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Updated: 1 year 4 weeks ago

Tough Skin

Tue, 02/05/2013 - 18:36
Burkina Faso Peaces of Burkina Faso 2012-11-17 14:27:00
"My hands don't bleed anymore."
When they asked what in my service I was most proud of, that's the answer that come out. Which, of course, took some explaining. ...
I went to my friend Alima's mother-in-law's house the other day. Alima and her husband had been there harvesting, and I hadn't seen them for a while. So, in true Burkina fashion, I invited myself over. 
The morning I left for the visit, my bike had a flat. I went to the bike-repair-man to get it fixed, but of course he was in his fields harvesting like everyone else. So I walked. I didn't get there til late morning. They made a big deal that I'd walked "all that way" and seemed pleased that I'd come to see them. 
I'd helped this family harvest once before, last season, and several of Alima's relatives I knew from the rice place or the health clinic. So I felt pretty at home and decided to stay a bit. I wasn’t about to just sit there while they worked, so I asked to help. They offered me some cooked beans to eat. I offered to help again, and they told me to rest under a tree. I asked a third time, and they finally went to go find a knife I could use.
Harvesting millet involves several steps. After cutting down the millet stalks, you cut of the top of the millet and put it in large bowls. These bowls are carried on the head to a large wooden pallet where they are all put on one gigantic pile. They are kept there until the millet seeds can be removed and placed in storage or ground into flour and then stored. I helped cutting off the tops of millet plants. A lot of millet plants. Because the harvest has to last a family the whole year, there is a huge amount to be done.
After a little bit of time working, it suddenly made sense to me why, even though it wasn’t hot season, everyone started harvest around 5 am. At noon in the sun in Burkina, it’s always hot.
There were four of us working in the same area. The work was routine and most of the time was spent chatting and bending over to work. Most women here live their lives like this: forever bending over to do something or another and gossiping with the woman next to them. I felt pleased to be included, glad that I could pick up on some of what they were saying. Occasionally since they knew I was leaving soon, someone would ask me something about America (is it true that some families have two cars?), but mostly I just listened.
Too often for my liking, Alima would ask me if I was ready to rest yet. After a while of this, I chided her for treating me like an old woman. She was so worried I’d get hurt. Her friends laughed and she stopped pestering me. But as we went back to work, she also explained to me that she was worried working in the sun like this would give me malaria again (a common folk belief). Then I tried to explain to her that you can only get malaria by mosquito bites. I’m not sure I convinced her, but who knows.
When I finally sat down to rest, the women were impressed, despite the fact that they had and would work for 5 times as long every day for several months. I had brought my camera, and I brought it out to take some pictures of the women harvesting. They loved it, and on request they posed like pros (with the baby, all together now, cutting millet). I ate the beans I was offered once again. Then I said my good-byes and told the women I would be back soon.




Two days later I made the track back, this time in late afternoon. It wasn’t nearly as hot. Alima fussed over me a bit, concerned the harvesting had been too hard on my hands. She seemed satisfied only when I let her examine them. I had cut one finger but it had been protected by the skin and hadn’t bled at all. I didn’t have any blisters. She seemed satisfied. “Well” she said in Moore, “I just wanted to be sure. Last year you had bad problems with your hands. Your hands bled and we had to wrap one in fabric. Remember?”
I had completely forgotten, but as she spoke, I did remember. After much less work the last year, I’d had bad blisters and bled through a piece of cloth I’d tied on my hand to keep working. As I remembered and it dawned on me how much had changed in a year. I took a moment too long in responding; to cover it, I made a joke. I said that clearly my hands had become strong and Mossi; I was sure they’d turn as dark as hers any day now. She laughed and went back to what she’d been doing.
…
I couldn’t get that conversation out of my head though. I started to realize that my hands were a bit more calloused, that they didn’t bleed anymore when I scrubbed my clothes clean, and that I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a blister. I remembered them playing with children, hauling water, holding the hands of sick people, greeting everyone a billion times a day by shaking their hand, sweeping my courtyard ... doing small things that all added up to tougher skin.
…

“My hands don’t bleed anymore”
You see, I explained, I came to this country with hands that knew a pen and a key board pretty well, but they didn’t know the first thing about a how to use a hoe or hold a newborn. My hands will always be those of a privileged person. They come from and will go back to a land of opportunities. But they have changed. So much so, that they don’t really bleed anymore. …
I’ve said before, a Burkinabe’s hands tell the stories of their heart. I like to think that now mine do a little bit, too.

A journey ends

Tue, 02/05/2013 - 05:12
Burkina Faso bridget in burkina 2012-11-16 23:17:16 Leaving my village after two years was more beautiful, more painful, and more powerful than I could have ever imagined. I don’t even know how to begin to explain the love and friendship I was shown over the past few … Continue reading →

A Necessary Injection of Optimism

Mon, 02/04/2013 - 04:31
Burkina Faso Two years in Burkina Faso 2012-11-15 15:33:00 Things have been feeling a little dark around here lately. Looking back on some of these blogs begs a positive counterpoint. Because honestly, I am happy here for the most part. I have found my place and am enjoying an ever-growing work and social schedule. Life in Titao is good.
I have recently taken up some interesting projects which have somewhat restored my belief in what I’m doing here. I was introduced to the first by a colleague at the municipal high school where I now teach a beginner’s computer class. M. Sawadogo, the English teacher for the school, speaks beautiful English and believes passionately in the importance of the language and actively promotes it around town. He has started an English club at the high school, though at this point it is largely driven by his own energy. He would like the students to take a more active role (Sustainability! Yay!), but they are too shy. Having sat-in on a few meetings I think this is because the club is almost like an after-hours English class. I have been working with Sawadogo to make the club more fun, to give the students more of an opportunity to speak and take control using some of the techniques that were used during Peace Corps training.
Besides the club, he has reserved a time block at the local radio, Le Voix du Loroum, to present a program encouraging the use of English in the community, beyond the required classes in high school. He invited me to be a guest speaker on the show two weeks ago to talk about family and the importance of education. I helped him design the structure of the program and improved some of his grammar, but truly this is his gig and he is great at it. Saw begins by introducing the program, the topic of the day, and his very special guests. There ensues a discussion with the guests on the given topic to permit the listeners to hear real English in dialogue. He plays music periodically so we can regroup, with artists such as the South African Reggae king Lucky Dube, Simple, and well-known American stars like 50 Cent and Rhianna. After this Saw gives a short English lesson, providing key nouns, verbs, adjectives, and phrases relating to the theme of the day. The rest of the broadcast is reserved for listeners to call-in and chat or answer questions posed by Saw.
I count Sawadogo among my best friends in town. He is the perfect Burkinabé counterpart, asking only for my collaboration and creative thinking, himself bringing to the table durable enthusiasm and ideas and taking charge of his own projects. While encouraging the use of English may not be part of the Peace Corps’ project plan in Burkina, M. Sawadogo’s English club and radio broadcast are projects which I know will be continued after I leave Titao.
Coincidentally, Titao’s radio is awesome. The government installs and supports local radios to encourage free speech and spread local information, and Titao got hers set up just this year. Everybody has a radio or a compatible cell phone, and since other forms of entertainment are either too expensive or unavailable, they are turned on and tuned in almost constantly. After doing just two broadcasts, everybody I know complemented the show and said they had listened to me. Awesome; I’m now even more of a local celebrity.
Another project I’m in the process of planning is very big and very exciting (at least to me). I recently met a man who last year organized a community-wide plastic bag pick-up contest thing (this sounds better in French). He wrote a proposal, went around town to the different structures and asked for support and donations. Almost everyone was implicated, all the way up to the mayor and the high commissioner. During the week of the contest, he said that the whole town is mobilized to clean up, everyone vying for the prizes for collecting the most plastic by weight (shovels, wheelbarrows, etc.). After the collection is finished, he gives the small plastic water sachets found to a French NGO which uses them as plastic pots with which to plant tree nurseries. However, due to their main work of promoting school gardens, they are not able to use most of the sachets that are recovered.
Bing Bing Bing! Hi there, I’m a Peace Corps volunteer with Environmental experience.
This year after the contest, I’d like to take the water sachets to each of Titao’s five primary schools and teach the upper classes, probably 5th and 6th grade, how to plant tree nurseries and take care of trees while they grow. I want to give two lessons, one in March right after the contest to talk about the importance of trees and how to seed a nursery. For this session, I’ll give each student a seed and a plastic pot and we will all fill them with the right mixture of dirt, sand and cow manure. Each student will be responsible for his or her own tree over the following three months. In June, around the end of school, I’ll come back and talk about the effects of plastic on the environment and the importance of recycling and will teach the students how to plant and care for their trees over the next few years. We will dispose of all of the sachets in the least harmful manner possible, seeing this clean-up campaign to its necessary conclusion.
I’d like to do these sessions with a Burkinabé counterpart, either the teachers of the classes or an agent with the Department of the Environment and Sustainable Development, someone who can continue to do the lessons in the years to come. The problem with either of these entities is that their positions are temporary. Teachers and government workers operate under an illogical system of exchange, where one year you could be working in the north of the country, and the next in the east where you don’t speak the local language. I don’t get it but that’s how it is. I think I’ll go for someone local.
At this point I’m trying to figure out exactly what the best disposal method is for plastic. Everyone’s given me different answers. Any ideas? I’ll do some research when I’m back in the states. I’m also trying to come up with a good motivation for the kids to take care of their trees. Bonbons? A grade? A slap across the head if their tree dies (just kidding)? I’ll come up with something.
Well anyway, that’s what I’m up to right now. Keeping busy to stay happy, while still counting down the days until I go on vacation to the states to see and hold my lovely wife and if she lets me, everyone else. Oh, and eat bacon every day. And cheese. Yessir, life is good.

Tour de Orodara sans les photos

Sun, 02/03/2013 - 20:09
Burkina Faso Shannon's Adventures in Africa 2012-11-15 10:49:00 Greetings from Orodara!!!
I have been meaning to put up other blog all about the loveliness of Orodara and my life here but haven’t had ample time to think of what to say. But now I have so here goes.
On the last blog I gave a picture tour of my house and that is about it for information on Orodara, so this time I thought I run through what is awesome about Orodara and what I have been doing for my third year so far.
Right near my house is a boutique (tiny store) that has bread, eggs, somewhat cold sodas, and many other food amenities. It is run by a really nice family, the dad speaks French so that is nice and the mom doesn’t so that is fun for both of us (really! it is fun trying to understand each other, resorting to hand motions and then laughing and shaking our heads when it’s all over)
Also right near that boutique is a kiosk that sells sandwiches in the morning, depending on what’s in season; there is avocado, cucumbers, peas, ground mutton (? Who really know what meat that is) and so on. The pea ones are really good and easy if I don’t feel like making something for breakfast.
As we head down the road towards town there are number of kiosks that I can print documents at for 100 cfa a page (cheap), which is great because I always need to print stuff for my job activities.
A little ways pass that is a group of ladies, who sell fruits and veggies and have avocados when in season (one of two ladies with the magical ability to get them).
After that you’re pretty much “in town”, which houses the following:-       My site mate, Natalie!-       The big food store (i.e. He has toilet paper, cookies, cold sodas, flour, and assorted other things)-    The marche (veggies, pagne, plastic stuff, whatnots) -       The two official bus company stations that go to Bobo and beyond-       All the bush taxi that go to Bobo as well and everywhere else around Orodara-       A wonderful tailor, who has made me a number of things that have worked out really well-       A bar with really cold beer (almost magically cold beers, if that is possible)-       Ecobank (money!)
After those sites, if you keep following the one road that is Orodara, you get to the CMA or Centre Médicale avec Antenne chirurgical or Medical Center with a surgical antenna. So basically think of a walled complex with lots of different buildings, all of which are different medical services. For example, I work at the pediatric building, which is next to general medicine, the laboratory, and administration.
At pediatrics, there is a head doctor, 2 or 3 other doctors, 3 or so nurse who all rotate. I work with a village mid wife, who oversees the CREN program, which is for malnourished babies and toddlers.
So far I have helped set up morning talks about nutrition and hygiene. The mid wife, Siata, does all the talking based off an information sheet I gave her. Most of the moms only speak Jula (the local language) and not French. I spend my mornings there hanging out with the moms and playing with the babies who aren’t afraid of me (some of them are, pale skin and all).
And that is a brief Orodara tour and work over view. I hope you have enjoyed the info. As a side note, or big note, I’ll be in the states December 2nd!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Exactly 17 days until I’m in Pittsburgh at the airport!!!!!!!

Adventures in Teaching CE1: A Hygiene Project

Sat, 02/02/2013 - 18:33
Burkina Faso The Adventures of a Peace Corps Violist 2012-11-15 10:22:52 So my last post focused mostly on the problem of open defecation. After having a lovely chat with my mom, I decided to make this a new project. I did a hygiene sensibilisation (awareness session) with piment (powdered hot pepper). … Continue reading →

Grant Time!

