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Updated: 1 year 5 weeks ago


Mon, 12/31/2012 - 10:58
Burkina Faso 4,620 Miles from Home 2012-11-10 17:30:00
Burkina Faso has civil servants just like any other country- and the professions encompass nurses, doctors, teachers, etc. Usually, any profession requiring some type of special higher education is going to be a fonctionnaire profession and the individual will most likely be employed by the government. The civil servant system is very much like the Peace Corps system- you go where they send you. They call it “affectation” or, an appointment/ posting.
The way the system was explained to me was that somebody is posted to a region, the region then sorts through the candidates and decides who goes where. That decision is then brought to the mayor of the commune (county-ish)/ village and if the person is okayed- the process moves forward where the mayor tells the district, the district tells the old district that was responsible for the person, and then the note gets posted that they have been reassigned.
If you’re talking about a new fonctionnaire- someone who hasn’t had a post before it’s really easy- they just pick up their stuff and go. But, if you’re leaving your old site to go to a new one that means that your replacement has to show up, before you can leave, and that could take a while. And, that creates some issues as well because as a fonctionnaire you don’t know when your replacement is coming so you pack up your house and get rid of your stuff bit by bit but you don’t want to get rid of too much because what happens if your replacement doesn’t show up for two months, but you don’t want to send too little because what happens if he/she shows up tomorrow? Just food for thought.
From the perspective of a Peace Corps volunteer this is a double edged sword in almost the truest sense of the word. Say for example there’s someone you have a difficult time working with- if they get reposted you don’t have to work with them anymore and there’s the potential that the next person will be easier to work with and, if they’re difficult to work with- the status quo hasn’t really changed. However, if you have an awesome person to work with- someone who speaks local language better than you do for example, or someone who knows everybody in the village, or somebody who is just really good with people, is open to new ideas, and is willing to expand their own horizons- well that can be kind of sad. Because you don’t get to work with this awesome person anymore and it’s tough. So you can hope that the process gets delayed and the replacement doesn’t get immediate permission to go because their replacement hasn’t showed up yet but, once the reposting assignment is posted well, resistance is futile.
As you might imagine, my CSPS is losing three people. One is going to Ouagadougou, and two are going to Koudougou. And, I’ll just have to wait and see if any of the nurses who are coming in are as cool as the nurses that are going out. But, maybe it’ll be the same thing for them when I leave next year.  

PST (again)

Sun, 12/30/2012 - 22:32
Burkina Faso 4,620 Miles from Home 2012-11-10 17:41:00
This time last year I was at stage (the French word) or PST (the Peace Corps acronym- which stands for Pre-Service Training). This year I’m at the same training but in a different capacity. I am a PCVFP (Peace Corps Volunteer Facilitator Permanent) for this new training group. Basically this means that I helped design the training calendar and figured out what the sessions would look like, etc. I also get to spend three weeks with the new stage working with them and helping them as they go through nine weeks of training.
I guess it’s best to back up and start at the beginning. Sometime in the middle of September I went to Ouaga for three days with two other PCVFPs (we’re three in total) and met with my direct supervisor, and the technical trainers to go over the health program. A week or so later we went to Leo (a village in Burkina Faso and pronounced lay-oh) with all of the PCVFs (Peace Corps Volunteer Facilitators), tech trainers, language trainers, and all the supervisors of the programs to participate in a week long training about Peace Corps policies, what and what not to do/ say around the trainees, and to plan the actual sessions- who would say what, how long each session is going to take, etc.
The process, while straightforward and not conceptually difficult actually was slightly challenging. First of all trying to follow standards set by somebody in a country 4,000 miles away- who isn’t actually in the country is difficult. Also knowing what you’re going to say and the supplies you’re going to need sometimes two months before you need them is tough too. Also, the lesson plans are being standardized but they’re still supposed to be unique and reflect the situation in that particular country. Not that those are inherent contradictions but still, it can require some finagling and creativity because you want the sessions to be informative but also entertaining otherwise people aren’t going to listen and take something away from the session.
Perhaps the best part of the TOT (training of trainers) was seeing how invested the members of the bureau (Peace Corps office) were invested into the program. Everybody wanted the trainees to succeed but just seeing how above and beyond the staff were willing to go (especially the language trainers and the technical trainers) was amazing, and really energized me as well.
This is the first time that PST will be in Leo. I did my training in Sapone (as well as the stage before and after me). Needless to say I think the Peace Corps got pretty comfortable there. Leo is a little bigger than Sapone with more widespread access to electricity. At the same time there are more material items that you can buy which is a bonus for the trainees. Also, there’s a pool. You can imagine which one I’m most ecstatic about. 
The bad news is that you don’t get paid a whole lot during training so in reality you can’t often enjoy all of this- especially when you’re in class from 8AM to 5:15PM. But it makes the weekends nice I’d imagine. Right now, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “If the trainees have all of these amenities, won’t it be more difficult if they get affectated (posted) to a small village where there isn’t such easy access to such things?” And yes, but the trainees aren’t living in Leo- they are split up into three smaller training villages (for lack of a better term). Two villages for the health and one village for DABA (think agriculture and kind of/maybe/sort of business). They live with host families in this village and then bike the 10 or 14 kilometers into Leo almost every day. This might seem daunting at first but hopefully gets easier as time goes on. For a point of reference I biked roughly 7 kilometers to get to my training center and that was one of the longer bike rides for the trainees in my group.
So, now I’m in Leo again. A month after that training (TOT), a month after the trainees arrived, and right in the middle of things. All in all, it’s a good place to be. 

