ouaga for me is always very bittersweet. It’s definitely exciting to see all my volunteer friends and I look forward to the opportunity to indulge in a few superficial amenities (wifi, plumbing, good food). In terms of this training, we learned some very valuable information that I look forward to being able to apply to my work in village. It’s also fun to hear what everyone is up to in their individual areas of Burkina and be able to hear stories of their interactions in village. Of course it’s always nice to be able to speak English, and know that you are able to really get your point across - that nothing is being lost in translation. On the other hand, it makes it hard being connected to the “real world” and knowing what I’m missing out on, so to say, back home in the states. I know it might be a little hard readjusting to village life after two weeks away, but I think that knowing that I have new goals in mind for what I want to accomplish will help soften the blow.

I have many more thoughts that I am incapable of articulating right now - I think it will just take a night back in village writing by lamplight to compose another coherent post. One thing is for sure, hot season is slowly getting underway...Awesome. I'm going to soak up one more night with electricity. Anyway, thanks to those who are still following my adventure, wherever in the world you are. :-)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New Website

We have a new website here in Burkina: I'm the ICT committee representative for Girls Empowerment and Education (GEE), and although I can't really take any credit for it, we're doing some cool stuff with volunteer resources. Volunteers and our program directors have the ability to upload news about their projects, events, grant opportunities etc. Check it out!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The first Noel...

I just passed a major milestone: my first Christmas away from home. Although I was anticipating the worst (locking my windows and doors, drowning my sorrows with filtered water and playing the Glee Christmas album on my ipod) it actually wasn’t a bad couple of days. Two of my closest volunteer neighbors were able to spend the holiday with me in Navielgane and it was definitely a Christmas I’ll never forget.

Hailey and Austin came in on the evening of the 24th – Hailey bearing the boxed wine we’d purchased the day before, Austin toting a chicken and a guinea hen. We were definitely at no shortage for livestock since around 7 that night my tutor shoed up with yet another chicken. Christmas day, after a breakfast of care package blueberry pancakes (thanks to Austin’s parents) we attended a four hour long (no that’s not a typo) church service held almost entirely in Dagara. We filled the rest of the day with a series of unconventional, yet delicious meals (including care package stuffing, homemade tortillas, and of course the boxed wine), puzzles, and naps. I’m still in total denial that the holiday even happened, or that time continues to pass in the U.S. in my apsence, but if I have to have holidays without my family, I’m glad I have other volunteers to share them with. And the Burkinabe too of course.

New years was spent with my neighbors and a few other people in village. Holidays here are starting to look the same when celebrated with Burkinabe: lots of chicken, pasta, and Dolo. I didn’t make it to midnight on NYE, but the real celebration here is on the first.

In a couple of weeks I’m headed o my final round of training. In December was a week of language: I had an awesome trip to see Burkina’s one and only tourist attraction- Banfora falls. Now, its off to more technical training. I’ll be spending a week in my old training site and then another in Ouaga. I’m really looking forward to this training (IST) because it means that I’ll be able to start projects when I return to Navielgane, YAY!

This past week I had a meeting with a few members of the CVD. The actual meaning of CVD escapes me as I write this but it’s basically the equivalent of the village council. I wanted to ask them what were, in their minds, the most important things for me to do or their village. It was good to hear their perspective prior to training, so that now I have some things to research, gather materials on, etc. while I have access to them in Ouaga. It was definitely one of the most productive feeling days I’ve had in village in a while.

Not much else to report on this end. I’ve received a couple of really awesome care packages in the past few weeks, so I’ll end this post by saying thank you thank you thank you to: Mom and Dad, Erin, Tim and Chris, Grammy, Pilo and John, Sam, Uncle Joe, and all the aunties! Your support means the world to me and I’m so lucky to have family and friends like you back home. Love and miss you all!