Sat, 02/02/2013 - 11:32
Burkina Faso Adventures in Africa 2012-11-15 00:27:00
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Made it back to village safely --- that’s never a guarantee; it’s always a bit of a shocker when transport goes relatively well…  Well, I guess “relatively well” would be an overstatement.  I mean, I did wait for my bus for over three and half hours, just hanging out on the side of road from 8-11:30pm, waiting for the good ole “Midnight Express” to breeze through from Bobo to Guron (essentially my village…Guron is only a few kilo away from Lanfiera, about 15 minutes by bike).  While waiting, I sat awkwardly on a rice sack and read a book, using my cell phone as a flashlight.  Several busses stopped, but when MY bus finally came, some guy just started grabbing my stuff and loading it onto the bus immediately, and I just kept repeating, “Where is this bus going?  Is it going to Guron?” to verify that yes, this was the bus I wanted and if I got on it, I wouldn’t end up in the middle of nowhere.  Unfortunately no one responded….so I just got on and prayed.  (As it turns out, it was indeed the bus I wanted, thank God!)  Naturally, there was nowhere for me to sit, except for the half-broken seats next to old, sleeping women or women who had dirty smelly babies with them.   I chose a spot next to an old woman, crammed myself in (the guy next to the window was passed out, taking up 1 and a half of the three seats, and the old woman pretty much took up the other 1 and a half seats….) I’m not sure how I got in….but somehow I fit.  I continued to read my book until someone yelled at me for my cellphone light bothering him.  So then I was angry and annoyed.  The bus ride was far too uncomfortable and bumpy to even try sleeping.  I mean, I had to brace my legs against the seat and wrap my arms around the bars in front of me in order to avoid falling out of my seat or getting thrown out the window due to the massive bumps aggravated by the driver going at an insane speed….  I was almost tempted to put on my bike helmet…but then thought, “Nah, I’ll be fine.”  Well, I did make it back to Lanfiera after several hours on the Midnight Express and a few bruises on my head (maybe I should’ve worn my helmet?) and it was almost 5am by the time I biked back to my house and greeted Sabari who was thrilled to see me after having been gone for a few days --- she was probably more hungry than anything, though.
As I opened the door to my house, my cell phone light shined towards my garden and then I saw it:  the gate was moved, leaving the entrance wide open, and most of my plants were missing…or rather, eaten.   URGH.  I hate Africa!!!  How are we supposed to accomplish ANYTHING at all to help “the community” when I personally can’t even successfully have a small garden with salad and green beans, next to my house, completely enclosed with 5 foot high walls save the entrance (which has a gate, by the way!) without someone going and messing it up and letting their damn animals eat my green beans?!?!?!   Urgh.  Anger is an understatement.  This is precisely why I don’t think I’ll be extending my service for a third year: animals here ruin all my things.  And herds of donkeys enter my courtyard at night and stampede right underneath my bedroom window, making the most annoying sounds known to man.   And to make things worse, no one cares, because “C’est comme ca, ici” (It’s like that here), and as thee American, I’m rich and can certainly go buy some more green bean seeds if I want…   So I went to bed angry (or was it angrier? Since I had already been annoyed about the midnight express?)  And fell asleep to sweet dreams of knowing I had to get up in less than 2 hours to teach my 7am math class with 120 junior high kids.  Not exciting.  Especially when you’re tired and crabby.  I fell asleep, woke up to my alarm far too soon, turned it off, and went back to bed.  When I got up shortly before 11am, I called my homologue to let him know I had “just” gotten back to village, ate some food (I was hungry!) and read a book, because I was angry and didn’t want to do any of the things I needed to be doing, like taking a shower (I was also quite dirty, covered in red dust), washing my dishes, watering my half-dead, mostly eaten garden, typing up my grant requests, correcting a few hundred math test, etc.  So didn’t.  I basically moped around the whole day in my house, not leaving or greeting my neighbors, or really accomplishing anything.  Today (Wednesday) I got up, thoroughly washed (including my hair), went to school, lectured students about being annoying and disrespectful during my class.  I might have also kicked a few boys out of class and taken a girl’s juice – hey, my rule is no eating or drinking except water during class…and she had brought a cold, almost slushy-frozen juice….so it became mine. Muahhhaha 
But after class (and eating some Americaland goodies, including wild rice with a can of chicken breast, smothered in Velveeta cheese and a Snickers bar for dessert), I got to work.  I had pictures to take of “Flat Stanley” visiting my village for my cousin Jessica's daughter, as well as a grant to write – It’s due tonight… I didn’t leave myself to much wiggle room there, and in fact, even at the moment, it’s still not emailed.   The internet is working, but it hasn’t finished uploading the document (11 pages of grant gloriousness), and so I wait.  And pray that it will work.  If it doesn’t I don’t know what I’ll do.  The deadline is literally in a few hours.  C’mon Internet!  You can do it!  Just upload a few bytes every minute, that’s all!

If you’re interested in my grant, titled “Literacy through the Arts,” here’s a few paragraphs of its eleven pages:
Project Summary:  By providing each of three local elementary schools with a set of one hundred age-appropriate picture books (primarily in French, but also in local languages) and basic “Literacy through the Arts” materials, this project aims to provide students with improved learning opportunities to develop their reading and critical thinking skills.  Additionally, this will be accompanied by a teacher workshop for the schools’ teachers and directors, strengthening their capacity so that they can successfully and creatively teach literacy.  This project addresses many of the community’s concerns, including: improving schools and children’s education; learning how to read; increasing access to books; incorporating health, hygiene, and other basic life skills into school curriculum; and training teachers.  The community and individual schools will be providing a significant proportion of the resources necessary for this project (25%), but in order for “Literacy through the Arts” to be as successful as possible with the greatest impact, outside aide is needed.  The potential outcomes for “Literacy through the Arts” are invaluable: books to read, students who succeed, and teachers who lead.   Considering that the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow, can we really put a price on their education?
Community Background:  Located near a river in the Sourou Valley of western Burkina Faso, not far from the frontier of Mali, Lanfiera and its surrounding commune is a flourishing community (pop. 15,800) that has recently received much attention from outside aide resources, such as the USA’s MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation).  However, all of this attention has been directed at improving the agricultural techniques of local farmers, increasing production, and ensuring food security, while in the meantime, the youth and teachers, who spend their days at school rather than in the fields, have been neglected.  The schools have many problems, ranging from too many students and not enough desks, to a lack of trained teachers and limited access to potable water.  Yet, when asked what they would most like to see changed in their community, an overwhelming majority of community members (including both adults and children) expressed a desire to learn how to read and to have access to books – specifically, books that are fun, educational, and interesting to children, as opposed to math textbooks (which are lacking as well!).  There are no libraries near Lanfiera (the closest is 42 kilometers away), and there are certainly no places to buy books, more or less books written in French; or better yet, African French; or still even better, local language.  Furthermore, the pedagogy used by teachers to develop students’ literacy skills is severely lacking and altogether negative in approach, primarily due to insufficient resources, though also a result of not implementing fresh and modern pedagogical methods into the classroom.  Every year, the primary schools graduate several hundred students into the local middle school (though almost as many don’t even make it to middle school), and sadly, almost half of these middle school students cannot read or understand a text, unless it is read aloud to them first.  While they may be able to hang on for a little while – or even a few years – they eventually reach a point where their inability to comprehend written language prevents them from learning entirely, and consequently, they drop out of school.  Aiming to inspire students and teachers, this project, “Literacy through the Arts,” is needed in the community because it addresses many of the community-identified priorities presented to me, as well as has the potential to incorporate secondary community concerns such as health and hygiene.   But most importantly, this project goes above and beyond, getting at the root of the problem while creating sustainable skills and practices: not only teaching students, but also teaching teachers. 


If it gets approved, there’s a good chance you’ll hear about the grant again…when I come knocking on your door (well, the cyberspace door of your email or facebook, that is) asking for donations!  How much do I want….oh just a thousand dollars…or two. Specifically, 1.178.000 CFA (local currency) or $2,356.00 (USA).   *Think Beth’s Christmas Present….or Africa’s Christmas Present, if you want to be global.*  But hey now, don’t get anxious.  it’s really  not that much.  Honestly, it equates to about $800 for each school – and that’s nothing. Most Americans spend more than that just on clothes…or yummy Starbucks drinks during the year….or one month’s rent…or a personal computer!  These schools don’t have much of anything, certainly not even just ONE computer (no money + no electricity = no computers), nor are there books.  Can you imagine going to school and your education only consisting of note-taking in a language that’s not even your mother-tongue?  No wonder the majority of the people in this country are illiterate (they sign their names X’s – seriously.) …. But you can help fix that!  Keep me in mind, and hopefully in a few weeks, I’ll let you know what you can to do to help and how to send my project your monetary donations!  Merci!

The Things I Have Learned

Sat, 02/02/2013 - 04:47
Burkina Faso Life is Beautiful Around the World 2012-11-15 00:24:36 Believe it or not, 2 years have gone by since I have started writing this blog about my adventures in the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso. In those 2 years I have had many ups and downs and have learned more than I thought imaginable. I have laughed. I have cried. I have been the [...]

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Fri, 01/25/2013 - 22:03
Burkina Faso Adventures in Africa 2012-11-14 23:50:00
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Made it back to village safely --- that’s never a guarantee; it’s always a bit of a shocker when transport goes relatively well…  Well, I guess “relatively well” would be an overstatement.  I mean, I did wait for my bus for over three and half hours, just hanging out on the side of road from 8-11:30pm, waiting for the good ole “Midnight Express” to breeze through from Bobo to Guron (essentially my village…Guron is only a few kilo away from Lanfiera, about 15 minutes by bike).  While waiting, I sat awkwardly on a rice sack and read a book, using my cell phone as a flashlight.  Several busses stopped, but when MY bus finally came, some guy just started grabbing my stuff and loading it onto the bus immediately, and I just kept repeating, “Where is this bus going?  Is it going to Guron?” to verify that yes, this was the bus I wanted and if I got on it, I wouldn’t end up in the middle of nowhere.  Unfortunately no one responded….so I just got on and prayed.  (As it turns out, it was indeed the bus I wanted, thank God!)  Naturally, there was nowhere for me to sit, except for the half-broken seats next to old, sleeping women or women who had dirty smelly babies with them.   I chose a spot next to an old woman, crammed myself in (the guy next to the window was passed out, taking up 1 and a half of the three seats, and the old woman pretty much took up the other 1 and a half seats….) I’m not sure how I got in….but somehow I fit.  I continued to read my book until someone yelled at me for my cellphone light bothering him.  So then I was angry and annoyed.  The bus ride was far too uncomfortable and bumpy to even try sleeping.  I mean, I had to brace my legs against the seat and wrap my arms around the bars in front of me in order to avoid falling out of my seat or getting thrown out the window due to the massive bumps aggravated by the driver going at an insane speed….  I was almost tempted to put on my bike helmet…but then thought, “Nah, I’ll be fine.”  Well, I did make it back to Lanfiera after several hours on the Midnight Express and a few bruises on my head (maybe I should’ve worn my helmet?) and it was almost 5am by the time I biked back to my house and greeted Sabari who was thrilled to see me after having been gone for a few days --- she was probably more hungry than anything, though.
As I opened the door to my house, my cell phone light shined towards my garden and then I saw it:  the gate was moved, leaving the entrance wide open, and most of my plants were missing…or rather, eaten.   URGH.  I hate Africa!!!  How are we supposed to accomplish ANYTHING at all to help “the community” when I personally can’t even successfully have a small garden with salad and green beans, next to my house, completely enclosed with 5 foot high walls save the entrance (which has a gate, by the way!) without someone going and messing it up and letting their damn animals eat my green beans?!?!?!   Urgh.  Anger is an understatement.  This is precisely why I don’t think I’ll be extending my service for a third year: animals here ruin all my things.  And herds of donkeys enter my courtyard at night and stampede right underneath my bedroom window, making the most annoying sounds known to man.   And to make things worse, no one cares, because “C’est comme ca, ici” (It’s like that here), and as thee American, I’m rich and can certainly go buy some more green bean seeds if I want…   So I went to bed angry (or was it angrier? Since I had already been annoyed about the midnight express?)  And fell asleep to sweet dreams of knowing I had to get up in less than 2 hours to teach my 7am math class with 120 junior high kids.  Not exciting.  Especially when you’re tired and crabby.  I fell asleep, woke up to my alarm far too soon, turned it off, and went back to bed.  When I got up shortly before 11am, I called my homologue to let him know I had “just” gotten back to village, ate some food (I was hungry!) and read a book, because I was angry and didn’t want to do any of the things I needed to be doing, like taking a shower (I was also quite dirty, covered in red dust), washing my dishes, watering my half-dead, mostly eaten garden, typing up my grant requests, correcting a few hundred math test, etc.  So didn’t.  I basically moped around the whole day in my house, not leaving or greeting my neighbors, or really accomplishing anything.  Today (Wednesday) I got up, thoroughly washed (including my hair), went to school, lectured students about being annoying and disrespectful during my class.  I might have also kicked a few boys out of class and taken a girl’s juice – hey, my rule is no eating or drinking except water during class…and she had brought a cold, almost slushy-frozen juice….so it became mine. Muahhhaha 
But after class (and eating some Americaland goodies, including wild rice with a can of chicken breast, smothered in Velveeta cheese and a Snickers bar for dessert), I got to work.  I had pictures to take of “Flat Stanley” visiting my village for my cousin Jessica's daughter, as well as a grant to write – It’s due tonight… I didn’t leave myself to much wiggle room there, and in fact, even at the moment, it’s still not emailed.   The internet is working, but it hasn’t finished uploading the document (11 pages of grant gloriousness), and so I wait.  And pray that it will work.  If it doesn’t I don’t know what I’ll do.  The deadline is literally in a few hours.  C’mon Internet!  You can do it!  Just upload a few bytes every minute, that’s all!

If you’re interest in my grant, titled “Literacy through the Arts,” here’s a bit:
Project Summary:  By providing each of three local elementary schools with a set of one hundred age-appropriate picture books (primarily in French, but also in local languages) and basic “Literacy through the Arts” materials, this project aims to provide students with improved learning opportunities to develop their reading and critical thinking skills.  Additionally, this will be accompanied by a teacher workshop for the schools’ teachers and directors, strengthening their capacity so that they can successfully and creatively teach literacy.  This project addresses many of the community’s concerns, including: improving schools and children’s education; learning how to read; increasing access to books; incorporating health, hygiene, and other basic life skills into school curriculum; and training teachers.  The community and individual schools will be providing a significant proportion of the resources necessary for this project (25%), but in order for “Literacy through the Arts” to be as successful as possible with the greatest impact, outside aide is needed.  The potential outcomes for “Literacy through the Arts” are invaluable: books to read, students who succeed, and teachers who lead.   Considering that the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow, can we really put a price on their education?
Community Background:  Located near a river in the Sourou Valley of western Burkina Faso, not far from the frontier of Mali, Lanfiera and its surrounding commune is a flourishing community (pop. 15,800) that has recently received much attention from outside aide resources, such as the USA’s MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation).  However, all of this attention has been directed at improving the agricultural techniques of local farmers, increasing production, and ensuring food security, while in the meantime, the youth and teachers, who spend their days at school rather than in the fields, have been neglected.  The schools have many problems, ranging from too many students and not enough desks, to a lack of trained teachers and limited access to potable water.  Yet, when asked what they would most like to see changed in their community, an overwhelming majority of community members (including both adults and children) expressed a desire to learn how to read and to have access to books – specifically, books that are fun, educational, and interesting to children, as opposed to math textbooks (which are lacking as well!).  There are no libraries near Lanfiera (the closest is 42 kilometers away), and there are certainly no places to buy books, more or less books written in French; or better yet, African French; or still even better, local language.  Furthermore, the pedagogy used by teachers to develop students’ literacy skills is severely lacking and altogether negative in approach, primarily due to insufficient resources, though also a result of not implementing fresh and modern pedagogical methods into the classroom.  Every year, the primary schools graduate several hundred students into the local middle school (though almost as many don’t even make it to middle school), and sadly, almost half of these middle school students cannot read or understand a text, unless it is read aloud to them first.  While they may be able to hang on for a little while – or even a few years – they eventually reach a point where their inability to comprehend written language prevents them from learning entirely, and consequently, they drop out of school.  Aiming to inspire students and teachers, this project, “Literacy through the Arts,” is needed in the community because it addresses many of the community-identified priorities presented to me, as well as has the potential to incorporate secondary community concerns such as health and hygiene.   But most importantly, this project goes above and beyond, getting at the root of the problem while creating sustainable skills and practices: not only teaching students, but also teaching teachers. 