Saying goodbye

Sun, 12/30/2012 - 18:36
Burkina Faso emily in burkina faso 2012-11-10 01:39:00 Saying bye was a lot harder than I had thought. If you had told me two years ago that I would be this sad to leave village, I wouldn't have believed you. It's amazing to think of the progress I've made during my service here. 

I've tried to keep my posts here positive, but my parents can tell you that I was absolutely miserable here for the first few months. Yes, there were good moments, but overall it was really hard for me. Stage was just a giant mess of stress and uncomfortableness. And moving to a village where almost no one spoke French was hard. AND I lived by myself with no neighbors for the first year. I just was so lonely and isolated from everyone, it was so ... depressing. I feel so lucky that I came here speaking French, because to have to struggle with that on top of everything else would have been so hard.
I don't mean to be negative, but now that I'm done I can look back and realize just how difficult it was for me here because - I've actually adjusted! I speak Moore, I have friends in village, and I can honestly say that I was sad to leave. 
Saying goodbye to Madi and the nescafe ladies (his three wives) was probably the hardest. The day before I was leaving village I went to their house to say bye and started crying A LOT. I had to leave and come back later because I wasn't ready to say bye yet. They were just so nice to me during my first year when I was struggling so much, and I don't think they realize how much they mean to me. I was there every day, sometimes more than once a day, just hanging out with them. They have always been so nice and patient with my Moore, never making fun of me. Now that I speak Moore pretty well, we can joke around and I love it. I'm glad that they did see my cry because hopefully it made them realize how much they mean to me. 
Before getting on my bush taxi to leave village, I said goodbye to Zongo. We planned to meet up in Ouaga before I flew out, so it wasn't a definitive goodbye. But I still started crying hysterically and everyone on the bush taxi thought it was so funny and weird. By the time the bush taxi got going, I had calmed down. It still amazes me how emotional I got ... but I guess that's proof that I really integrated here!

The worst going away party ever

Sun, 12/30/2012 - 15:03
Burkina Faso emily in burkina faso 2012-11-09 19:06:00
Before leaving village, I decided to throw myself a going away party, which is a pretty common thing for both volunteers and fonctionnaires to do. I spent about $60 on rice (25 kilograms), chickens, and ingredients for zoom-koom. I've been to a few going away parties for other fonctionnairs leaving village and it's a pretty standard deal. All of the important villagers come and say bye. There are speeches, people eat, and usually the villagers have pooled money for a gift. 
Well, mine went a little differently. The normal people came, which was great, but I was also hoping some of my other friends from village would show up. They're women, though, so it's harder for them to leave the house. Zongo introduced me and talked a little about the work I was doing, and then asked me to say a few words. 
And then I started crying. SO EMBARRASSING! But I eventually got out some really emotional words. I think people were surprised but also (hopefully) moved. 
Then Zongo called on a representative from each group that was there to say something to me  (the leader of the old men, the leader of the old women, the youth representative, the Imam, etc). And this is how each conversation went (all in Moore, so I think they think I didn't understand, but I did):
Zongo: Ok, now you say something to Emily to wish her goodbye. Rep: I don't know what to say. Zongo: You should say that she's done a really good job here, and you wish her the best in the future. Rep: Emily - you've done a really good job here and we wish you the best in the future. 
EVERY SINGLE PERSON just repeated what Zongo told them to say. It was really disappointing, especially because I had showed emotion and it seemed like no one else cared. I was really hoping someone would at least say "I enjoyed working on this project with you" or "we had a great conversation concerning this" but no one said anything specially about me. 
To top it all off, the chief, with whom I live, didn't even talk about me. When Zongo called on him to talk, he just went on a rant about how he doesn't understand why my village is not getting another Peace Corps Volunteer. I just wanted to scream at him "THIS IS NOT THE PLACE FOR THIS!" So frustrating. 
Then we broke out the food and everyone gathered around bowls to eat. I was with Zongo and the teachers from the school. When we started eating, the chief pulled Zongo aside to talk about some issue with his house. And then the teachers immediately got up and said they were leaving. So I just sat there, by myself, and watched everyone eat the rice, drink the zoom-koom, get up, and leave. No one came and said ANYTHING to me. I know this is a cultural thing, they just don't say "thank you," but it was still annoying and frustrating. 
It wasn't until I got home that I realized no one pooled money for a gift. It's not that I necessarily want a gift from my village, but the gesture would have been nice. Especially since I've heard people talking (in Moore) about what to get me. It was disappointing since all the other fonctionnaires I've seen leave village have gotten some sort of gift (usually a pagne or something). 
I feel like the party was a little representative of my service here, in a very pessimistic way. I put a lot of time and effort into things, and then no one in village actually cares or wants to help. A very fitting way to leave. 

