I’m back from a long hiatus from posting. If any of you happen to follow the news on Burkina (which I didn't until I lived here), the political situation has been a little tense these days. The basics are this (and I’m going to try and keep this as politically correct as possible): In February a student died while in police custody and students rioted (school strikes, burning buildings etc.) in response to what they believed to be corruption and unnecessary police brutality. School was basically cancelled nationwide off and on for the next month to prevent further incidents. Then unrelated events concerning military officers opposing the sanctioning of fellow officers (on at least two separate occasions) led to military unrest. In addition; an annual scheduled protest of the high cost of living went a little further that usual. Stores were looted throughout the capital. On top of all of this, other military protesting involved officers firing their weapons in the air led to a few casualties by fallen bullets: All of this you can find online at various news sources if you look hard enough.
The president reacted to all of this by completely dissolving his cabinet; re-electing a new prime minister and meeting with the heads of military, police, etc to discuss reforms. He appointed new members to his cabinet, eliminating some superfluous positions along the way. After all of this further protests by worker unions prompted to promise lowering the income tax among other things. I have never enjoyed politics, nor was I really one to follow the news at home, I know I’m leaving out events, but this has basically been the situation as I’ve seen it. Through each of these events we’ve been updated via texts and phone calls. As of now however, everything has calmed down and we’re all back to business as usual…
The most frustrating thing about this situation has not been safety. There has never been a moment when I’ve felt unsafe – maybe unsettled but never unsafe. I live in a village of about 2,000 people – few of whom have ever been further than the 15 K away that it takes to get into the nearest town. Clearly these aren’t revolutionaries making demands of the president – they hardly know why school was cancelled for so long (and I mean that, not to insult their intelligence in any way, but merely to state the facts).
What is difficult about the situation is the mindset that it has put some of the volunteers in. Of course no one is to blame but the nature of the situation is that it changes daily. Unfortunately this has meant interruptions to any work that people might be doing. It has been difficulty to start projects when we don’t know if we are going to get to see them through. Various conferences and meeting were cancelled or rescheduled multiple times – making it difficult to try and plan for the upcoming months and weeks. It is unfortunate that our training group’s service has been so exceptional starting in July with our unexpected move, but I think we all knew coming in that it wouldn’t be the easiest two years of our lives. Luckily; everything has calmed down for the most part for a little over a week now and everyone is starting to get back into somewhat of a normal routine.
On the work front I recently started making liquid soap with several women to sell in our village market. The first group was the AME (PTA for moms) at my primary school. They were eager to do it again, and I have since had success with three other groups who have sold the soap for about 50 cents a bottle in our market. I’m excited that this has been such a success because not only does it encourage good hygiene habits among my villagers, but the women are able to take in a profit upwards of 4,000 CFA (roughly 8 dollars) with each 16 litre batch they produce. That might not sound like a lot, but for a woman with no previous income, it surely makes a difference. This group has been a good resource for me as a link into the community. They have expressed interest in learning how to do other income generating activities that I can teach as well as an eagerness to hold formations in family planning among other things. I’m hoping that the next school year will bring lots of success with them.
Another thing that we’ve finally gotten off the ground is our girl’s soccer team. Hayley is the real expert on the sport, but I’ve been able to run a few drills in the instances that she has had to travel on practice days. Although we’re running out of time before the end of the school year, it has been rewarding to see how excited the girls are to be playing. They seem to have a blast running round; and are surprisingly tough – playing barefoot and frequently taking spills onto the hard dirt field. I think we will have a pretty legitimate team next year.
Since I last posted I also found out that I’m going to be training the new group of trainees that comes in June. It’s hard to believe that in two months I will be at the one year in country mark. That being said it’s about time for a vacation. A trip to Ghana is in the works and I’ll be sure to let you all know if that becomes a reality.
Oh, and I got a puppy! He still needs a name but the white one with the collar is Hayley's and her name is peanut.