If it gets approved, there’s a good chance you’ll hear about the grant again…when I come knocking on your door (well, the cyberspace door of your email or facebook, that is) asking for donations!  How much do I want….oh just a thousand dollars…or two. Specifically, 1.178.000 CFA (local currency) or $2,356.00 (USA).   *Think Beth’s Christmas Present….or Africa’s Christmas Present, if you want to be global.*  But hey now, don’t get anxious.  it’s really  not that much.  Honestly, it equates to about $800 for each school – and that’s nothing. Most Americans spend more than that just on clothes…or yummy Starbucks drinks during the year….or one month’s rent…or a personal computer!  These schools don’t have much of anything, certainly not even just ONE computer (no money + no electricity = no computers), nor are there books.  Can you imagine going to school and your education only consisting of note-taking in a language that’s not even your mother-tongue?  No wonder the majority of the people in this country are illiterate (they sign their names X’s – seriously.) …. But you can help fix that!  Keep me in mind, and hopefully in a few weeks, I’ll let you know what you can to do to help and how to send my project your monetary donations!  Merci!

<div style="margin-bottom:8px">

Wed, 01/23/2013 - 17:13
Burkina Faso Adventures in Africa 2012-11-14 23:52:00
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Made it back to village safely --- that’s never a guarantee; it’s always a bit of a shocker when transport goes relatively well…  Well, I guess “relatively well” would be an overstatement.  I mean, I did wait for my bus for over three and half hours, just hanging out on the side of road from 8-11:30pm, waiting for the good ole “Midnight Express” to breeze through from Bobo to Guron (essentially my village…Guron is only a few kilo away from Lanfiera, about 15 minutes by bike).  While waiting, I sat awkwardly on a rice sack and read a book, using my cell phone as a flashlight.  Several busses stopped, but when MY bus finally came, some guy just started grabbing my stuff and loading it onto the bus immediately, and I just kept repeating, “Where is this bus going?  Is it going to Guron?” to verify that yes, this was the bus I wanted and if I got on it, I wouldn’t end up in the middle of nowhere.  Unfortunately no one responded….so I just got on and prayed.  (As it turns out, it was indeed the bus I wanted, thank God!)  Naturally, there was nowhere for me to sit, except for the half-broken seats next to old, sleeping women or women who had dirty smelly babies with them.   I chose a spot next to an old woman, crammed myself in (the guy next to the window was passed out, taking up 1 and a half of the three seats, and the old woman pretty much took up the other 1 and a half seats….) I’m not sure how I got in….but somehow I fit.  I continued to read my book until someone yelled at me for my cellphone light bothering him.  So then I was angry and annoyed.  The bus ride was far too uncomfortable and bumpy to even try sleeping.  I mean, I had to brace my legs against the seat and wrap my arms around the bars in front of me in order to avoid falling out of my seat or getting thrown out the window due to the massive bumps aggravated by the driver going at an insane speed….  I was almost tempted to put on my bike helmet…but then thought, “Nah, I’ll be fine.”  Well, I did make it back to Lanfiera after several hours on the Midnight Express and a few bruises on my head (maybe I should’ve worn my helmet?) and it was almost 5am by the time I biked back to my house and greeted Sabari who was thrilled to see me after having been gone for a few days --- she was probably more hungry than anything, though.
As I opened the door to my house, my cell phone light shined towards my garden and then I saw it:  the gate was moved, leaving the entrance wide open, and most of my plants were missing…or rather, eaten.   URGH.  I hate Africa!!!  How are we supposed to accomplish ANYTHING at all to help “the community” when I personally can’t even successfully have a small garden with salad and green beans, next to my house, completely enclosed with 5 foot high walls save the entrance (which has a gate, by the way!) without someone going and messing it up and letting their damn animals eat my green beans?!?!?!   Urgh.  Anger is an understatement.  This is precisely why I don’t think I’ll be extending my service for a third year: animals here ruin all my things.  And herds of donkeys enter my courtyard at night and stampede right underneath my bedroom window, making the most annoying sounds known to man.   And to make things worse, no one cares, because “C’est comme ca, ici” (It’s like that here), and as thee American, I’m rich and can certainly go buy some more green bean seeds if I want…   So I went to bed angry (or was it angrier? Since I had already been annoyed about the midnight express?)  And fell asleep to sweet dreams of knowing I had to get up in less than 2 hours to teach my 7am math class with 120 junior high kids.  Not exciting.  Especially when you’re tired and crabby.  I fell asleep, woke up to my alarm far too soon, turned it off, and went back to bed.  When I got up shortly before 11am, I called my homologue to let him know I had “just” gotten back to village, ate some food (I was hungry!) and read a book, because I was angry and didn’t want to do any of the things I needed to be doing, like taking a shower (I was also quite dirty, covered in red dust), washing my dishes, watering my half-dead, mostly eaten garden, typing up my grant requests, correcting a few hundred math test, etc.  So didn’t.  I basically moped around the whole day in my house, not leaving or greeting my neighbors, or really accomplishing anything.  Today (Wednesday) I got up, thoroughly washed (including my hair), went to school, lectured students about being annoying and disrespectful during my class.  I might have also kicked a few boys out of class and taken a girl’s juice – hey, my rule is no eating or drinking except water during class…and she had brought a cold, almost slushy-frozen juice….so it became mine. Muahhhaha 
But after class (and eating some Americaland goodies, including wild rice with a can of chicken breast, smothered in Velveeta cheese and a Snickers bar for dessert), I got to work.  I had pictures to take of “Flat Stanley” visiting my village for my cousin Jessica's daughter, as well as a grant to write – It’s due tonight… I didn’t leave myself to much wiggle room there, and in fact, even at the moment, it’s still not emailed.   The internet is working, but it hasn’t finished uploading the document (11 pages of grant gloriousness), and so I wait.  And pray that it will work.  If it doesn’t I don’t know what I’ll do.  The deadline is literally in a few hours.  C’mon Internet!  You can do it!  Just upload a few bytes every minute, that’s all!

If you’re interest in my grant, titled “Literacy through the Arts,” here’s a bit:
Project Summary:  By providing each of three local elementary schools with a set of one hundred age-appropriate picture books (primarily in French, but also in local languages) and basic “Literacy through the Arts” materials, this project aims to provide students with improved learning opportunities to develop their reading and critical thinking skills.  Additionally, this will be accompanied by a teacher workshop for the schools’ teachers and directors, strengthening their capacity so that they can successfully and creatively teach literacy.  This project addresses many of the community’s concerns, including: improving schools and children’s education; learning how to read; increasing access to books; incorporating health, hygiene, and other basic life skills into school curriculum; and training teachers.  The community and individual schools will be providing a significant proportion of the resources necessary for this project (25%), but in order for “Literacy through the Arts” to be as successful as possible with the greatest impact, outside aide is needed.  The potential outcomes for “Literacy through the Arts” are invaluable: books to read, students who succeed, and teachers who lead.   Considering that the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow, can we really put a price on their education?
Community Background:  Located near a river in the Sourou Valley of western Burkina Faso, not far from the frontier of Mali, Lanfiera and its surrounding commune is a flourishing community (pop. 15,800) that has recently received much attention from outside aide resources, such as the USA’s MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation).  However, all of this attention has been directed at improving the agricultural techniques of local farmers, increasing production, and ensuring food security, while in the meantime, the youth and teachers, who spend their days at school rather than in the fields, have been neglected.  The schools have many problems, ranging from too many students and not enough desks, to a lack of trained teachers and limited access to potable water.  Yet, when asked what they would most like to see changed in their community, an overwhelming majority of community members (including both adults and children) expressed a desire to learn how to read and to have access to books – specifically, books that are fun, educational, and interesting to children, as opposed to math textbooks (which are lacking as well!).  There are no libraries near Lanfiera (the closest is 42 kilometers away), and there are certainly no places to buy books, more or less books written in French; or better yet, African French; or still even better, local language.  Furthermore, the pedagogy used by teachers to develop students’ literacy skills is severely lacking and altogether negative in approach, primarily due to insufficient resources, though also a result of not implementing fresh and modern pedagogical methods into the classroom.  Every year, the primary schools graduate several hundred students into the local middle school (though almost as many don’t even make it to middle school), and sadly, almost half of these middle school students cannot read or understand a text, unless it is read aloud to them first.  While they may be able to hang on for a little while – or even a few years – they eventually reach a point where their inability to comprehend written language prevents them from learning entirely, and consequently, they drop out of school.  Aiming to inspire students and teachers, this project, “Literacy through the Arts,” is needed in the community because it addresses many of the community-identified priorities presented to me, as well as has the potential to incorporate secondary community concerns such as health and hygiene.   But most importantly, this project goes above and beyond, getting at the root of the problem while creating sustainable skills and practices: not only teaching students, but also teaching teachers. 


If it gets approved, there’s a good chance you’ll hear about the grant again…when I come knocking on your door (well, the cyberspace door of your email or facebook, that is) asking for donations!  How much do I want….oh just a thousand dollars…or two. Specifically, 1.178.000 CFA (local currency) or $2,356.00 (USA).   *Think Beth’s Christmas Present….or Africa’s Christmas Present, if you want to be global.*  But hey now, don’t get anxious.  it’s really  not that much.  Honestly, it equates to about $800 for each school – and that’s nothing. Most Americans spend more than that just on clothes…or yummy Starbucks drinks during the year….or one month’s rent…or a personal computer!  These schools don’t have much of anything, certainly not even just ONE computer (no money + no electricity = no computers), nor are there books.  Can you imagine going to school and your education only consisting of note-taking in a language that’s not even your mother-tongue?  No wonder the majority of the people in this country are illiterate (they sign their names X’s – seriously.) …. But you can help fix that!  Keep me in mind, and hopefully in a few weeks, I’ll let you know what you can to do to help and how to send my project your monetary donations!  Merci!

<div style="margin-bottom:8px">

Tue, 01/22/2013 - 14:02
Burkina Faso Adventures in Africa 2012-11-14 23:53:00
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Made it back to village safely --- that’s never a guarantee; it’s always a bit of a shocker when transport goes relatively well…  Well, I guess “relatively well” would be an overstatement.  I mean, I did wait for my bus for over three and half hours, just hanging out on the side of road from 8-11:30pm, waiting for the good ole “Midnight Express” to breeze through from Bobo to Guron (essentially my village…Guron is only a few kilo away from Lanfiera, about 15 minutes by bike).  While waiting, I sat awkwardly on a rice sack and read a book, using my cell phone as a flashlight.  Several busses stopped, but when MY bus finally came, some guy just started grabbing my stuff and loading it onto the bus immediately, and I just kept repeating, “Where is this bus going?  Is it going to Guron?” to verify that yes, this was the bus I wanted and if I got on it, I wouldn’t end up in the middle of nowhere.  Unfortunately no one responded….so I just got on and prayed.  (As it turns out, it was indeed the bus I wanted, thank God!)  Naturally, there was nowhere for me to sit, except for the half-broken seats next to old, sleeping women or women who had dirty smelly babies with them.   I chose a spot next to an old woman, crammed myself in (the guy next to the window was passed out, taking up 1 and a half of the three seats, and the old woman pretty much took up the other 1 and a half seats….) I’m not sure how I got in….but somehow I fit.  I continued to read my book until someone yelled at me for my cellphone light bothering him.  So then I was angry and annoyed.  The bus ride was far too uncomfortable and bumpy to even try sleeping.  I mean, I had to brace my legs against the seat and wrap my arms around the bars in front of me in order to avoid falling out of my seat or getting thrown out the window due to the massive bumps aggravated by the driver going at an insane speed….  I was almost tempted to put on my bike helmet…but then thought, “Nah, I’ll be fine.”  Well, I did make it back to Lanfiera after several hours on the Midnight Express and a few bruises on my head (maybe I should’ve worn my helmet?) and it was almost 5am by the time I biked back to my house and greeted Sabari who was thrilled to see me after having been gone for a few days --- she was probably more hungry than anything, though.
As I opened the door to my house, my cell phone light shined towards my garden and then I saw it:  the gate was moved, leaving the entrance wide open, and most of my plants were missing…or rather, eaten.   URGH.  I hate Africa!!!  How are we supposed to accomplish ANYTHING at all to help “the community” when I personally can’t even successfully have a small garden with salad and green beans, next to my house, completely enclosed with 5 foot high walls save the entrance (which has a gate, by the way!) without someone going and messing it up and letting their damn animals eat my green beans?!?!?!   Urgh.  Anger is an understatement.  This is precisely why I don’t think I’ll be extending my service for a third year: animals here ruin all my things.  And herds of donkeys enter my courtyard at night and stampede right underneath my bedroom window, making the most annoying sounds known to man.   And to make things worse, no one cares, because “C’est comme ca, ici” (It’s like that here), and as thee American, I’m rich and can certainly go buy some more green bean seeds if I want…   So I went to bed angry (or was it angrier? Since I had already been annoyed about the midnight express?)  And fell asleep to sweet dreams of knowing I had to get up in less than 2 hours to teach my 7am math class with 120 junior high kids.  Not exciting.  Especially when you’re tired and crabby.  I fell asleep, woke up to my alarm far too soon, turned it off, and went back to bed.  When I got up shortly before 11am, I called my homologue to let him know I had “just” gotten back to village, ate some food (I was hungry!) and read a book, because I was angry and didn’t want to do any of the things I needed to be doing, like taking a shower (I was also quite dirty, covered in red dust), washing my dishes, watering my half-dead, mostly eaten garden, typing up my grant requests, correcting a few hundred math test, etc.  So didn’t.  I basically moped around the whole day in my house, not leaving or greeting my neighbors, or really accomplishing anything.  Today (Wednesday) I got up, thoroughly washed (including my hair), went to school, lectured students about being annoying and disrespectful during my class.  I might have also kicked a few boys out of class and taken a girl’s juice – hey, my rule is no eating or drinking except water during class…and she had brought a cold, almost slushy-frozen juice….so it became mine. Muahhhaha 
But after class (and eating some Americaland goodies, including wild rice with a can of chicken breast, smothered in Velveeta cheese and a Snickers bar for dessert), I got to work.  I had pictures to take of “Flat Stanley” visiting my village for my cousin Jessica's daughter, as well as a grant to write – It’s due tonight… I didn’t leave myself to much wiggle room there, and in fact, even at the moment, it’s still not emailed.   The internet is working, but it hasn’t finished uploading the document (11 pages of grant gloriousness), and so I wait.  And pray that it will work.  If it doesn’t I don’t know what I’ll do.  The deadline is literally in a few hours.  C’mon Internet!  You can do it!  Just upload a few bytes every minute, that’s all!