Adventures in Teaching CE1: The Fraz Factor

Sat, 12/29/2012 - 11:21
Burkina Faso The Adventures of a Peace Corps Violist 2012-11-08 10:04:59 DISCLAIMER: This post will delve into the disgusting discourse of defecation. (You have been sufficiently warned).  So, I’ve been teaching CE1 for about a month now. After a week in Ouaga due to tonsillitis I’m back to teaching. Yesterday was particularly … Continue reading →

Ridin’ Dirty

Thu, 12/27/2012 - 08:28
Burkina Faso Notes from the Sahel 2012-11-07 07:59:04 There are few experiences in Burkina Faso as bizarre or as simply dangerous as public transportation.  Getting from point A to point B on a bus, bush taxi, flatbed truck, or any other improvised means is always sure to confuse or terrify and is rarely ever uneventful.  It’s absolutely true that the greatest risk to … Continue reading »

SIAO trade show

Sun, 12/23/2012 - 09:47
Burkina Faso Gidget Goes to Burkina 2012-11-06 11:09:07 Last weekend I happened to be in Ouagadougou for a GAD meeting, and it coincided perfectly with the opening of SIAO, so I decided to go and shop around and let you guys know what it was like.  SIAO is … Continue reading →

Two-Dollar Self-Serve Emergency Room

Sat, 12/22/2012 - 19:42
Burkina Faso  Chad & Tana Peace Out 2012-11-05 17:43:00
Nature wants me dead. It has made four separate attempts to destroy me in the past couple weeks. And it's so unfortunate that with the current course of events continuing the way it is, I may not survive my time abroad, much less be there when the Mayans awaken from the sea floor and take the Earth. A Mayan is like a godzilla, right? I'm confused. My point is that my days and my luck may have run out.

It's hard to pinpoint just when my luck abandoned me. It was there at high school post-prom when I won a ski resort lift ticket. When I was a freshman in college I remember finding a 20 dollar bill on the sidewalk. I often look back on these accomplishments and feel like a high-roller in the casino of life. Yet, here I was, minding my own business, about to bike home from Banfora with groceries, whistling the Sesame Street theme, when all of a sudden the sky turns black.

Winds came at me as though through an opened door on an airplane. I told my trusty bike everything would be alright, pulled her to the roadside and ducked between a metal boutique and a brick wall. This was a perfect hideaway from the ensuing nearly horizontal rain. Naturally, three other men sought shelter beside me. I exchanged minimal pleasantries—faking a lack of comprehension to cut short all the usual foreigner-induced conversational tropes—all the while keeping one earbud in, listening to my beloved podcasts. Oh, my precious podcasts. Suddenly, around the corner we hear the cracking of the 4x4-inch wooden poles supporting the overhang.

There's a series of movies called Final Destination (they're great, really) where innocuous everyday environments and objects turn against the heroes as gauntlets of doom. This felt like that. The tin roof of the overhang crashed to the ground around the corner. Then after a gust of wind, the tin hit the wall. Then another gust blowing between the wall and the metal sent the thin corrugated sheet of tin straight at me. My baseball instincts kicked in and I stuck out my hand to catch it. It didn't hurt or bleed all that much. But at some point I realized I could see all my handguts, like all those colors and shapes that you're not supposed to see.

After the rains an hour later, I had biked to the Banfora hospital where I sat in a room across from a reclined shirtless boy, rubbing his belly and staring at me. Like me earlier, he was unresponsive to small talk. My phone was too soaked to operate so I borrowed the nurse's to call the PC doctor. The nurse then handed me a list of things she'd need to stitch me up. So, this emergency room is like a pizzaria where customers supply the flour, tomatoes, and cheese? She pointed to where I should buy them (a building a few feet away) and I thought she was pointing at the pharmacy, a five minute walk outside the compound.

She emptied the bag I'd journeyed to buy, swabbed up my hand, stabbed me with some anesthetic, and waited nary a moment for it kick in before threading my wound closed. I winced, made involuntary faces and noises, to which she invariably asked "ca fait mal?" and continued to barrel through.  It could be a trend in Burkinabe health care—at the dentist, too, they are speed demons that seem to believe incidental pain is worth the speed. They might be right. This contrasts to American doctors' slow pace and oversensitivity to patient's potential for even slight pain. Discussion question: are American patients sissies?

I should say that the entire stitching operation was done expertly, albeit solo and in an informal fashion. I was sitting upright on a bed, flipflops dangling and holding a kidney dish under my other iodine-scrubbed palm. She was on her sixth stitch of eight when a male nurse came in and "helped," making jokes about my name being a country. His mouth sounded like it was full of cotton. In retrospect he may have been just some guy.

I want to emphasize here that the total cost of an ER consultation in Burkina Faso is a whopping two dollars. Are you listening to me, Bon Secours Health System of Richmond, Virginia? Bet you sleep pret-ty good at night, Bon Secours, on them bags o' gold, dontcha?

So to finish my story about how Mother Nature has a vendetta against my soul: not two days later am I in a different city on my bike again when a surprise downpour catches me again off guard. In my escape, I fall off and scab up my elbow. The next day I am running to catch a bush taxi when I stub my toe on a large rock. First, the elements of wind and water conspire against me, and now earth? Finally, a week later I got food poisoning from vegetables and my bowels felt as though they were on fire for 24 hours. And yet, I don't know. Somehow, sitting here now, I feel mighty, as though I've overcome the trials of Hercules.

Out of Africa, Back in the U.S.

