Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Paint the City Red

3 Juillet 2010

First day in the city: Ouagadougou.

Posse: Austin, Nick, Nate, Kristen, Marina, Ashley, Josh and Brianna.

So – we got to walk around the “inner-city” due to the fact that Austin had already visited once before when he was traveling/working/volunteering in Togo. The city is actually more of a city now that we’ve walked around in it. My first impression was a little off because we really were outside of the “inner-city” when we were at the Dragon. Now that I’ve seen the city, I don’t like it. It's dirty. It's crowded. It's overpriced. It's like any other city - except brown from dust and dirt... and all the motos, lack of bathrooms, cars and cyclists. It really rubbed me the wrong way - and I'd much rather be in village than in the capital of the country. To justify the overpriced aspect: I ended up spending just shy of 5000 F CFA today which BLOWS, but I guess it was worth it? I've got some pineapple juice and a bar of soap to show for it. Wonderful.

We took a taxi out - and since I've begun buying things, I've noticed I'm a really great target for getting screwed over and paying way too dang much because of my accent and lack of a large vocabulary.... so back to the taxi - we get in the taxi and pay 300 CFA per person, when we should've paid 100 CFA per person because it's 5 per taxi and the trip was very very short. Yet, of course, because we're new to the area, having a different color skin and not speaking the language fluently nor the local language at all...we tend to pay more than necessary. Wohoo! The taxi was cramped, stripped and all the gadgets were not functioning - Really safe, ya? But we made it! As we begin to walk - people start to flock towards us!! Ohh - rich Americans!! Children came up to us to beg for good - which made me feel terrible, but I couldn't give one person something and not the other - and so you just have to say no. Men were pushing earrings in my face. Women were forcing peanuts down my throat! Panyas were being thrown and wrapped around me!! Okay - I exaggerate...but it was pretty bad.

So we ate lunch - me and Ashley shared a pizza for 2000 CFA each. That's really cher! Never will I eat out like that again. Finished lunch and all I wanted to do was go back to the hotel because I knew the bags would be back from Ouahigouya - but instead, we watched Argentina v. Germany and ate mango sorbet!! - I won't complain - it was amazing. The best thing I've had in my month of being in Africa. It was great. Then we were off to the supermarche - or rather the Marina Market - it was pretty much a French super market/grocery store - that's where I bought the pineapple juice and a bar of soap for my laundry. Then, of course, we were harassed by people on the street - caught a cab - due to moi! I used the great hand gesture of saying "slowdown, I need to hail a taxi!" gesture. And we paid 200 CFA this time. But, of course, the taxi driver didn't understand where we wanted to go, or what we were saying... so I called a PCVF and got him to tell the driver where we wanted to go - which is exactly what I told him earlier - and the driver said, ca va! and we were on our way. pish posh!

Took a shower - almost drowned in the never-draining shower at the hotel - but was thoroughly refreshed!! Went through my bags. Contemplated eating dinner. Played online - chatted with friends. It still feels a little weird here. It almost feels like a "trip" and is more temporary than I thought. I guess it really hasn't sunk in that this truly is my life for the next two years. I'll really be 24 when I get back to the States - if I go back. I really will be living with no electricity, no running water, no toilets, no shower... This is equivalent to: an associates degree. A masters program. A portfolio booster. 3 babies.

All of the above.
I'm here
I'm suck
No man
New friends
New affairs
New life



Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Let's Re-Cap, Shall We?

Jeudi. 1 Juillet 2010

We spent two night in village with our host family and then stayed the night in Ouahigouya last night. This - of course - only pertains to the Health volunteers because we're the only ones who are in a village outside of the city Ouahigouya. The program is set-up like that so we'll have a more realistic idea of what village will be like at our site - rural - no electricity and no running water.

Alright - let's sum up the past few nights.

Village = Sissamba = 10K away from Ouahigouya = 6 miles bike ride to Ouahi & 6 miles back to Siss. My host family consisted of my mother: Marium and my father:_______ (1. I don't know how to spell it & 2. I don't really remember his name). They have 3 children -> two boys and a girl. I don't know if all of that is accurate - but that's what my dad told me. BUT! Don't think that's all there was... There were many women in my compound - a butt load of men and even more children. Donkeys. Goats. Cows. Chickens.

My first night was more than overwhelming (as you can tell from the last post) - it was exhausting - overwhelmingly hot and awkward. I get there and I'm pretty excited but then really realize the communication barrier is very thick and that my ability to speak French is not going to help if my mother can't speak French either.