If you’re interest in my grant, titled “Literacy through the Arts,” here’s a bit:
Project Summary:  By providing each of three local elementary schools with a set of one hundred age-appropriate picture books (primarily in French, but also in local languages) and basic “Literacy through the Arts” materials, this project aims to provide students with improved learning opportunities to develop their reading and critical thinking skills.  Additionally, this will be accompanied by a teacher workshop for the schools’ teachers and directors, strengthening their capacity so that they can successfully and creatively teach literacy.  This project addresses many of the community’s concerns, including: improving schools and children’s education; learning how to read; increasing access to books; incorporating health, hygiene, and other basic life skills into school curriculum; and training teachers.  The community and individual schools will be providing a significant proportion of the resources necessary for this project (25%), but in order for “Literacy through the Arts” to be as successful as possible with the greatest impact, outside aide is needed.  The potential outcomes for “Literacy through the Arts” are invaluable: books to read, students who succeed, and teachers who lead.   Considering that the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow, can we really put a price on their education?
Community Background:  Located near a river in the Sourou Valley of western Burkina Faso, not far from the frontier of Mali, Lanfiera and its surrounding commune is a flourishing community (pop. 15,800) that has recently received much attention from outside aide resources, such as the USA’s MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation).  However, all of this attention has been directed at improving the agricultural techniques of local farmers, increasing production, and ensuring food security, while in the meantime, the youth and teachers, who spend their days at school rather than in the fields, have been neglected.  The schools have many problems, ranging from too many students and not enough desks, to a lack of trained teachers and limited access to potable water.  Yet, when asked what they would most like to see changed in their community, an overwhelming majority of community members (including both adults and children) expressed a desire to learn how to read and to have access to books – specifically, books that are fun, educational, and interesting to children, as opposed to math textbooks (which are lacking as well!).  There are no libraries near Lanfiera (the closest is 42 kilometers away), and there are certainly no places to buy books, more or less books written in French; or better yet, African French; or still even better, local language.  Furthermore, the pedagogy used by teachers to develop students’ literacy skills is severely lacking and altogether negative in approach, primarily due to insufficient resources, though also a result of not implementing fresh and modern pedagogical methods into the classroom.  Every year, the primary schools graduate several hundred students into the local middle school (though almost as many don’t even make it to middle school), and sadly, almost half of these middle school students cannot read or understand a text, unless it is read aloud to them first.  While they may be able to hang on for a little while – or even a few years – they eventually reach a point where their inability to comprehend written language prevents them from learning entirely, and consequently, they drop out of school.  Aiming to inspire students and teachers, this project, “Literacy through the Arts,” is needed in the community because it addresses many of the community-identified priorities presented to me, as well as has the potential to incorporate secondary community concerns such as health and hygiene.   But most importantly, this project goes above and beyond, getting at the root of the problem while creating sustainable skills and practices: not only teaching students, but also teaching teachers. 


If it gets approved, there’s a good chance you’ll hear about the grant again…when I come knocking on your door (well, the cyberspace door of your email or facebook, that is) asking for donations!  How much do I want….oh just a thousand dollars…or two. Specifically, 1.178.000 CFA (local currency) or $2,356.00 (USA).   *Think Beth’s Christmas Present….or Africa’s Christmas Present, if you want to be global.*  But hey now, don’t get anxious.  it’s really  not that much.  Honestly, it equates to about $800 for each school – and that’s nothing. Most Americans spend more than that just on clothes…or yummy Starbucks drinks during the year….or one month’s rent…or a personal computer!  These schools don’t have much of anything, certainly not even just ONE computer (no money + no electricity = no computers), nor are there books.  Can you imagine going to school and your education only consisting of note-taking in a language that’s not even your mother-tongue?  No wonder the majority of the people in this country are illiterate (they sign their names X’s – seriously.) …. But you can help fix that!  Keep me in mind, and hopefully in a few weeks, I’ll let you know what you can to do to help and how to send my project your monetary donations!  Merci!

Grant Time!

Mon, 01/21/2013 - 17:52
Burkina Faso Adventures in Africa 2012-11-14 23:56:00
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Made it back to village safely --- that’s never a guarantee; it’s always a bit of a shocker when transport goes relatively well…  Well, I guess “relatively well” would be an overstatement.  I mean, I did wait for my bus for over three and half hours, just hanging out on the side of road from 8-11:30pm, waiting for the good ole “Midnight Express” to breeze through from Bobo to Guron (essentially my village…Guron is only a few kilo away from Lanfiera, about 15 minutes by bike).  While waiting, I sat awkwardly on a rice sack and read a book, using my cell phone as a flashlight.  Several busses stopped, but when MY bus finally came, some guy just started grabbing my stuff and loading it onto the bus immediately, and I just kept repeating, “Where is this bus going?  Is it going to Guron?” to verify that yes, this was the bus I wanted and if I got on it, I wouldn’t end up in the middle of nowhere.  Unfortunately no one responded….so I just got on and prayed.  (As it turns out, it was indeed the bus I wanted, thank God!)  Naturally, there was nowhere for me to sit, except for the half-broken seats next to old, sleeping women or women who had dirty smelly babies with them.   I chose a spot next to an old woman, crammed myself in (the guy next to the window was passed out, taking up 1 and a half of the three seats, and the old woman pretty much took up the other 1 and a half seats….) I’m not sure how I got in….but somehow I fit.  I continued to read my book until someone yelled at me for my cellphone light bothering him.  So then I was angry and annoyed.  The bus ride was far too uncomfortable and bumpy to even try sleeping.  I mean, I had to brace my legs against the seat and wrap my arms around the bars in front of me in order to avoid falling out of my seat or getting thrown out the window due to the massive bumps aggravated by the driver going at an insane speed….  I was almost tempted to put on my bike helmet…but then thought, “Nah, I’ll be fine.”  Well, I did make it back to Lanfiera after several hours on the Midnight Express and a few bruises on my head (maybe I should’ve worn my helmet?) and it was almost 5am by the time I biked back to my house and greeted Sabari who was thrilled to see me after having been gone for a few days --- she was probably more hungry than anything, though.
As I opened the door to my house, my cell phone light shined towards my garden and then I saw it:  the gate was moved, leaving the entrance wide open, and most of my plants were missing…or rather, eaten.   URGH.  I hate Africa!!!  How are we supposed to accomplish ANYTHING at all to help “the community” when I personally can’t even successfully have a small garden with salad and green beans, next to my house, completely enclosed with 5 foot high walls save the entrance (which has a gate, by the way!) without someone going and messing it up and letting their damn animals eat my green beans?!?!?!   Urgh.  Anger is an understatement.  This is precisely why I don’t think I’ll be extending my service for a third year: animals here ruin all my things.  And herds of donkeys enter my courtyard at night and stampede right underneath my bedroom window, making the most annoying sounds known to man.   And to make things worse, no one cares, because “C’est comme ca, ici” (It’s like that here), and as thee American, I’m rich and can certainly go buy some more green bean seeds if I want…   So I went to bed angry (or was it angrier? Since I had already been annoyed about the midnight express?)  And fell asleep to sweet dreams of knowing I had to get up in less than 2 hours to teach my 7am math class with 120 junior high kids.  Not exciting.  Especially when you’re tired and crabby.  I fell asleep, woke up to my alarm far too soon, turned it off, and went back to bed.  When I got up shortly before 11am, I called my homologue to let him know I had “just” gotten back to village, ate some food (I was hungry!) and read a book, because I was angry and didn’t want to do any of the things I needed to be doing, like taking a shower (I was also quite dirty, covered in red dust), washing my dishes, watering my half-dead, mostly eaten garden, typing up my grant requests, correcting a few hundred math test, etc.  So didn’t.  I basically moped around the whole day in my house, not leaving or greeting my neighbors, or really accomplishing anything.  Today (Wednesday) I got up, thoroughly washed (including my hair), went to school, lectured students about being annoying and disrespectful during my class.  I might have also kicked a few boys out of class and taken a girl’s juice – hey, my rule is no eating or drinking except water during class…and she had brought a cold, almost slushy-frozen juice….so it became mine. Muahhhaha 
But after class (and eating some Americaland goodies, including wild rice with a can of chicken breast, smothered in Velveeta cheese and a Snickers bar for dessert), I got to work.  I had pictures to take of “Flat Stanley” visiting my village for my cousin Jessica's daughter, as well as a grant to write – It’s due tonight… I didn’t leave myself to much wiggle room there, and in fact, even at the moment, it’s still not emailed.   The internet is working, but it hasn’t finished uploading the document (11 pages of grant gloriousness), and so I wait.  And pray that it will work.  If it doesn’t I don’t know what I’ll do.  The deadline is literally in a few hours.  C’mon Internet!  You can do it!  Just upload a few bytes every minute, that’s all!

If you’re interest in my grant, titled “Literacy through the Arts,” here’s a bit:
Project Summary:  By providing each of three local elementary schools with a set of one hundred age-appropriate picture books (primarily in French, but also in local languages) and basic “Literacy through the Arts” materials, this project aims to provide students with improved learning opportunities to develop their reading and critical thinking skills.  Additionally, this will be accompanied by a teacher workshop for the schools’ teachers and directors, strengthening their capacity so that they can successfully and creatively teach literacy.  This project addresses many of the community’s concerns, including: improving schools and children’s education; learning how to read; increasing access to books; incorporating health, hygiene, and other basic life skills into school curriculum; and training teachers.  The community and individual schools will be providing a significant proportion of the resources necessary for this project (25%), but in order for “Literacy through the Arts” to be as successful as possible with the greatest impact, outside aide is needed.  The potential outcomes for “Literacy through the Arts” are invaluable: books to read, students who succeed, and teachers who lead.   Considering that the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow, can we really put a price on their education?
Community Background:  Located near a river in the Sourou Valley of western Burkina Faso, not far from the frontier of Mali, Lanfiera and its surrounding commune is a flourishing community (pop. 15,800) that has recently received much attention from outside aide resources, such as the USA’s MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation).  However, all of this attention has been directed at improving the agricultural techniques of local farmers, increasing production, and ensuring food security, while in the meantime, the youth and teachers, who spend their days at school rather than in the fields, have been neglected.  The schools have many problems, ranging from too many students and not enough desks, to a lack of trained teachers and limited access to potable water.  Yet, when asked what they would most like to see changed in their community, an overwhelming majority of community members (including both adults and children) expressed a desire to learn how to read and to have access to books – specifically, books that are fun, educational, and interesting to children, as opposed to math textbooks (which are lacking as well!).  There are no libraries near Lanfiera (the closest is 42 kilometers away), and there are certainly no places to buy books, more or less books written in French; or better yet, African French; or still even better, local language.  Furthermore, the pedagogy used by teachers to develop students’ literacy skills is severely lacking and altogether negative in approach, primarily due to insufficient resources, though also a result of not implementing fresh and modern pedagogical methods into the classroom.  Every year, the primary schools graduate several hundred students into the local middle school (though almost as many don’t even make it to middle school), and sadly, almost half of these middle school students cannot read or understand a text, unless it is read aloud to them first.  While they may be able to hang on for a little while – or even a few years – they eventually reach a point where their inability to comprehend written language prevents them from learning entirely, and consequently, they drop out of school.  Aiming to inspire students and teachers, this project, “Literacy through the Arts,” is needed in the community because it addresses many of the community-identified priorities presented to me, as well as has the potential to incorporate secondary community concerns such as health and hygiene.   But most importantly, this project goes above and beyond, getting at the root of the problem while creating sustainable skills and practices: not only teaching students, but also teaching teachers. 


If it gets approved, there’s a good chance you’ll hear about the grant again…when I come knocking on your door (well, the cyberspace door of your email or facebook, that is) asking for donations!  How much do I want….oh just a thousand dollars…or two. Specifically, 1.178.000 CFA (local currency) or $2,356.00 (USA).   *Think Beth’s Christmas Present….or Africa’s Christmas Present, if you want to be global.*  But hey now, don’t get anxious.  it’s really  not that much.  Honestly, it equates to about $800 for each school – and that’s nothing. Most Americans spend more than that just on clothes…or yummy Starbucks drinks during the year….or one month’s rent…or a personal computer!  These schools don’t have much of anything, certainly not even just ONE computer (no money + no electricity = no computers), nor are there books.  Can you imagine going to school and your education only consisting of note-taking in a language that’s not even your mother-tongue?  No wonder the majority of the people in this country are illiterate (they sign their names X’s – seriously.) …. But you can help fix that!  Keep me in mind, and hopefully in a few weeks, I’ll let you know what you can to do to help and how to send my project your monetary donations!  Merci!

Grant Time!