Fri, 12/21/2012 - 13:26
Burkina Faso Sam in... 2012-11-05 00:20:03 My time in the Peace Corps has come to a close. Now that I’m finally back home, the first time I’ve stayed in one place for over a week since my last post, it’s a good time to wrap up my PC-related blogging. As I reflect on all that has transpired since I left the States in June 2010, I [...]

SIAO 2012

Tue, 12/18/2012 - 05:19
Burkina Faso The Adventures of a Peace Corps Violist 2012-11-02 18:04:58 So for the past two weeks, the south-east side of Ouagadougou has been teaming with Arts at Culture at the Salon International D’Artisanat de Ouagadougou or SIAO for short (pronounced see-ow-oh). There are artists from 33 countries around Africa and … Continue reading →

Bike Tour does Poa

Mon, 12/17/2012 - 00:10
Burkina Faso 4,620 Miles from Home 2012-11-02 14:11:00 A few weeks ago (and by that I mean the middle of September) bike tour came to my site. This begs the obvious question of, “what is bike tour?” and well it’s a tour, of Burkina Faso, on bikes. More specifically, it’s a fundraising opportunity for the Gender and Development Committee.  They biked all around Burkina figuring out what sunscreen SPF works best, what type of roads are harder to bike on than others, and which volunteer has the best latrine. When my site figured out they were coming they got really excited about it. They decided that they would convene all the village leaders to welcome the other volunteers. We also decided to do a sensibilization with them- which I decided was going to be neem cream. Neem cream is a skin cream made from soap, shea butter, and neem leaves (which have a natural chemical in them that repels mosquitos). And, there’s a group at my site who wanted to learn how to make it (and then sell it) for a while but every time I would set up a meeting for them to learn, they wouldn’t show up. I figured the chance of them showing up would be higher when there were going to be other volunteers around…and I was right.Anyway, there are lots of things you can predict in Burkina Faso- the heat, the fact that it probably won’t rain again until next June, and that’s just to name two. One thing you can’t predict is when a group of volunteers biking from the opposite side of Ouagadougou will make it to your site. That’s why it’s good to know people. When the time that the bikers were supposed to show up came…and went I stopped by the bus station and asked the guy who runs the station (Wad) to call down the road and see if anybody had seen the bikers. He did, and he actually had to call quite a few people before he found them. Each conversation kind of sounded like this (translated of course), “Hey, what’s up? It’s Wad, yea, Poa. Anyway, have you seen 8 foreigners biking through your town wearing funny helmets? No, alright well when you see them call me.” So, after we found them, we were kept informed by a steady stream of phone calls saying when the bikers had passed certain villages. Once they reached Poa we went back to my house, everybody dropped off their stuff, and we went to meet the CSPS staff and the village leaders. They decided to speak only in moore so that I could translate for the volunteers (they really like doing that when other people are around). After that the neem cream demonstration actually went really well and now the organization that is responsible for paying the CSPS bills will be able to supplement their income and will not be in danger of having to declare bankruptcy anytime in the near future. The chief (chef) gave us a goat, and then we ate some rice- and everybody was pretty tired so we all just kind of went to bed after. The next day it actually decided to rain so the departure of the bike tour was postponed a bit but in the end, they made it out alright and they biked the 55km to the next village.

Just in case you missed it

Sat, 12/15/2012 - 08:31
Burkina Faso Peace Corps Dave 2012-11-02 01:10:00 I don't know if anyone is paying attention to this blog since I update so infrequently anyway, but just in case you're wondering what my latest excuse is for not doing so, it's that I'm kind of busy traveling around the globe with my girlfriend. To follow us, check out The Long Trail Home.

African/Global Football

Mon, 12/10/2012 - 21:26
Burkina Faso The Adventures of a Peace Corps Violist 2012-11-01 18:49:37 *For the purposes of this post whenever I say football I mean soccer. I’m not a huge sports fan in the states but I did watch a lot of baseball, college football, figure skating, and the winter and summer Olympic … Continue reading →


Sun, 12/02/2012 - 00:27
Burkina Faso bridget in burkina 2012-11-01 13:09:19 Sitting cross-legged on my cot outside, I breathe a sigh of relief as the stifling afternoon air begins to mingle with a cooler evening breeze. I’m exhausted, and although the day’s been fun, I’m looking forward to the sweet reprieve … Continue reading →

Bike Tour 2012 Update

Sat, 12/01/2012 - 15:34
Burkina Faso Changing Burkina one kilometer at a time. 2012-10-30 17:51:00 Greetings dear family and friends,

I would like to start this post off with a thank you to all of you lovely people who donated to the 2012 Burkina Faso Bike tour. This year we raised a $6,477.07, the extra 7 cents is what makes this figure extra special.
I spent the last month or so putting together a final report. It has detailed humorous accounts of everyday in our journey, loads or fun pictures, and statistical data about the tour (if you're into that kind of thing). I hope that you enjoy it.
Click our snazzy bike tour logo to read the report!

If you don't feel like reading the report in it's entirety I will post a few entries below.

Wednesday, August 29th (day 1)
Dedougou-Sono Number of riders 9
Distance Biked 45km

Time on the road 3.5hrs
Hosts Lyndia M., Kate A., and Sami A.