So, I get there and I immediately have an audience of 30 children. My mother tells me to sit down and gives my my baby brother to play with - he's adorable, so I do. Then another baby is given to me - it's TINY - I ask how old it is, and the mother says 5 days. GEEZ. So itty bitty. I give it back and ask my mom where I take my shower. She gives me a bucket of boiled water and proceeds to show me where the shower area is. So - hot bucket bath - while being hot and then always being constantly concerned about someone walking "in on you" - it's more like someone peeking around the corner to find you bathing yourself... These things are no good and just added to the stress. My room is LITERALLY at least a constant 95 degrees F and stays that way all night long. So the first night was a nightmare because - as many people know about me - I like to keep my room cooler at night when I sleep - and now it was impossible to even think of it being cooler. I pretty much laid in bed staring at my mosquito net and contemplating my time here in Africa. It was tough.

My second night was a lot better - I actually talked to my family. My mom and dad and some other members of the compound were friendly and patient enough to talk to me. I used the CORRECT cup for my bucket bath - ha - that's from the 1st night - I couldn't find the right cup to bathe with - so I walked into my courtyard and found a cup, took it to my douche area and used it to rinse myself off and whatnot. Well - when my mom was cooking dinner - she started looking around for something to scoop out the food... ohhhh... that's what that was for. :\ I appologized and felt so stupid! Really embarrassed! and I told her I used it - she just laughed at me. Later I found that the cup was in this HUGE metal trunk. This trunk also had my lantern - my mom saw me struggling to get my stuff unpacked in my dark room...and to really just function... and so she told me to come with her and she got my lantern out of my trunk too. Yay for not knowing how to survive in a new place by myself!

So YES! Second night was "amazing" in comparison to my first - with the exception of sleeping! I still couldn't sleep well at all. but I did try to tell my parents I would sleep outside - but that I needed a mosquito net while I slept - but they didn't think to help I gave up on that idea. Yet - around 21:30 or 22:00, my father knocks on my screen door and has a metal frame in my courtyard - this is without saying that it was a night full of lightning and clouds thinking of opening up and raining. So I was trying to tell them that I didn't want to get struck by lightning because the metal bedframe...I tried pointing to the lightning and making noises and acting like I was afraid - but my dad just kept on saying I was afraid of the rain - which was inaccurate. They really just laughed at me and I ended up sleeping in my dutch-oven of a room again - and didn't really sleep at all.

Bike Ride - OHHH bike ride - it was difficult riding out to site the first time - BUT I know it would've been better if we didn't stop 4 times and if I weren't wearing a skirt that kept on getting stuck to my breaks... some weird attraction between my break pads and my blue and white skirt. weird. It was terrible. But I literally thought I was going to puke at least 5 times, but I never did - and so I just felt terrible and had zero relief. But - this was the ride TO Sissamba... The ride to Ouahigouya was amazing. Took us just about thirty minutes and all me and Ashley discussed was what foods we were craving at every moment:

Strawberries. Blackberries. Raspberries. Homemade Whipped Cream. Veggies: Artichokes. Asparagus. Squash & Zuccinni. Celery & PB.

Oh so many foods we were missing and my mouth is now salivating profusely!! Sushi was a mutual desire and we both discussed how we'd love to go to China and Japan for the next three weeks due to food & men. ;]

So, this long entry brings me to a US Embassy message directed towards Ouahigouya, Burkina Faso. There's been a threat against a unidentified individual. Who they think the threat is from: Al Quiada and then a bunch of acronyms. We were given this message of a threat yesterday afternoon during our "community meeting" session. Health volunteers were told that they'd be escorted to their village to college all their things and come back to Ouahigouya and stay at a hotel with all the other PCTs and PCVs affected by the threat. This threat means we're unable to continue with staging in Ouahigouya. We're in a state of Standfast until Monday, 5 July. On Monday - we'll start training again and will continue for at least two weeks. Everyone is really frustrated - but calm. We're all keeping things in perspective and trying to be flexible. None of us thought any of this would happen - and I didn't think it would happen so early. Things look hopeful - as in - training will continue and the threat is not rooted in Burkina Faso. I just hope we can still continue with the language and keep the benefits of the host family without being with a new one. I'm not saying I don't want to be with a new host family - I just know all the logistics and hard work and preparation it takes to host 79 volunteers...and I don't know if we have that time.

But - Alas! we are now in a safe place! We are at a hotel around the city - but outside of the hustle-bustle nightlife area. We'll be continuing classes and sessions at the ISO across the way and having a Forth of July party together on Sunday. All is well.