Sat, 01/19/2013 - 08:57
Burkina Faso Adventures in Africa 2012-11-15 00:00:00
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Made it back to village safely --- that’s never a guarantee; it’s always a bit of a shocker when transport goes relatively well…  Well, I guess “relatively well” would be an overstatement.  I mean, I did wait for my bus for over three and half hours, just hanging out on the side of road from 8-11:30pm, waiting for the good ole “Midnight Express” to breeze through from Bobo to Guron (essentially my village…Guron is only a few kilo away from Lanfiera, about 15 minutes by bike).  While waiting, I sat awkwardly on a rice sack and read a book, using my cell phone as a flashlight.  Several busses stopped, but when MY bus finally came, some guy just started grabbing my stuff and loading it onto the bus immediately, and I just kept repeating, “Where is this bus going?  Is it going to Guron?” to verify that yes, this was the bus I wanted and if I got on it, I wouldn’t end up in the middle of nowhere.  Unfortunately no one responded….so I just got on and prayed.  (As it turns out, it was indeed the bus I wanted, thank God!)  Naturally, there was nowhere for me to sit, except for the half-broken seats next to old, sleeping women or women who had dirty smelly babies with them.   I chose a spot next to an old woman, crammed myself in (the guy next to the window was passed out, taking up 1 and a half of the three seats, and the old woman pretty much took up the other 1 and a half seats….) I’m not sure how I got in….but somehow I fit.  I continued to read my book until someone yelled at me for my cellphone light bothering him.  So then I was angry and annoyed.  The bus ride was far too uncomfortable and bumpy to even try sleeping.  I mean, I had to brace my legs against the seat and wrap my arms around the bars in front of me in order to avoid falling out of my seat or getting thrown out the window due to the massive bumps aggravated by the driver going at an insane speed….  I was almost tempted to put on my bike helmet…but then thought, “Nah, I’ll be fine.”  Well, I did make it back to Lanfiera after several hours on the Midnight Express and a few bruises on my head (maybe I should’ve worn my helmet?) and it was almost 5am by the time I biked back to my house and greeted Sabari who was thrilled to see me after having been gone for a few days --- she was probably more hungry than anything, though.
As I opened the door to my house, my cell phone light shined towards my garden and then I saw it:  the gate was moved, leaving the entrance wide open, and most of my plants were missing…or rather, eaten.   URGH.  I hate Africa!!!  How are we supposed to accomplish ANYTHING at all to help “the community” when I personally can’t even successfully have a small garden with salad and green beans, next to my house, completely enclosed with 5 foot high walls save the entrance (which has a gate, by the way!) without someone going and messing it up and letting their damn animals eat my green beans?!?!?!   Urgh.  Anger is an understatement.  This is precisely why I don’t think I’ll be extending my service for a third year: animals here ruin all my things.  And herds of donkeys enter my courtyard at night and stampede right underneath my bedroom window, making the most annoying sounds known to man.   And to make things worse, no one cares, because “C’est comme ca, ici” (It’s like that here), and as thee American, I’m rich and can certainly go buy some more green bean seeds if I want…   So I went to bed angry (or was it angrier? Since I had already been annoyed about the midnight express?)  And fell asleep to sweet dreams of knowing I had to get up in less than 2 hours to teach my 7am math class with 120 junior high kids.  Not exciting.  Especially when you’re tired and crabby.  I fell asleep, woke up to my alarm far too soon, turned it off, and went back to bed.  When I got up shortly before 11am, I called my homologue to let him know I had “just” gotten back to village, ate some food (I was hungry!) and read a book, because I was angry and didn’t want to do any of the things I needed to be doing, like taking a shower (I was also quite dirty, covered in red dust), washing my dishes, watering my half-dead, mostly eaten garden, typing up my grant requests, correcting a few hundred math test, etc.  So didn’t.  I basically moped around the whole day in my house, not leaving or greeting my neighbors, or really accomplishing anything.  Today (Wednesday) I got up, thoroughly washed (including my hair), went to school, lectured students about being annoying and disrespectful during my class.  I might have also kicked a few boys out of class and taken a girl’s juice – hey, my rule is no eating or drinking except water during class…and she had brought a cold, almost slushy-frozen juice….so it became mine. Muahhhaha 
But after class (and eating some Americaland goodies, including wild rice with a can of chicken breast, smothered in Velveeta cheese and a Snickers bar for dessert), I got to work.  I had pictures to take of “Flat Stanley” visiting my village for my cousin Jessica's daughter, as well as a grant to write – It’s due tonight… I didn’t leave myself to much wiggle room there, and in fact, even at the moment, it’s still not emailed.   The internet is working, but it hasn’t finished uploading the document (11 pages of grant gloriousness), and so I wait.  And pray that it will work.  If it doesn’t I don’t know what I’ll do.  The deadline is literally in a few hours.  C’mon Internet!  You can do it!  Just upload a few bytes every minute, that’s all!

If you’re interest in my grant, titled “Literacy through the Arts,” here’s a bit:
Project Summary:  By providing each of three local elementary schools with a set of one hundred age-appropriate picture books (primarily in French, but also in local languages) and basic “Literacy through the Arts” materials, this project aims to provide students with improved learning opportunities to develop their reading and critical thinking skills.  Additionally, this will be accompanied by a teacher workshop for the schools’ teachers and directors, strengthening their capacity so that they can successfully and creatively teach literacy.  This project addresses many of the community’s concerns, including: improving schools and children’s education; learning how to read; increasing access to books; incorporating health, hygiene, and other basic life skills into school curriculum; and training teachers.  The community and individual schools will be providing a significant proportion of the resources necessary for this project (25%), but in order for “Literacy through the Arts” to be as successful as possible with the greatest impact, outside aide is needed.  The potential outcomes for “Literacy through the Arts” are invaluable: books to read, students who succeed, and teachers who lead.   Considering that the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow, can we really put a price on their education?
Community Background:  Located near a river in the Sourou Valley of western Burkina Faso, not far from the frontier of Mali, Lanfiera and its surrounding commune is a flourishing community (pop. 15,800) that has recently received much attention from outside aide resources, such as the USA’s MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation).  However, all of this attention has been directed at improving the agricultural techniques of local farmers, increasing production, and ensuring food security, while in the meantime, the youth and teachers, who spend their days at school rather than in the fields, have been neglected.  The schools have many problems, ranging from too many students and not enough desks, to a lack of trained teachers and limited access to potable water.  Yet, when asked what they would most like to see changed in their community, an overwhelming majority of community members (including both adults and children) expressed a desire to learn how to read and to have access to books – specifically, books that are fun, educational, and interesting to children, as opposed to math textbooks (which are lacking as well!).  There are no libraries near Lanfiera (the closest is 42 kilometers away), and there are certainly no places to buy books, more or less books written in French; or better yet, African French; or still even better, local language.  Furthermore, the pedagogy used by teachers to develop students’ literacy skills is severely lacking and altogether negative in approach, primarily due to insufficient resources, though also a result of not implementing fresh and modern pedagogical methods into the classroom.  Every year, the primary schools graduate several hundred students into the local middle school (though almost as many don’t even make it to middle school), and sadly, almost half of these middle school students cannot read or understand a text, unless it is read aloud to them first.  While they may be able to hang on for a little while – or even a few years – they eventually reach a point where their inability to comprehend written language prevents them from learning entirely, and consequently, they drop out of school.  Aiming to inspire students and teachers, this project, “Literacy through the Arts,” is needed in the community because it addresses many of the community-identified priorities presented to me, as well as has the potential to incorporate secondary community concerns such as health and hygiene.   But most importantly, this project goes above and beyond, getting at the root of the problem while creating sustainable skills and practices: not only teaching students, but also teaching teachers. 


If it gets approved, there’s a good chance you’ll hear about the grant again…when I come knocking on your door (well, the cyberspace door of your email or facebook, that is) asking for donations!  How much do I want….oh just a thousand dollars…or two. Specifically, 1.178.000 CFA (local currency) or $2,356.00 (USA).   *Think Beth’s Christmas Present….or Africa’s Christmas Present, if you want to be global.*  But hey now, don’t get anxious.  it’s really  not that much.  Honestly, it equates to about $800 for each school – and that’s nothing. Most Americans spend more than that just on clothes…or yummy Starbucks drinks during the year….or one month’s rent…or a personal computer!  These schools don’t have much of anything, certainly not even just ONE computer (no money + no electricity = no computers), nor are there books.  Can you imagine going to school and your education only consisting of note-taking in a language that’s not even your mother-tongue?  No wonder the majority of the people in this country are illiterate (they sign their names X’s – seriously.) …. But you can help fix that!  Keep me in mind, and hopefully in a few weeks, I’ll let you know what you can to do to help and how to send my project your monetary donations!  Merci!

Grant Time!

Fri, 01/18/2013 - 14:49
Burkina Faso Adventures in Africa 2012-11-15 00:00:00
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Made it back to village safely --- that’s never a guarantee; it’s always a bit of a shocker when transport goes relatively well…  Well, I guess “relatively well” would be an overstatement.  I mean, I did wait for my bus for over three and half hours, just hanging out on the side of road from 8-11:30pm, waiting for the good ole “Midnight Express” to breeze through from Bobo to Guron (essentially my village…Guron is only a few kilo away from Lanfiera, about 15 minutes by bike).  While waiting, I sat awkwardly on a rice sack and read a book, using my cell phone as a flashlight.  Several busses stopped, but when MY bus finally came, some guy just started grabbing my stuff and loading it onto the bus immediately, and I just kept repeating, “Where is this bus going?  Is it going to Guron?” to verify that yes, this was the bus I wanted and if I got on it, I wouldn’t end up in the middle of nowhere.  Unfortunately no one responded….so I just got on and prayed.  (As it turns out, it was indeed the bus I wanted, thank God!)  Naturally, there was nowhere for me to sit, except for the half-broken seats next to old, sleeping women or women who had dirty smelly babies with them.   I chose a spot next to an old woman, crammed myself in (the guy next to the window was passed out, taking up 1 and a half of the three seats, and the old woman pretty much took up the other 1 and a half seats….) I’m not sure how I got in….but somehow I fit.  I continued to read my book until someone yelled at me for my cellphone light bothering him.  So then I was angry and annoyed.  The bus ride was far too uncomfortable and bumpy to even try sleeping.  I mean, I had to brace my legs against the seat and wrap my arms around the bars in front of me in order to avoid falling out of my seat or getting thrown out the window due to the massive bumps aggravated by the driver going at an insane speed….  I was almost tempted to put on my bike helmet…but then thought, “Nah, I’ll be fine.”  Well, I did make it back to Lanfiera after several hours on the Midnight Express and a few bruises on my head (maybe I should’ve worn my helmet?) and it was almost 5am by the time I biked back to my house and greeted Sabari who was thrilled to see me after having been gone for a few days --- she was probably more hungry than anything, though.
As I opened the door to my house, my cell phone light shined towards my garden and then I saw it:  the gate was moved, leaving the entrance wide open, and most of my plants were missing…or rather, eaten.   URGH.  I hate Africa!!!  How are we supposed to accomplish ANYTHING at all to help “the community” when I personally can’t even successfully have a small garden with salad and green beans, next to my house, completely enclosed with 5 foot high walls save the entrance (which has a gate, by the way!) without someone going and messing it up and letting their damn animals eat my green beans?!?!?!   Urgh.  Anger is an understatement.  This is precisely why I don’t think I’ll be extending my service for a third year: animals here ruin all my things.  And herds of donkeys enter my courtyard at night and stampede right underneath my bedroom window, making the most annoying sounds known to man.   And to make things worse, no one cares, because “C’est comme ca, ici” (It’s like that here), and as thee American, I’m rich and can certainly go buy some more green bean seeds if I want…   So I went to bed angry (or was it angrier? Since I had already been annoyed about the midnight express?)  And fell asleep to sweet dreams of knowing I had to get up in less than 2 hours to teach my 7am math class with 120 junior high kids.  Not exciting.  Especially when you’re tired and crabby.  I fell asleep, woke up to my alarm far too soon, turned it off, and went back to bed.  When I got up shortly before 11am, I called my homologue to let him know I had “just” gotten back to village, ate some food (I was hungry!) and read a book, because I was angry and didn’t want to do any of the things I needed to be doing, like taking a shower (I was also quite dirty, covered in red dust), washing my dishes, watering my half-dead, mostly eaten garden, typing up my grant requests, correcting a few hundred math test, etc.  So didn’t.  I basically moped around the whole day in my house, not leaving or greeting my neighbors, or really accomplishing anything.  Today (Wednesday) I got up, thoroughly washed (including my hair), went to school, lectured students about being annoying and disrespectful during my class.  I might have also kicked a few boys out of class and taken a girl’s juice – hey, my rule is no eating or drinking except water during class…and she had brought a cold, almost slushy-frozen juice….so it became mine. Muahhhaha 
But after class (and eating some Americaland goodies, including wild rice with a can of chicken breast, smothered in Velveeta cheese and a Snickers bar for dessert), I got to work.  I had pictures to take of “Flat Stanley” visiting my village for my cousin Jessica's daughter, as well as a grant to write – It’s due tonight… I didn’t leave myself to much wiggle room there, and in fact, even at the moment, it’s still not emailed.   The internet is working, but it hasn’t finished uploading the document (11 pages of grant gloriousness), and so I wait.  And pray that it will work.  If it doesn’t I don’t know what I’ll do.  The deadline is literally in a few hours.  C’mon Internet!  You can do it!  Just upload a few bytes every minute, that’s all!