Activity Mosquito Net activity/ Bike Race
Burkinabè participants 100+ spectators 22 racers

Weather Rainy, mostly cloudy
A little bit of rain never stopped a bike tour from starting; neither did a lot of rain. The first morning in Dedougou was gloomy. The rain held off long enough to have an amazing ceremony complete with a 22 women bike race; observed by hundreds of spectators and invitees, including the Mayor, Chief, and the Director of the Women’s Center.
After a ceremonial start to our tour and a brief wait for the heavy rain, we set out towards Sono. For the next 3.5 hrs we sang, dodged muddy streams, practiced bike tricks, wrote haikus, watched birds, and got to know each other (oh…and we biked.)
We finally arrived to Sono in good health and high spirits. If you want to feel like a celebrity, go to this village. We were greeted by a massive crowd, filmed, photographed, and followed. This lent a hand to the malaria awareness campaign and mosquito net relay race that followed the village tour. The crowd went wild! All and all the 1st day of the tour went swimmingly.
-Carrie J.
Friday, August 31st (day 3)
Koumbara-We (Oue) Number of riders 12
Distance Biked 40km
Time on the road 2.5hrs
Host David G.
Activity Tofu and Neem Cream (anti mosquito repellent)
Burkinabè participants 15+ 100+spectators Weather mostly cloudy
After about 7.5 hrs of sleep we crept out of Jason’s mud palace to start the third day of our journey. With the use of fancy spoon bowls we dumped bouillie (an enriched millet porridge) down out gullets. On the damp road to We, we encountered cowherds, lush forested swamps, and water logged fields or rice. Today’s ride proved to be very straight forward due to the fact that David lives 40ishkm down the road from Jason. About 15minutes outside of We there rests a buzzing village called Di. Di is home of the American funded Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), hungry hungry hippos, and one of the biggest markets in the Sourou valley. We stopped in Di for 30 minutes for a bread/water break.
We continued down the muddy road through valleys and dams to finally be greeted by David G in his usual vans skinny jeans combo. After biking through his village we reached his swanky bachelors pad, which resembled a quaint beach house (minus the beach). We immediately started making tofu from scratch with the aid of David’s dynamic counterparts. After gobbling down all of the tofu shish kabobs we departed for the local health clinic to check out the malaria situation. (Rainy season- increased malaria cases) We soon discovered that in the small village of We more than half of the population will fall ill with malaria. With this information we decided to do an activity on malaria in the local market. Under the watchful eyes of over 100 Burkinabe we demonstrated how to make an anti mosquito lotion repellent with local affordable ingredients. We ended the activity by giving out modest sample sizes. After a tour through the village we returned to David’s abode to enjoy a candle lit dinner and a ukulele sing along session with our very own Dan Sharon.
-Jalysa BS
Sunday, September 2nd (day5) Tougan-Ouahigouyah Number of riders 11

Distance Biked 100km

Time on the road 6hrs

Host Eric L.

Activity burying our dead
Burkinabè participants --

Weather night, then dawn, then overcast, then rain, then mud

We met at the school at 5am to begin our short journey arduous expedition deathcapade. The first half hour was spent interpreting suspicious shadows cast by the moonlight onto the dirt road. Within fifteen minutes, the carriage of Carrey’s bike rattled over a pothole and her toothpaste dislodged from her pack. It fell into the darkness. Like soldiers trained in stoic indifference, we left the toothpaste behind. We didn’t have time to recover any lost items today. Today, we were biking.

As the minutes became hours, we thundered forward with the boldness of youth. Our spirits and bodies were high, thanks to the righteous power of banana bread. But all our vigor would prove to be an illusion, created by the same carefree spirit that we had believed to be our ally. By the time we reached Kimbara, a village nearly 50km into our route, we felt accomplished. There, we greeted the new volunteer Amelia and delivered to her some much-needed supplies from the big city. Brash from our successful morning, we set forth at a speed onlookers might have referred to as “ill-advised’.” We reached Zogore (70km) by 9am.

-The Eye of the Hurricane-

The kindly people of Zogore prepared for us magnificent tofu brochettes as we sprawled about on benches in anticipation/lactic acid therapy. It began to rain, to our delight. The refreshing reprise rolled forth on blooming silver clouds. Little did we know that all of that silver was but the lining—and the bulk of the metaphor was contained within.

-True Hell-

When we laughingly bounded upon our steel steeds, we were alarmingly reminded of our true physical state. Each revolution of the pedals lit the map of nerve endings in our legs like a city power grid. The road had become a quagmire of mud. If we tried to burst forth into a more familiar momentum, Mother Nature’s glue simply reminded us of her presence and called us down into her tar. 17km are passed thusly. 17km of Lucifer’s most cruelly-devised justice, reserved for only the emptiest of souls.
-Two Endings-

But hark! There was a light ahead. PCV Alex, aware of our coming, had gathered sweet juices and cold, filtered water for our arrival in Sissamba, her village located 8km away from our final destination. We recharged and viewed the remaining 8km as a home stretch. Soon, this distance would be conquered, but not before our young volunteers better came to understand the limits of their capabilities and the eager susceptibility to surrender that was their waning willpower.