To continue with the night:

We've had a bunch of really good talks with some of the fellow HE volunteers and it's interesting to know that PCVs attempt relationships here, dating each other and even the Burkinabe. The converstaion was a bit short - and too vague - but interesting non-the-less. Learned there's a PCT here that's a few weeks younger than me - which is crazy in my mind. And talked about ex-boyfriends/girlfriends and current relationships from back home. More details to come. I'm still going to stay away from getting any feelings: oh you're interesting, physical attraction, etc. It just seems pointless, sticky and distracting.

I do hope my American Red Cross care package comes in sooner than later! ;]

Where am I?

This is what was put in my journal the night I moved in with my host family:

28 Juin 2010

I feel terrible today. It's a continuation of the feeling from yesterday. Sick-Churning-Stomach-Weak (from not eating) and just tired.

I wasn't ready at all. I'm at my host family and I'm in bed. I just want to cry.


Yea - apparently I was not happy. What made it a little worse - other trainees had a marvelous time with their host family and were telling such amazing stories of how accommodating their family was - and how much they sat with their host mother and father and just discussed life - well, to their best ability.

It was brutal.

Frayed Ends

27 Juin 2010

Another day in Ouahigouya - another day of training. I seem a little bit frazzled. Not sure why. We move in with our host family tomorrow evening and I was placed in Sissamba. Not sure where that is - but I guess I'm a bit bummed I'm placed in an all female group. I like being around guys - joking around with them, getting their perspective, etc. But now I'm in a group of 3 other girls: two I don't really know, and then Ashley being the third. I'm excited she's in my village - but I just wish I were with a more energetic group. There are a handful of girls I have been gravitating towards because of their energy - and now I won't see them. I suppose that's why I'm upset or frazzled. The other groups are larger. Health is broken up in three groups: Oula, Somyaga and Sissamba. I feel like I depicted myself differently than intended to Dr. Claude - who helped place us with our host families.

Continued from earlier:

I'm calming down. Received my phone today, bought units to call with and find out that the most essential button doesn't work. Joy. I feel really stressed out - but I know it will pass - So,

Okay! Lunch was pretty gross - unappetizing - more than likely it was my mood not allowing me to eat, so I only ate a little. My French is still bad. Our test results came and I'm [nov low] - the lowest of the low - the ultra beginner. I'm kicking myself in the ass right now because it was my own fault for not studying. So with the topic of language: I tried speaking to a 15 year old and felt like a little baby. It was terrible. I'm really just scratching my nails against this filter in my head - trying to open the holes so more knowledge can flow in and can come out properly.

Aside from language - I'm okay. I'm really excited about the host family. I can't wait to see what they look like - how big the family is - what they're like - etc. I'm just really excited. and I can't wait to learn the language.

I CAN'T WAIT to learn the languages: both French and Moore. I long to be able to converse with the people of Sissamba and the other villages.

I just wish it would come faster.

Let the classes begin.
I'm ready.

Monday, July 12, 2010

New Eyes

This is my entry that was written in my planner due to the fact that my journal wasn't with me when we were in route between Ouagadougou and Ouahigouya. My thoughts were a little scattered seeing as though this was my first time out of the city and on the road. My first time seeing a small fraction of Africa.

Bare with me - I was in and out of sleeping...

25 Juin 2010

We're driving through northern Burkina and I'm just amazed. Everything is a mix of green, brown and grey. The trees are both small and tall, green with leaves - but the trunks range from brown, to tan, to grey. Most are medium size - but there are some that soar into the sky with big fat trunks. The ground is either brown and very dry, or is turned up and planted - or completely green with bushes/shrubs and tall grass. It's beautiful. It's nothing I though I'd see here in Burkina Faso. It's flat - but beautiful. The sky is permanently grey - but always very sunny. You can barely make out the clouds - it's like there's a film between the dark blue sky we flew within to get here and the dusky land of Africa. I'm hoping to see the blue again one day.

There are goats and donkeys everywhere - I've only see a few clusters of cows & bulls here. I really want a goat - so cute!

The people seem to be VERY hard working - the main form of employment seems to be agriculturally related. There are never ending crops every which way you look. We pass these small "communes" or very small villages with mud huts, thatched roofs and a community wall surrounding and connecting the huts. It's beautiful, quaint and very surreal. It makes my heart glow - and my mind spin all at the same time. It makes me think these communities are so tightly run and close - the people are truly the other's neighbor in the very definition of the phrase - and holds true to it's meaning. I hope to be in a tight-knit community. I want the people to accept me and allow me to help them as they help me.

I've seen little kids on the side of the road carrying things to sell - them wandering out in the vast and open land that swallows this cement highway. I see them and my heart goes out to them. I want to go play with them - make them smile. Learn from them. I really am hoping to have a host family with a ton of kids. I'm looking forward to seeing their faces!