If you’re interest in my grant, titled “Literacy through the Arts,” here’s a bit:
Project Summary:  By providing each of three local elementary schools with a set of one hundred age-appropriate picture books (primarily in French, but also in local languages) and basic “Literacy through the Arts” materials, this project aims to provide students with improved learning opportunities to develop their reading and critical thinking skills.  Additionally, this will be accompanied by a teacher workshop for the schools’ teachers and directors, strengthening their capacity so that they can successfully and creatively teach literacy.  This project addresses many of the community’s concerns, including: improving schools and children’s education; learning how to read; increasing access to books; incorporating health, hygiene, and other basic life skills into school curriculum; and training teachers.  The community and individual schools will be providing a significant proportion of the resources necessary for this project (25%), but in order for “Literacy through the Arts” to be as successful as possible with the greatest impact, outside aide is needed.  The potential outcomes for “Literacy through the Arts” are invaluable: books to read, students who succeed, and teachers who lead.   Considering that the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow, can we really put a price on their education?
Community Background:  Located near a river in the Sourou Valley of western Burkina Faso, not far from the frontier of Mali, Lanfiera and its surrounding commune is a flourishing community (pop. 15,800) that has recently received much attention from outside aide resources, such as the USA’s MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation).  However, all of this attention has been directed at improving the agricultural techniques of local farmers, increasing production, and ensuring food security, while in the meantime, the youth and teachers, who spend their days at school rather than in the fields, have been neglected.  The schools have many problems, ranging from too many students and not enough desks, to a lack of trained teachers and limited access to potable water.  Yet, when asked what they would most like to see changed in their community, an overwhelming majority of community members (including both adults and children) expressed a desire to learn how to read and to have access to books – specifically, books that are fun, educational, and interesting to children, as opposed to math textbooks (which are lacking as well!).  There are no libraries near Lanfiera (the closest is 42 kilometers away), and there are certainly no places to buy books, more or less books written in French; or better yet, African French; or still even better, local language.  Furthermore, the pedagogy used by teachers to develop students’ literacy skills is severely lacking and altogether negative in approach, primarily due to insufficient resources, though also a result of not implementing fresh and modern pedagogical methods into the classroom.  Every year, the primary schools graduate several hundred students into the local middle school (though almost as many don’t even make it to middle school), and sadly, almost half of these middle school students cannot read or understand a text, unless it is read aloud to them first.  While they may be able to hang on for a little while – or even a few years – they eventually reach a point where their inability to comprehend written language prevents them from learning entirely, and consequently, they drop out of school.  Aiming to inspire students and teachers, this project, “Literacy through the Arts,” is needed in the community because it addresses many of the community-identified priorities presented to me, as well as has the potential to incorporate secondary community concerns such as health and hygiene.   But most importantly, this project goes above and beyond, getting at the root of the problem while creating sustainable skills and practices: not only teaching students, but also teaching teachers. 


If it gets approved, there’s a good chance you’ll hear about the grant again…when I come knocking on your door (well, the cyberspace door of your email or facebook, that is) asking for donations!  How much do I want….oh just a thousand dollars…or two. Specifically, 1.178.000 CFA (local currency) or $2,356.00 (USA).   *Think Beth’s Christmas Present….or Africa’s Christmas Present, if you want to be global.*  But hey now, don’t get anxious.  it’s really  not that much.  Honestly, it equates to about $800 for each school – and that’s nothing. Most Americans spend more than that just on clothes…or yummy Starbucks drinks during the year….or one month’s rent…or a personal computer!  These schools don’t have much of anything, certainly not even just ONE computer (no money + no electricity = no computers), nor are there books.  Can you imagine going to school and your education only consisting of note-taking in a language that’s not even your mother-tongue?  No wonder the majority of the people in this country are illiterate (they sign their names X’s – seriously.) …. But you can help fix that!  Keep me in mind, and hopefully in a few weeks, I’ll let you know what you can to do to help and how to send my project your monetary donations!  Merci!

Grant Time!

Thu, 01/17/2013 - 12:59
Burkina Faso Adventures in Africa 2012-11-15 00:01:00
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Made it back to village safely --- that’s never a guarantee; it’s always a bit of a shocker when transport goes relatively well…  Well, I guess “relatively well” would be an overstatement.  I mean, I did wait for my bus for over three and half hours, just hanging out on the side of road from 8-11:30pm, waiting for the good ole “Midnight Express” to breeze through from Bobo to Guron (essentially my village…Guron is only a few kilo away from Lanfiera, about 15 minutes by bike).  While waiting, I sat awkwardly on a rice sack and read a book, using my cell phone as a flashlight.  Several busses stopped, but when MY bus finally came, some guy just started grabbing my stuff and loading it onto the bus immediately, and I just kept repeating, “Where is this bus going?  Is it going to Guron?” to verify that yes, this was the bus I wanted and if I got on it, I wouldn’t end up in the middle of nowhere.  Unfortunately no one responded….so I just got on and prayed.  (As it turns out, it was indeed the bus I wanted, thank God!)  Naturally, there was nowhere for me to sit, except for the half-broken seats next to old, sleeping women or women who had dirty smelly babies with them.   I chose a spot next to an old woman, crammed myself in (the guy next to the window was passed out, taking up 1 and a half of the three seats, and the old woman pretty much took up the other 1 and a half seats….) I’m not sure how I got in….but somehow I fit.  I continued to read my book until someone yelled at me for my cellphone light bothering him.  So then I was angry and annoyed.  The bus ride was far too uncomfortable and bumpy to even try sleeping.  I mean, I had to brace my legs against the seat and wrap my arms around the bars in front of me in order to avoid falling out of my seat or getting thrown out the window due to the massive bumps aggravated by the driver going at an insane speed….  I was almost tempted to put on my bike helmet…but then thought, “Nah, I’ll be fine.”  Well, I did make it back to Lanfiera after several hours on the Midnight Express and a few bruises on my head (maybe I should’ve worn my helmet?) and it was almost 5am by the time I biked back to my house and greeted Sabari who was thrilled to see me after having been gone for a few days --- she was probably more hungry than anything, though.
As I opened the door to my house, my cell phone light shined towards my garden and then I saw it:  the gate was moved, leaving the entrance wide open, and most of my plants were missing…or rather, eaten.   URGH.  I hate Africa!!!  How are we supposed to accomplish ANYTHING at all to help “the community” when I personally can’t even successfully have a small garden with salad and green beans, next to my house, completely enclosed with 5 foot high walls save the entrance (which has a gate, by the way!) without someone going and messing it up and letting their damn animals eat my green beans?!?!?!   Urgh.  Anger is an understatement.  This is precisely why I don’t think I’ll be extending my service for a third year: animals here ruin all my things.  And herds of donkeys enter my courtyard at night and stampede right underneath my bedroom window, making the most annoying sounds known to man.   And to make things worse, no one cares, because “C’est comme ca, ici” (It’s like that here), and as thee American, I’m rich and can certainly go buy some more green bean seeds if I want…   So I went to bed angry (or was it angrier? Since I had already been annoyed about the midnight express?)  And fell asleep to sweet dreams of knowing I had to get up in less than 2 hours to teach my 7am math class with 120 junior high kids.  Not exciting.  Especially when you’re tired and crabby.  I fell asleep, woke up to my alarm far too soon, turned it off, and went back to bed.  Clearly I wasn't too concerned about not showing up for another day of class and not having informed anyone about it.... I get more Burkinabe each day!  When I got up shortly before 11am, I called my homologue to let him know I had “just” gotten back to village, ate some food (I was hungry!) and read a book, because I was angry and didn’t want to do any of the things I needed to be doing, like taking a shower (I was also quite dirty, covered in red dust), washing my dishes, watering my half-dead, mostly eaten garden, typing up my grant requests, correcting a few hundred math test, etc.  So I didn’t.  I basically moped around the whole day in my house, not leaving or greeting my neighbors, or really accomplishing anything.  Today (Wednesday) I got up, thoroughly washed (including my hair), went to school, lectured students about being annoying and disrespectful during my class and how I'm not their mom and so I shouldn't need to be telling them things like "Come to school with all your materials and wearing clean clothes. You should wash everyday before school."  I might have also kicked a few boys out of class and taken a girl’s juice – hey, my rule is no eating or drinking except water during class…and she had brought a cold, almost slushy-frozen juice….so it became mine. Muahhhaha 
But after class (and eating some Americaland goodies, including wild rice with a can of chicken breast, smothered in Velveeta cheese and a Snickers bar for dessert), I got to work.  I had pictures to take of “Flat Stanley” visiting my village for my cousin Jessica's daughter, as well as a grant to write – It’s due tonight… I didn’t leave myself to much wiggle room there, and in fact, even at the moment, it’s still not emailed.   The internet is working, but it hasn’t finished uploading the document (11 pages of grant gloriousness), and so I wait.  And pray that it will work.  If it doesn’t I don’t know what I’ll do.  The deadline is literally in a few hours.  C’mon Internet!  You can do it!  Just upload a few bytes every minute, that’s all!

If you’re interest in my grant, titled “Literacy through the Arts,” here’s a bit:
Project Summary:  By providing each of three local elementary schools with a set of one hundred age-appropriate picture books (primarily in French, but also in local languages) and basic “Literacy through the Arts” materials, this project aims to provide students with improved learning opportunities to develop their reading and critical thinking skills.  Additionally, this will be accompanied by a teacher workshop for the schools’ teachers and directors, strengthening their capacity so that they can successfully and creatively teach literacy.  This project addresses many of the community’s concerns, including: improving schools and children’s education; learning how to read; increasing access to books; incorporating health, hygiene, and other basic life skills into school curriculum; and training teachers.  The community and individual schools will be providing a significant proportion of the resources necessary for this project (25%), but in order for “Literacy through the Arts” to be as successful as possible with the greatest impact, outside aide is needed.  The potential outcomes for “Literacy through the Arts” are invaluable: books to read, students who succeed, and teachers who lead.   Considering that the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow, can we really put a price on their education?
Community Background:  Located near a river in the Sourou Valley of western Burkina Faso, not far from the frontier of Mali, Lanfiera and its surrounding commune is a flourishing community (pop. 15,800) that has recently received much attention from outside aide resources, such as the USA’s MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation).  However, all of this attention has been directed at improving the agricultural techniques of local farmers, increasing production, and ensuring food security, while in the meantime, the youth and teachers, who spend their days at school rather than in the fields, have been neglected.  The schools have many problems, ranging from too many students and not enough desks, to a lack of trained teachers and limited access to potable water.  Yet, when asked what they would most like to see changed in their community, an overwhelming majority of community members (including both adults and children) expressed a desire to learn how to read and to have access to books – specifically, books that are fun, educational, and interesting to children, as opposed to math textbooks (which are lacking as well!).  There are no libraries near Lanfiera (the closest is 42 kilometers away), and there are certainly no places to buy books, more or less books written in French; or better yet, African French; or still even better, local language.  Furthermore, the pedagogy used by teachers to develop students’ literacy skills is severely lacking and altogether negative in approach, primarily due to insufficient resources, though also a result of not implementing fresh and modern pedagogical methods into the classroom.  Every year, the primary schools graduate several hundred students into the local middle school (though almost as many don’t even make it to middle school), and sadly, almost half of these middle school students cannot read or understand a text, unless it is read aloud to them first.  While they may be able to hang on for a little while – or even a few years – they eventually reach a point where their inability to comprehend written language prevents them from learning entirely, and consequently, they drop out of school.  Aiming to inspire students and teachers, this project, “Literacy through the Arts,” is needed in the community because it addresses many of the community-identified priorities presented to me, as well as has the potential to incorporate secondary community concerns such as health and hygiene.   But most importantly, this project goes above and beyond, getting at the root of the problem while creating sustainable skills and practices: not only teaching students, but also teaching teachers. 


If it gets approved, there’s a good chance you’ll hear about the grant again…when I come knocking on your door (well, the cyberspace door of your email or facebook, that is) asking for donations!  How much do I want….oh just a thousand dollars…or two. Specifically, 1.178.000 CFA (local currency) or $2,356.00 (USA).   *Think Beth’s Christmas Present….or Africa’s Christmas Present, if you want to be global.*  But hey now, don’t get anxious.  it’s really  not that much.  Honestly, it equates to about $800 for each school – and that’s nothing. Most Americans spend more than that just on clothes…or yummy Starbucks drinks during the year….or one month’s rent…or a personal computer!  These schools don’t have much of anything, certainly not even just ONE computer (no money + no electricity = no computers), nor are there books.  Can you imagine going to school and your education only consisting of note-taking in a language that’s not even your mother-tongue?  No wonder the majority of the people in this country are illiterate (they sign their names with X’s – seriously.) …. But you can help fix that!  Keep me in mind, and hopefully in a few weeks, I’ll let you know what you can to do to help and how to send my project your monetary donations!  Merci!

Top 8 Things I Love About India

Sat, 01/12/2013 - 12:21
Burkina Faso Striving for Success 2012-11-13 16:06:00

11.     Bangalore has a Café Coffee Day on every corner22.     Banana Leaf Plates- everyone needs to quit paper plates and use banana leaves…has got to be better for the environment, plus you get to eat on something green!

33.     Jasmine flowers to ornate hair…stop and smell the jasmine in life J

44.      Sidewalk art- so for holidays, events, and activities people chalk on the entry way some beautiful design…it is an added treat when they use actual flower pedals to do it…so creative and beautiful
55.    Fairy tale weddings- while I am personally not interested in having a huge wedding, it is definitely nice how fairy tale-like weddings are…it reminds me of a Cinderella 

6






6.     Avoiding the traffic- so I know this is my 10 things I love about India, I do need everyone to understand that I am NOT a fan of the traffic and am often afraid that my life is in danger, so when I do not have to deal with it, I feel very, VERY happy!

77.     Rupees!- Indian money makes me happy because they are so diverse.  For example, 5 rupees vary from the shape of the coin, color, size, and some are even bills, but it is ALL 5rupees…kinda cool, but at times confusing because you can’t just reach in your pocket and pull something out without verifying that you are giving the right amount of money…but still I love the way its all different, but still worth the same amount! (It’s like the people on earth J)
88.      Porota (I am not sure if I am spelling it right)!!!- This is by far my fav type of bread here.  Hmm…how do I explain.  Well when it is time to eat people ask what type of starch you want.  Like do you want rice, naan, doosa, idly, or porota.  I still have not figured out how to order the food I want in a restaurant because sometimes I can choose the gravy (chicken masala, dal, etc) and the other times they just bring something…I don’t really get it because I do not like all of the side dishes, but you gotta go with the flow I guess…it’s a surprise every time!  For all you Indian restaurant eaters in the states, you have probably been deprived of porotas as I had been since it’s a south Indian food and most Indian restaurants in the states are north Indian.  However, just know that these things are good!


“We Have Bombs!”