Showers, naps and good food turned our bikers into respectable humans again. There was no organized activity; but as it took all of our force to do so much as stand, we saw that both Burkinabè and Americans will be better off with an evening of repose.
Later, the greatest trial of all befell the merry band when Eric, the leader and most beloved of the bikers, announced that tomorrow he will be returning to his site. Traumatized by the depressing news, the PCVs begged him to stay, saying that if Eric wouldn’t continue, neither would they. Everyone except for Eric cried. Verily, the entire bike tour was on the verge of disbanding; but in an eloquent display of wordsmanship, Eric persuaded them to press on, using the memory of his raw, motivational charisma to fuel the remainder of their adventure. Martyrdom.

Saturday, September 15th Nakaba-Linoghin Number of riders 11
Distance Biked 120km
Time on the road 7hrs
Host Puja P.
Activity --
Burkinabè participants --
Weather sunny

We woke us at the extremely early (late night?) hour of 3am to the glorious tunes of Third Eye Blind (compliments of Dan). We headed out by 4am and could still see some lightning in the distance from the overnight rain. The first 10km were on a dark bush road and it took us nearly an hour to find the actual paved road! We took a break there waiting for Emily F….and waited…and waited. We saw her coming in the distance and bolted out of there hoping to make this long day as short as possible.
The paved road around Koupela was more like a “carpeted” road and we made good time to Zorgho (30km west of Koupela). We stopped here to eat a breakfast of omelet sandwiches and fried bread. This is where the problems began.
About 50km from Puja’s site Bridget R. thought she was going to throw up so she stopped on the side of the road and proceeded to evacuate her digestive system from all orifices. (No joke- I saw some vomit go up and out of her nose.) It then became evident that she was not going to continue biking. She nearly passed out so she was carried off to Ouaga to be treated for heatstroke. She make a quite recovery a day or so after the incident.

PCV Louba had a string of bad luck with 2 flat tires on the way. She stopped the Peace Corps car to take another bike. The bike that she took was Emily’s (she was riding in the car).We then figured out why Emily was biking so slow. It was her bad genes, the breaks on her bike were rubbing against the front tire making even the shortest ride excruciating.

We all finally made it to Puja’s site in one piece and chilled at her market for a while gorging ourselves on grilled corn, rice and sauce, sweet potatoes, and black eyed peas. We later went to Puja’s house made dinner and prepared ourselves for out 2nd 100+km day.

-Alicia K.

Monday, September 24th Diourao-Gaoua Number of riders 18

Distance Biked 65km

Time on the road 4hrs

Host Daniel N.

Activity Neem Cream+ closing ceremony

Burkinabè participants 200+ participants

Weather SUN SUN SUN!

Bruised, dirty, broken and saddle sore, we hit the dirt road just as the sun ascended in the sky. Making multiple stops along the way to dine on bread and tea, the tour took its time on the windy trail, as if to savor the last day after over 1,000 hard earned kilometers.

The city of Gaoua is a large sized metropolis perched on the green hills of the south. The scenery was beautiful, but the hills were brutal on the whole crew after such a long day. Daniel Neptune is nicknamed “Chief of Gaoua”, and lived up to this moniker during our two day stay, arranging arguably the best chicken in country, and personally made pizzas. We jam packed our two days with neem cream fabrications, tours of the city and the Lobi culture museum, and a large closing ceremony with the newspaper and radio there to celebrate our accomplishment with us. The tour closed out with 6 riders doing the full route, and over 30 volunteers participating. We learned so much about the country we serve, met tons of inspiring Burkinabe and got to see our fellow volunteers in all their glory.

Thank you to everyone that participated and a big shout out to Jalysa Boose-Sheppard who was the Chief of the tour, and did an amazing job keeping the team together, and making the bike tour a reality. Cheers to dollars raised, and the end of another amazing “Tour du Burkina”!

-Ashley P.

  If you want to read more check out the link above!

Spiritual Evolution

Sat, 12/01/2012 - 15:34
Burkina Faso The Adventures of a Peace Corps Violist 2012-10-30 09:48:22 I realize that this may seem like a rehashing of previous posts and a JN article in July, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately. Every time I have a life change I feel like my Judaism changes … Continue reading →

I Had No Idea She Was Pregnant?!?

Thu, 11/29/2012 - 11:19
Burkina Faso The Adventures of a Peace Corps Violist 2012-10-29 10:24:28 This seems to be a recurring theme for me over the past couple of months. Two women who I know fairly well gave birth and I had no idea. TLC…I think this could be an excellent addition The first one … Continue reading →

Village Girl in the Big City

Thu, 11/29/2012 - 05:08
Burkina Faso Heard of it? I LIVE here! 2012-10-29 08:53:00
My best friend in village is my 15 year old neighbor. This may seem strange to non-PCV’s but I could probably write an entire separate blog entry on why kids/teenagers make the best friends in villages. For now, though, you’ll have to take my word for it – they make some of the best friends.

Anyways, my friend, Odile, has barely left village. The few times she has was to go to the small town 12 km up the road, which hardly counts as leaving village. So, since she’s been my friend for almost 2 years and I’m leaving soon, I wanted to do something special for her. I decided to take her to Bobo.