We've come upon our first hill!! YES! About an hour north of Ouaga, there are hills to the west of me... But only for a short time.

Everyone and everything is skinny here. I've seen men running for recreation - so maybe it's not just malnutrition? But it's a little weird - a donkey or cow is skinny and I feel sorry for it, but the people are in the same situation - and my empathy is for the animal? No. I need to feel sorry for both or none. It's just difficult for someone to put the two together because one can speak and act - while the other cannot.

Well - we just stopped in the middle of no-where and were told that's our bathroom break! Me and Althea went to go squat and "spot" each other. I was a little apprehensive at first - but did it anyway. While building our house in the Commons, we had to pop-a-squat out in the woods...yes, it's a little different when a bus unloads and everyone needs to find a bush in this very flat and open land...but I figured if I could do it back home, I can do it here too. It felt GREAT! a little awkward, but good relief - if you will.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Quick Feet. Gallons of Sweat.

*since I don't have access to the internet on a regular basis, I'll be updating my blog every so often with past entries in my journal...This is from our first night in Ouahigouya*

Vendredi, 25 Juin 2010

Tonight was a blast - the most fun I've had in months! We'll start from the beginning:

We started out in the Dragon Hotel in Ouagadougou! ::

Wake up - get breakfast: consistent of bread, egg & coffee. The bread, croissant, is amazing. The eggs were hard boiled - so they were okay, but great to have. The coffee - well, I hope we all know that I don't, and still don't, drink coffee...I hear it's just okay for all the coffee lovers, and pretty great for those who don't drink too often. After breakfast we had our first session. We met our PCMOs *Peace Corps Medical Officers, Sylvie and Jean Luke who told us about how they help us medically, emotionally, etc. - Just a quick overview of what they do for us, how we can reach them, when we can reach them and what we should do in certain situations. They are hilarious! And so nice. The best part is that they care so much about their job, and about what the volunteers are doing. Then we got our shots... yay? I received three vaccinations: typhoid, men-a-something... and Hep A. Two shots in one arm, and one in the other. My arm was SO sore!! I couldn't lift it for the rest of the day, and when I did - I could only go half way. Next: Survival language! For those of us who can speak French already - they moved on to Moore. As for me and a good handful of people - we got a survival French. It was pretty easy, but a good overview. I really don't have any excuse as to why I can't remember my French - I took four semesters in college, and did well in all of the classes. I blame this filter in my head - it's not allowing me to retain any of the language that's seeping in, and everything I have in my head isn't able to filter out of my mouth. Our teacher for the day was Theo! He was great - and was really thorough about our pronunciation and writing things down so we could see what he was saying. Overall - I'm really excited about the language classes.

Off to Ouahigouya via bus!!

North-East is where we were headed. I sat shotgun in the big bus - not the safest place to sit (we came to learn later on in the week of training) - but it was really amazing. I got to see everything with ease - no dodging people's camera's or heads or worrying that I wouldn't see where we were going. Front row seat. Du Rien. It's all so beautiful - flat - but beautiful.

My planner has my journal entry from this bus ride - I'll put it in when I have my planner on me

Destination complete: Ouahigouya.

When we arrived ALL the volunteers were here to greet us and welcome us into the city. It was really great - so touching. Quite an eye-opener: to see all the volunteers exuberantly cheering and clapping just because there are more people here to help them out and to help out Burkina Faso. It's such a close-knit family here. So we moved into a little hotel - room for three - and got our luggage from Ouaga! FINALLY!! I was really worried about my computer and camera being stuck on top of the buses en route.

Then came the food! Veggie dish: rice avec legumes. OR you could have gotten fried chicken with french fries. Had a Brakina - a local beer here - it's pretty light, but I couldn't finish all of it...gave half of it away. But it was good none-the-less

After dinner came the best part!




D A N C I N G !

A band from Mali (Je pense) was playing drums, a xylophone thing and singing. There were dancers and just full of energy. They invited all of us to dance with them and that's exactly what we did. It was, by far, the best time ever. We all were *attempting* to flow with the music, some were succeeding, all were sweaty and all looked like fools. The dancers were so fluid, and so energized. It was the best!

It was really hard to put this night into words...and I'm sure I didn't succeed at painting an unbelievable night - but this is what you got. I loved every second of it. The only thing is that I wish I were able to capture it on camera - my camera was lacking in that department - night shots ce n'est pas bonne when there's moving. At least it's in my memory.

Let us see what tomorrow brings...