Thu, 01/10/2013 - 10:07
Burkina Faso Striving for Success 2012-11-13 16:08:00
On November 14, 2012 much of India is celebrating Diwali.  First, Happy Diwali to all in India and worldwide that celebrate this holiday.  May your life be full of peace and prosperity! 
 So, Aisha, what is up with the title of your blog?  Well, I will tell you!  A week before Diwali I asked one of the cleaning ladies in my dorm to tell me about the upcoming holiday.  I asked, “Do you all have a special dance, music…?” and her response was, “No, we have bombs!”  Now I must come to her defense, she does not speak English very well and her and I spend a lot of time rethinking how we will phrase conversations: I so that I am using vocabulary that she will understand and her searching through her stock of English to convey her message.  She meant that people set off lots of firecrackers.  Haha.  When she first said it my eyes got really wide.  Anyone who knows me knows that I have a very expressive face, especially my eyes.  So she then started making noises and open and closing her hands kinda like fireworks so that I could get the picture, “Boom! Boom!”  It was perfect.  Once I realized that there would be no wars going on it was indeed a good thing.  She went on to explain that it was a Hindu celebration so she herself would not be doing much of anything at all other than taking advantage of the day off.  I must say, SHE WAS RIGHT!  At about 5:15am I could no longer sleep because it sounded like a bomb was coming in my window!  My goodness!  Talk about a firecracker competition!  I didn’t know what was going on.  And also, because I attend a Christian College, there was not much at all going on here for me to get an understanding of what Diwali is all about.  We got the day off, the cafeteria staff in the dorm made a special lunch (I think this has been by far the spiciest of meals I have had yet) and there were Indian sweets given out.  Most of the students spent time studying because exams continue on the 15th.  But I looked it up to get a better understanding of what it is all about.
It turns out that Diwali is also known as the festival of lights.  There are special things done in the home like lighting clay lamps, sharing sweets and other things.  The lamps signify the triumph of goodness over evil.  The firecrackers are set off to ward off evil spirits and it actually lasts 5 days.  I assume we are at the end of the celebration on the 14th this year (it changes each year based on the lunar calendar) because all week there have been fireworks, but this morning was by far the most I have heard.  Because I am on a Christian campus, there is not much to see in terms of how families conduct the holiday in their homes, but I hear the firecrackers and we had sweets.  So I guess I am a part of it all J.  Happy Diwali and peace to all!

Excursions to Kolkatta and Bangalore!

Fri, 01/04/2013 - 22:18
Burkina Faso Striving for Success 2012-11-13 14:35:00
Shout out to Kristen for an awesome trip far far away from Tamil Nadu.  It was a great trip with ups and downs.  I am an introvert so having to spend an entire week with a person every moment of the day is overwhelming at times…I needed some “me time” to rejuvenate… didn't always get it, but we had a blast nonetheless!  I wouldn't trade it in for the world.  Thanks for a great time J
P.s. to those of you who think I am lying about the introvert thing, I am not.  Even though I enjoy talking to people and am not shy, that does not mean I am not an introvert.  The difference between an introvert and an extrovert is the manner in which they recharge their batteries.  If you are the type of person who would like to go home and read a book, walk alone, watch TV or write in your journal…any activity, but just alone after a long hard day, you are likely an introvert.  If you want to go hang out with people and do any activity after a long hard day, you are likely an extrovert…you feel charged by getting energy from others around you.  I feel drained…sorry guys, but it’s the truth.  When my life is most overwhelming I retreat the most…not because I am sad, but because that is the only way I can get enough energy to face the world again.  Love you all…smooches! 
 Enough about hermits and butterflies…lol…Kolkatta!
The first leg of our trip was to Kolkatta…what an interesting time of year to visit.  We went at the end of the Durga Pujas (I think it was durga…it might have been another…I can’t keep them all straight in my head).  Nonetheless, it was a huge celebration of one of the goddesses.  Like I said, it was the end so we got to see the closing festivities when everyone was bringing their huge floats and shrines of the goddess to put into the Ganges.  How exciting!  It was also interesting because there was absolutely NO traffic anywhere.  Everything was calm…which from what I hear is not the case usually…traffic is as bad as in Chennai, but we at least came at a time to get a break from the hustle and bustle. 

 We spent time at Mother Theresa’s House, and went looking for Tigers in the Sunderbans!  We never found them, but had loads of fun in the mud, cruised in the beautiful Bay of Bengali for hours upon hours, and found lots of other interesting creatures.  Our final day in Kolkatta culminated with a little shopping, a visit to the Victoria Memorial and a SUPERB Italian dinner at a restaurant that I stepped into and forgot I was not home.  Food was awesome!  Pizza with pesto and chicken, a salad with spinach and smokey mozzarella…my mouth is watering just thinking about it! 


 The next day we flew to Bangalore…our number one goal there was to relax and get a much needed pedicure after romping around in the muddy mangroves!  Kristen had the bright idea to get a “fish spa” something that neither of us had ever heard of or tried, but it was on the menu of choices at the spa we found in the mall.  I took one for the team this time, but will likely never do it again…though I went looking for animals everyone knows I am not a fan of them and letting little fish eat the dead skin off of my feet was not my idea of fun…I was scared! Haha…But it was my choice…and well, I am not going to make the same one in the future…lol.  Bangalore is indeed a different world from the south of Indian, women wear mini-skirts, there are Café Coffee Day shops on every corner…it’s just like starbucks, and going to a bar or a club is just as normal as it is at home...  So we tried out a bar and I must say I had little faith that India was going to be able to satisfy my lounge needs, but I was pleasantly surprised that the place was pretty classy and enjoyable! 

    I had a mojito, it was lady’s night to entrance, appetizers and certain drinks were free…it was a nice time.  I am not a big dancer in public, so I mainly watched and it made me feel right at home…seemed pretty normal lounge/bar to me.  Plus it was on the rooftop which is always a nice touch.    We dropped in on a Rotary meeting and met some nice people.  The highlight tourist spots were the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens (BEAUTIFUL) and also the Industrial & Technological Museum.  Pretty cool experience. 
 










It was an awesome step away from Chennai with lots of interesting twists and turns: we got followed and then quickly lost him, met 4 very nice and helpful people on 3 different occasions, rode a bicycle driven rickshaw, got bitten by little bugs in the mud and then voluntarily put our feet in a fish tank to be bitten, I slipped in the mud and busted my bum, we got lost (nothing new to me, so no worries there),  took a picture in front of a Hard Rock Café, and I lost my shoe on the very last hour of our trip…good thing I had flip flops!  A trip to remember indeed!



Facing Identity, Race and Culture: “Where are you really from?”

Fri, 01/04/2013 - 00:33
Burkina Faso Striving for Success 2012-11-13 10:30:00
It is hard to share stories about culture because it is in everything and everywhere.  The fact that people always ask you, “Have you eaten?” after a simple hello, speaks to the importance of looking after those you care about and love.  Being sure that, as a foreigner, I am comfortable and always have a place to sit even if there are fewer chairs than there are people, marks the hospitality of the people.   And while I feel taken care of and supported in my overall day to day activities, it would be misleading to say that it is with complete ease that my experience has unfolded.  As an American and a descendant of Africans who were enslaved in the Americas, it is not an easy feat when people do not accept me as American.  I am constantly questioned about my “real” origin.  And while I realize that most places worldwide are unaware of the history of the development of America, it is hard being reminded constantly that I am seen as an “other”.  My history is a difficult one to trace.  What is most difficult to deal with is that the face of America worldwide is white and everyone else who is there is understood to be “others” who have migrated there.  Though this is not true.  Native Americans are the “real” Americans if one would have to place some sort of value on “americanness” based on their ancestral origin and everyone else including white people are the “others”, but that is not what most people understand or know about America.  I am proud to be American and proud of the struggle that black people in America have passed through as I am now capable of experiencing the privileges of exploration and education worldwide.  
 No matter where I am in the world, if someone asks me where I am from the first thing that pops to mind is America because I am proud to be from America and this is the most significant portion of the story of my origin.  But as I said before I am always asked questions like, “No, where are you really from?  Where is your grandfather from?”  And when I say America, this answer still often does not satisfy people.  So I am pushed to move on and so I often tell them that I am a descendant of African people who were enslaved in the Americas.  This usually prompts people to change the subject to something else completely for fear that I may be embarrassed by being associated with a history of enslavement.  Understandably so because as the history of the caste system and the importance people place on knowing the occupation of your parents appears to be of great importance here.  I am not at all ashamed of my history and actually feel proud to share; knowing where I came from and comparing it to where I am now is beautiful.  Because of the transatlantic slave trade Africans who were brought to America for slavery were mixed so they would not have common language to revolt, and bought and sold regardless of direct blood alignment.  So tracing such a history back to a specific country in Africa is difficult, though some have done so.  There was much mixing within the African people as well as with the, Native Americans and European whites, as the children of slaves would be enslaved again even if they were biracial.  So those children once again mixed among the “non-biracial” children and so black Americans who are descendants of slaves have a long history of mixing.  So for me to figure out one country in West Africa where some of my people may be from and forgetting all of the mixing that occurred is unfair in my eyes.  So I consider myself Black American to mark both my connectedness to the black continent of Africa and to mark that there was a disruption in our connection and a re-creation of a new group of people.  I usually consider African Americans people who can easily trace their roots to a specific country in Africa, like those who may have migrated after slavery was over.  But labeling is neither here nor there. 
 One of my professors once asked me of my “real origin” and I told him that I was Black American and a descendant of African slaves, but I cannot tell him from where in West Africa my ancestors came from.  He informed me that, “You know the whites in America know there origin based on their names.  So where are you from?”  The question took me aback.  Because my white peers studying here have told me that no one has ever asked them to tell their “real” origin.  So the fact that he knew that white people were not from America was quite a stride.  But, I recognize that he would have no context to know that African slaves were beaten if they spoke African languages and were recorded in books along with the chicken and cattle and more importantly, they took on the name of their slave owners.  I know he had no context to understand that, but I cannot explain the immense hurt I felt facing a man who was comparing my history of forced migration and enslavement to those of slave owners (and also those who were not, but are now American citizens) that often came by choice.  I just told him that our histories were different because our names were forbidden and I left the department.  I realized after that experience that it was important to share the reality of America.  The reality in the sense that there are many people of diverse lands and many of them who cannot trace back their traditional dress, or language, or specific food to the place where their skin color and original ancestors come from, and that America is their home.  I knew I had to share the story of Native Americans so that people here know that the original Americans were not white Europeans.  Please understand that my intention is neither to point blame or put down any group of people whom I consider my American brothers and sisters (I exclude no race in that kinship), but to make the experience of another person who may come to this college who may not fit the picture of what America has been portrayed as worldwide that much easier.  Yes, the president of the USA is a mixed race man, but he can tell people why his skin is tanned; his mother is a white woman from Hawaii and his father a Kenyan who studied in the USA.  Though his face may resemble my complexion, it does not have the same history (it is connected however), even if the world sees us as one in the same. 

 My race has been a bit of a struggle for me in India.  And I knew to some extent there may be some issue.  When I was a volunteer in Burkina Faso, the people called me a white woman.  An extremely hard thing to deal with if you grow up with parents who teach you to be proud of who you are and whose you are regardless as to how grim it may be.  I am not anti-white, but I am not white, I am black.  Over time I understood the reasoning.  My mannerisms, language, and interests matched my white peers; the face of America in the eyes of the world is white.  Even though my skin was brown, my features were different, so I was not quite African…so what else could I be but white?  Also the local language did not have many different words to describe races…you were either black meaning African like them, or not.  Most often people would ask me questions like, “which one of your parents is African?”  as if they had come to the conclusion that I must be biracial.  So I knew that I might experience some issues because even in Africa the people were not sure how to place me.  I was once called “one of the lost Africans” by an older lady.  I never thought I was lost, but I understand her point.  Black people who are descendants of the transatlantic slave trade are in a space of limbo when interacting with the rest of the world.  But I was able to get over the “white lady” thing.  I knew they meant no harm.  However, here where I am finally considered black, there is little basis for an understanding that I am also American.  And the negative attitude toward darkness makes it even more difficult, though I think in general they mean no direct harm.
I went to the salon to get a pedicure and the ladies working there tried to convince me I needed to bleach my skin.  I said, “No, I like my skin.  It’s good.”  And they insisted, “No ma’am, it is black color.  Black color is bad ma’am.  Bleaching is good.”  I went to the beach with some of my friends and the next day one of the girls was telling me how her brother saw pictures of her and was now poking fun at her.  “He is the darkest in the family so we used to always call him blacky.  ‘Blackyyyy, Blackyyy!’ and now he is calling me, ‘Blac—“ as she was saying this she was laughing and I stopped her to ask how this was supposed to be funny to me.  She tried to convince me that they were simply poking fun at him because he was the black sheep of the family and it didn’t mean anything.  While it may not mean the same thing to her as it means to me, it does mean something because many women here go to salons to get their skin bleached to remove their tans.  My Indian friends were devastated every time they get a little too tan and are consequently delighted once the tans wear off.  Readjusting my lens to understand the color complex within the given culture and also thickening my skin to deal with the things people may say has been quite essential in this experience.  But I do wonder how people here feel who are darker than me as I have many Indian classmates who are much darker than I am.  But how do they feel?
Beyond being black and realizing that race is not understood through the same lens that I understand it as an American, there are other hurdles to climb: namely word choice.  So I explained the “blacky” thing that was a bit overwhelming, but probably the most overwhelming was the use of the word “niggahs!”  One evening I walk into the room of one of the girls on my hall as she was reading aloud an email that her friend sent to her and some other people, “what’s up my niggahs!” she says and I left the room before I could hear the rest.  Realistically, she was reading something that someone else wrote to her and also the word was used in the sense of fraternity, but who am I to be upset with?  The word has morphed and changed so much as a term used to put down my people and was taken hostage by the black community to change it into a word of love…but among black people…How the heck did it get to India?! Should I be angry with hip hop artists for using it so much in their music that people may have no context to understand the word and how it has been used to abuse?  Wasn’t it supposed to be just between us?  It was supposed to be “our” business, you know like our parents told us as children, “what goes on in this house stays in this house.”  Should I be mad at myself for letting a word get to me and giving it power simply because I let it affect me?  I honestly have no idea.  But it makes me think to say the least. 
 The other word choice example was actually quite comical.  One of my Indian classmates is really dark.  He is so dark that many of his fellow Indians when they first meet him ask if he is African.  Interesting enough, his favorite genre of music is hip-hop.  It kind of makes me wonder why hip-hop is his choice sound.  Is it because he likes the beats, the clever use of words, and catchy hooks?  Or is it because his complexion drove him to seek a group others see him in?  I do not know, but I do wonder.  Nonetheless, one day we were randomly talking about clothes and he informed me that “I like dressing African American style.”  Never in my life had I heard such a thing.  It made me laugh and I asked him what he meant by that.  He explained that he liked hip-hop and so he liked the clothes people wear in the videos.  I went on to explain to him that he likes to dress “hip-hop style” if he wants to label it (though I am not sure if that would even put it into a good box), but calling it African American excludes all the people who do not like hip-hop, but are black.  Plus, would that mean that he likes to wear clothes that people wear to jazz concerts?  It was black America who created jazz music.  He was pretty receptive and I must say that was by far my favorite encounter of them all, because though they all lacked the intent to be harmful, this one instead made me laugh and put into perspective the innocence from which people here speak to me. To say the least every time someone asks me where I am “really” from, I am sharing about my American culture.  Every time I walk into a place and I say I am American, but my complexion is incongruent with the picture in their heads, I am sharing American culture.  Being American is so beautiful because it is dynamic and ever changing; there is always room for something new and fresh.  I am happy to share all of these parts of me, especially when I sing my favorite nursery rhymes with the children, dance, or as we prepare for the upcoming winter holiday season being able to share Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s traditions are also very important to the story of who I am. 
 As I have said many times before, I am thankful for this opportunity.  When you exchange with people there will be things that are comfortable and those that are uncomfortable.  If for nothing else, I am happy to learn about other people and watch myself mature to be able to face any sort of misunderstanding of whom I am and where I fit into this world.  I am a child of my Creator in heaven and so are each of my brothers and sisters on earth.  I just have to introduce myself to them.  And so I am thankful for this opportunity for personal growth as I continue to explore the corners of this earth and share with the beautiful people of this world…I am simply learning patience, the hard way…




Yet another brief update....