We started our voyage at 8 AM the Friday before school started. Or at least we were SUPPOSED to start at 8 AM. Of course for a Burkinabe (especially a villager) meeting times are really just suggestions. Having never left village, Odile didn’t seem to realize that when a bus is supposed to leave at a certain time, it’s generally a good idea to be at the bus station on time. Especially when you’re taking one of the 2 bus companies in the country that usually leave on time. Luckily, I had anticipated this when I planned to leave at 8.
So sometime after 8 AM, we’re on the road. I expected her to be giggly and excited as she had been all week leading up to the trip. However, she IS a 15 year old girl so the other option for 15 year old girls is to act very cool like she takes buses to the second largest city in the country all the time. Odile chose this option. (Though a 15 year old girl who takes buses all the time would probably have slept during the trip instead of staring incredulously out the window and asking “Is this Banfora? Is this Bobo?” every time we came to a village or town along the way).

We got to Bobo at lunch time and had some tasty kebobs and fries before going to relax at the PC office. The PC office is full of wonders for someone coming from a village. First of all, there is a toilet. I can confidently say this was Odile’s first time seeing indoor plumbing let alone a toilet. In addition to a toilet, there is a shower. When it came time to shower, she said “We should go get water, huh?” “Oh, no,” I smiled, “Follow me!” and showed her the marvels of the shower – just turn a knob and as much water as you want falls on your head! Genius!

There is also a refrigerator/freezer at the office. Odile wanted to fill every bottle she’d collected during our trip (every villager knows you can NOT throw away a plastic bottle – there are so many uses for them!) with water and leave them in the freezer. Hours later when she pulled one out that was entirely frozen, she cried out in amazement. “LINDSY! It is all solid! The whole thing! And so cold!” I can go out on a limb and say she has never seen ice before our trip.

So, the office was full of wonders, surely the rest of the city must be too. We went to the Grand Marche to look around. Odile was insistent about buying things despite my continuous warnings that the Bobo Grand Marche would not have much to offer her for $4. Certainly not the pair of pants and school bag she was hoping to buy for herself and the toy she wanted to buy for her little sister. As we walked around, I let her do the talking since I certainly didn’t want to try buying anything in that ridiculous market. She very quickly learned how far her money would go – the answer was not very far at all. After half an hour, she had spent almost all of her money on a pair of pants and much to my relief, she was ready to leave. I took us instead to the market I prefer – the western style super market. We bought a variety of things including sausage, cheese, a pineapple, and chocolate cake (none of which she’d ever tasted – a problem I eagerly sought to rectify.)

We took our goodies back to the office where we ate and watched a movie on my computer. Here is where I thought I would get more of a reaction from her. Until this point, she had not seen my computer. She had certainly never seen anything computers can do like go on the internet, talk to someone on another continent for free…but none of these things seemed to impress her. Eventually I concluded that this technology was so far beyond what she had ever seen before, she didn’t really grasp it. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself because I personally think the internet is amazing so everyone else should too.

After spending the night in a hostel (where she was too cold because I kept the fan on all night)we had a leisurely breakfast and got ready to go back to village. When we got back, I started wondering if the trip had been as special for her as I’d wanted it to be. I didn’t have to wonder for very long. The next day, Odile’s little sister came up to me and said, “Odile said you guys slept in a bed and had a fan. And that you didn’t have to go get water it just came out and you stood under it. And…” I smiled as she continued, satisfied that even if the trip wasn’t quite what either of us had imagined it would be, neither of us would forget it.

Conversations with a Villageois

Thu, 11/29/2012 - 05:08
Burkina Faso Heard of it? I LIVE here! 2012-10-29 08:56:00
During my time here, I have had countless conversations with people trying to dispel myths about America and its infinite wonders. Don’t get me wrong, I think America has a lot of great things to offer. But I know that everyone there is not instantly rich and you can not just work hard sweeping streets and make a living and send your surplus money back to your family in Burkina (the first reason of MANY this doesn’t work is that we don’t have people who sweep streets.)
The other day, I had a fun conversation with someone about the States in which we got past how rich everyone is. Here are some interesting excerpts from this conversation.

Villager: So, you need to have a job before they even give you a work visa? How can you get a job if you aren’t there yet?
Lindsy: Well, have you heard of the internet? [villager nods hesitantly] People find jobs searching on the internet. Or they already work for an organization that also operates in America so they can get transferred or something.
V:[ pauses and seems to be thinking intently about something] So if I wanted to go over and get a job washing dishes in a restaurant, I could find one on the internet?
L: Um…I mean…not really. I think to get a work visa, you have to have a more…specialized skill. Like if someone already worked for an NGO in Ouaga, maybe they could get a job with the same NGO stateside. But I don’t think they give work visas for dishwashers. We have enough people who can wash dishes there already.

V: I hear people there can make over $2 a day.
L: [choking back a laugh] Yeah, there is actually a law saying that employers have to pay employees a minimum amount and while I don’t know exactly how much it is right now, I think it’s over $7.50. An hour.
V: WHAT?!? An HOUR?!
L: Yes, but even if someone works every day for that much, it’s really hard to afford a place to live and stuff. Things in America are really expensive.

V: So when you go back, you’re not going to live with your parents?
L: No, I want to move to a different city.
V: Are you going to build your own house? Or who’s going to build it for you?
L: Hm. In America, we have a lot of houses and places to live. None of them are built out of sand so they last a lot longer than houses here. Also, people move a lot. Most people don’t stay in the same place their whole life. So I’m just going to move into a place that’s already built. I don’t have to build my own house and will probably NEVER build my own house. Ever.
V: If you were staying in the same city, though, you’d live with your parents?
L: Uh…no. Probably not.
V: Why not? Wouldn’t they let you?
L: Of course if I really needed a place to live they would let me live with them but…I like being independent.
V: [blank stare]
L: Being able to do things myself…provide for myself…take care of myself…that’s important to me.
V: [blank stare]
L: Americans are like that. We like to be able to take care of our own needs and not depend on other people and…oh, nevermind.

V: America is the place where they have skyscrapers, right?
L: It’s one of the places, yeah.
V: And they can be, like, 20 stories tall, right?
L: They can be 100 stories tall.
V: What?!? What if you lived on the 54th floor? How would you get there?
L: There are these things and it’s like a box and you get inside and it takes you to the floor you want to go to.
V: Like a vehicle?
L: Yes, like a vehicle. A vehicle that takes you up to the floor you want to visit.
V: Can it go sideways too?
L: Nope, just up and down.
V: How does it know which floor you want? Does it just know?
L: No. There are buttons on the inside with the floor numbers. You push the button of the floor you want to go to.
V: And what about when you want to go back down? How does it know you’re waiting? Do you just have to wait until someone else comes to your floor?
L: No, there’s a button you push to signal you want to go down. Then the vehicle comes up and you can go down.
V: So this vehicle takes you right inside your house on the 54th floor?
L: Usually there are more than one house on the same floor and the vehicle lets you out in a hallway. Then you find the door of the house you want.
V: So if I wanted to go say hi to my friend on the 54th floor, I would just have to go up there and then be like “knock-knock! Hey!” and then if they weren’t home? I’d just wait there and when no one came out after a little while I’d go back down?
L: Actually, in America we don’t usually visit someone unannounced. We plan it in advance and then we know they’re home and not busy and stuff.
V: Oh. What about trash? Do you just throw your trash out of your 54th floor window?
L: No, that’s illegal. You have to take your trash to a big dumpster then a truck comes and gets it and brings it to the designated spot where we put all our trash.
V: But if you just threw your trash out the window and there are 54 floors, how would they know it was you?
L: Maybe the first time they wouldn’t know it was you. Or even the second or third but after a while, they’d figure it out. Someone would see it and people don’t like trash thrown on the street like that.

V: Say I got a visa and put your address as my contact in America. But then when I got there, went to the other side of the country and wanted to stay there. They wouldn’t know, would they? They couldn’t track me?
L: Not technically, no. But if you wanted to get a job or anything you’d have to show you were allowed to be in America. Either that you’re a citizen or that you had a visa. People don’t want to hire people who aren’t allowed to be there. It can get the employer in to trouble, too.

Let's Do Sports!

Tue, 11/27/2012 - 07:40
Burkina Faso Heard of it? I LIVE here! 2012-10-29 09:00:00
As my time in Burkina draws to a close, I’m finding myself stressed, irritable, and tired more than usual. While this is never a desirable state to be in, it’s particularly undesirable to pass the last days I will probably ever spend in this village in such a mood. In efforts to boost my spirits, I took someone’s advice and decided to get some exercise. I changed into some running clothes and stepped outside, ready to work off some stress, release some endorphins, be at one with nature, and all that jazz. Unfortunately, any plans made in Burkina, no matter how small, usually don’t go the way you want them to. This run was no exception.

“Lindsy!” kids greeted me as soon as I walked out my door. “Lindsy! Hey, Lindsy, what are you doing? Where are you going?” They noticed I was wearing sneakers instead of my usual flip flops. “LINDSY! You’re going to do sports?! We want to come with you! We want to do sports too!”
“Guys, listen,” I said, knowing how my run would play out if I let them come. “I’m going to run. I’m not going to slow down for you, I’m not going to stop and walk for you, I’m not going to take breaks. I don’t even want to talk to you. You shouldn't come.”
“It’s okay, we won’t stop either! We want to come do sports!” was their enthusiastic reply.
“Actually, what I’m trying to say, guys, is don’t come. Stay here.”
“Oh, no, we’re going to come! We won’t stop, don’t worry. We know we’re going to just keep running.”
“But…I…it’s…*sigh* Okay, do whatever you want. I can’t stop you from running down this path but I am NOT waiting for you. You’re doing this on your own.” I know when I’m fighting a lost battle.

So off we went, me running followed by 4 giggling girls between the ages of 4 and 8. As I predicted, the girls were straggling after about a quarter of a km. From time to time, I looked back over my shoulder at these silly giggling girls running along arms and legs all over the place. For the first half of the run, I remained true to my word and didn’t wait for them. After a couple km, I turned around to follow the path back to my house. I caught up with the girls who had also turned around and the littlest cutest one looked up at me with her big eyes and just said “Lindsy.”
“What?!” I said, slightly exasperated with them. With that, she simply reached up with her little hand, grabbed my hand, and started walking. My tough, no-nonsense attitude melted immediately. I smiled ruefully and knew we’d be walking sweaty hand in sweaty the rest of the way.

So, I didn’t get in quite the workout I was hoping for. But somehow, meandering along looking at clouds and talking about trees and cows and anything else we happened to come across, yielded the results I was looking for in the first place.