Fri, 01/04/2013 - 00:33
Burkina Faso Adventures in Africa 2012-11-12 18:09:00
November 12, 2012
Life in the BF (Burkina Faso) never fails to be new and exciting every day.  I have so many stories I wish I could share, but of course there is never time (or electricity) for that, and plus they’re difficult to write about and explain, and they’d be so much better in person.  I’ll do my best to store my most memorable stories in my brain, or write about some of them in my journal, and type some up when I have electricity and am not bombarded with lessons to plan and test to correct, but hopefully someday, if there’s ever a dull moment in conversation, I can save the day with my, “One time, in Africa….”
School started the first week of October for me, and I’m teaching the same grade levels as last year, sixièmeand cinquième(basically 7th and 8th grade).  It’s nice to do something that I’ve already done and experienced now, and thus I am more relaxed and don’t have to spend as much time planning the lessons or writing tests since I’ll just replicate many of the things I did last year.  Plus this year, I can actually speak French well enough so that my students understand me….kinda.  haha.  Even if my French still isn’t great, it’s at least a thousand times better than last year, let’s just say that.  School thus far has been going fairly well, and most days I like it, though naturally I do have days when I hate all of the kids and can’t help but think that they are all stupid.  But then I remember it’s not their fault they can’t learn: they’re malnourished and can’t read and don’t understand French and are 14-years-old surrounded by 120 other teenagers in a small space with hormones raging and don’t have books, and their past teachers couldn’t teach worth a darn…. So while they might be lacking any signs of intelligence, it’s not their fault….and they are improving, petit à petit (little by little).  I currently have 236 tests waiting to be graded from the exams I gave last week, so for the moment, school kinda depresses me --- I hate correcting tests; it takes HOURS if not several days of nonstop grading --- and so I’ll move on to another topic.
Love life?  Non-existent, of course.  And that’s fine with me.  There’s been a few cute Burkinabe guys (educated, not villageoise i.e. from village and never went to school) and they work in/near my village as gendarmes (a mix between military and police), teachers, nurses at the clinic, etc.  I’ve been proposed to more times than I can count, had them buy me beers and grilled fish, gone dancing, been invited to celebrate holidays with them at their parents’ houses in the big cities and meet their mothers, rode in their cars, and other things that, upon reflection I realize, I’m totally taking advantage of them…but hey, if they want me to ride in an air-conditioned car to go get a cold drink and good food that’s not boiled flour paste and slimy leaf sauce, of course I’m going to accept.  Who in their right mind would say no?  Plus I’m sure they’re perfectly content just getting to hang out with me, thee jolie (pretty) American.  Gosh, I’ve turned into such a…player?...heartbreaker?...I dunno, but so it goes.
Post Peace Corps plans?  Yes, it is time for me to start thinking of that already.  Crazy.  Well, there’s not a lot to say, at the moment.  I don’t think I want to do a 3rd year any longer, but I may change my mind, depending on the next few months.  I believe I technically finish my service at the end of July or in August (close of service dates are flexible, plus or minus 30 days).  Thus, while I theoretically could be back in America before the start of the 2013-2014 school year, I’m not sure if I want a teaching job right away, nor do I want to go through the nightmare that is trying to research and apply for jobs from West Africa…urgh, not fun.  Plus, I would like to take a COS (close of service) trip to southeast Asia, which would then mean I won’t be back until September, and by then school has most definitely started.  Consequently, at the moment I think my game plan is to:
1. finish my service in August
2. take a 5-week COS trip: Thailand, Cambodia, The Philippines, possibly Australia, followed by Hawaii and then home sweet home ---- how’s that sound for awesomeness!?
3. get back to Minnesota around mid-September and stay with my parents through the holiday months (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.), during which time I will:                a. go shopping for new clothes, get a haircut, eat tons of yummy food, play in the fall leaves, etc.b. substitute teach when I want to in/around Springfield areac. travel around and spend time with family/friends (i.e. stay at my grandparents’ house for a week, road trip to Colorado to see my friend and village sitemate, Molly Morrison, etc.d. volunteer my time to guest-speak at schools about Burkina Faso
4. figure out my real post Peace Corps plans and hopefully have a more legit game plan that will commence in January – somewhere to live, an actual job (though I can always continue substitute teaching if I don’t find anything), grad school?, haha I dunno.  I have no idea, really.  This is possibly the scariest of all the things I have to think about.  Deciding what I want to do: teach or not?, grad school, service or humanitarian work, something abroad again, another state, or close to my family/friends, find a place to live…urgh, it’s a lot to reflect upon, which is why I’ve decided I don’t want to deal with it while in the BF.  I feel like it would disrupt my PC service too much, and for the time being while I’m here, I want to focus on Africa, not on what I’m going to do back in America.  I’ll leave that for once I’m back and have gotten the chance to spend a bit of time with everyone who’s important to me.
What do you think?  Any feedback?  Anyone wanna donate their couches for me to come visit/live with them for a week?
My parents have undertaken a huge renovation project since I’ve been gone, which they’re hoping will be done when I get back.  They’ve added on a music room, an enclosed sunroom/porch with fireplace, finished basement, an office for my dad, a laundry room, double garage, and who knows what else.  I honestly don’t know much about it….just that it’s different.  Weird.  Our house is not even going to look remotely the same as I remember it.  Apparently the reasoning for the house update (according to my mom quoting my dad) is that, “The windows and siding all needed to be replaced anyways.  So we figured we might as well tear down a few walls as well.  Besides, in a few years people are going to be bringing other people home and there needs to be space for the grandkids…”  bahahahaah.  True, perhaps.  A lot can change in a couple of years.  But as far as I can tell, this will probably not be me bringing home grandkids, nor can I foresee Kevin or Erin doing that either.  And Katelyn, well heck, she’ll just be starting 8th grade when I get back, so she better not be bringing people home (unless it’s hyper teenage girls for a slumber party) or be giving my parents grandchildren….
Everyone in my village who saw pictures of me and my mom in Italy would say, “Ah!  Is that your younger sister?”  So I guess that means either I look really old, or my mom looks young.  I’ll choose to believe that my mom looks young….so hopefully someday, when I’m 50-years-old, people will think that I’m only 30….  That’d be nice haha.
What’s new in America?  I don’t know anything.  Apparently Obama was re-elected (I didn’t vote – I didn’t have my act together to apply for my absentee ballot in time…so such much for exercising my right to vote…), there was a big hurricane on the east coast?, and um, yeah, that’s about all I know.  
I’m currently in the process of writing some grants to request donations for projects in my village, such as improving the school library (aka buying some books) and starting a chicken egg farm (aka helping my village make money, increase their protein intake, and provide me with yummy eggs so I can make omelets and bake cakes in village!).  I, like usual, meant to have it done for today so I could post it, get it approved, and then you my lovely family and friends could start donating…but alas, things aren’t working out so smoothly in village (organizing Burkinabe and making budgets with them is EXTREMELY difficult) and so nothing is ready.  But maybe around Christmas time?  Don’t worry, I’ll let you know when you can start giving your money, haha.
Well my bus leaves in an hour, and I’m still not packed, so it’s time to go…  until next time, December 10-17 I’ll be Ouaga, take care! 
P.S. As I should have internet with good connection for chatting/skyping December 10-17 in Ouaga, I 'd love to read emails, updates, look at photos, Christmas cards and letters, etc.  So start emailing them my way!  
Merci beaucoup!

They Say College Years are the Best Years of Your Life!

Thu, 01/03/2013 - 18:24
Burkina Faso Striving for Success 2012-11-11 13:09:00
So when I went to undergrad waaaay back in 2001 (it was not that long ago, so be quiet!  But slightly off topic, I did realize my age difference the other day when I was talking to another American student studying here and I asked her if she remembers where she was when 9/11 happened and she told me she was in 3rd grade and I said I was in college…YIKES!), people always told me things like, “Enjoy these years, they will be the best of your life,” or “Take advantage of this experience because there will never be another time like this again.”  And well, I always thought to myself, “man, these people must have really terrible lives because I plan on having the best years of my life every year, in college or out!”  And well, to be quite honest, I have tried to do so.  I have tried to make the best of every stage of my life, no matter how much I did or did not travel, I found something that made it exciting for me because I was determined not to be doomed to the life that these advice givers were suggesting.  Interestingly enough, I completely understand what they meant now that I am back on a college campus, living in a dorm, engaging in debates, staying up all night to study or random chatting, laughing…and sometimes dancing J.  It is refreshing to be back in this setting once again, even though I feel I have had an awesome life after college travelling, learning new cultures, and teaching.  But there is something special about college.  
So much of this experience reminds me of my college years and then one day it dawned on me…”Duh, Aisha, it is your college years, just another go around!”  I will fill you in one example:  Galolympics, I think that is what it was called, was indeed a funny time.  So one of the female dorms planned and organized a mini Olympic-type games event for the other 4 other dorms.  The day started with lots of chanting and marching around campus.  Dorms marched together shouting their dorm names and speaking of its prestige.  The noise reminded me of the divine nine coming out ceremonies, and the crowds of people coming together to hear a “dorm-sing” (Shout out to UVA!!).  I was in my dorm room (I am in a room alone) when I started hearing all of the commotion, I knew that the competition would be happening that morning, but I didn’t expect it at that point.  So I rush to get dressed so I could see all of the day’s events.  My dorm was gone by time I got ready so I ended up following behind the girls’ hall that would be rival to mine.  I didn’t know the exact location for the games, so I figured following them and their noise would indeed lead me in the right direction.  Little did I know that because they were hosting the event, they marched and chanted around much of the campus to bring in more participation.   Once I realized that they were taking what I thought was the long way even though I didn’t know exactly where the main event would be held, I had already walked around most of the campus.  By the time I got there, my dorm was already in place.  No big deal, I was just there to watch and cheer them on, but I would have loved to scream out on the way to the event.  Once the games began there were pretty funny events like the “Runaway Bride” and the dance contest.  The runaway bride event consisted of each hall racing to dress up one maiden for a marriage.  Mind you the dorms are separated by gender, so the boys also dressed up a “bride”.  It was quite comical, she needed to be dressed in her sari, hena on her hands, jewelry and any other final touches.  It was all done so fast…less than a minute, so the finished product was pretty funny.  But hey, who cares, MY HALL WON!  There was an egg toss, and some other events that I do not remember.  What stands out most was the dance competition.  There were partners from each dorm represented.  They were given a piece of news paper and challenged to dance within the news paper, but after each round the newspaper was folded leaving less and less space for both dance partners to be able to stand and dance.  There were some pretty creative ways to ensure that both dance partners were on the paper: some people put their partner on their shoulders upright, and others did more interesting things, like put their partners’ legs on their shoulders, but their head was facing the ground… I am not sure I can describe it well, but the pictures say it all!  Haha!

  Though watching the games was pretty funny, the judging turned out to cause some women to go on a rampage to have justice served!   Between the rounds, some partner groups took longer to get their positions together, meaning that some pairs were left holding their partner for quite some time before the music actually started.  My girls was one of the groups who had been holding their partner for quite some time and in the last round after holding the partner for about 6 minutes before the song started, my poor girl was so tired she had to put her partner down and was then disqualified.  One of the halls that took the longest to get their partner in place actually won.  Yeah…not fair.  The girls hosting the event consulted with their dorm warden and decided to redo the last round of the dancing.  This decision was greatly due to some of the strong women from my dorm fighting for a just game!  Sadly after it was announced that the round would be redone, a bunch of guys from the “winning” dorm came and screamed at the girls hosting the event and they decided to just give in to them and let them win.  It was an eyeopener of how much despite the intelligence of the women and their ability to assert themselves in the classroom and in the work place, that there is still a very strong and apparent gender hierarchy even amongst progressive college students.  I expected it outside, but not on campus.  But this is by no means true for all women!  Because a few girls from my hall refused to bow down and continued to fight for justice.  Though their demands were not met, that did not put out their fire.  I would not be surprised to hear that next year’s games will indeed have some clear changes.  The games ended well and one of the guys’ halls ended up winning the overall games.  My dorm won a prize because our entrance and march was overall best. 
It’s a nice touch being on a campus again…even though there are some differences in how the students dress, the music they listen to and the languages they speak amongst themselves, there is still the same spirit that is felt on a college campus at home.  So I am enjoying the time to relive my college years J