Aug 22, 2008

Last post as a PC trainee!

This will be my last posting as a Peace Corps trainee. Next week we are off to Ouagadougou, the capital, to finish our last week of training. We will stay there for the week and then have our swearing-in-ceremony to officially become Peace Corps Volunteers! Everyone is excited, it's a pretty big deal (held at the US ambassador's house, 300 people invited). Another plus is that we all get to dress up, most of us had outfits made here in Burkina so it should be very colorful! Just a couple days after we will all be dropped off at our future homes! It's fair to say nearly everyone (both trainees and staff) is getting a bit antsy and ready to end training...we're all going through a bit of senioritis and finding it hard to listen or pay attention in the training sessions.
As excited as I am, I will definitely miss my host family. They have been so generous, kind and were a great deal of help in my integration/adaptation here during the last 3 months. On Saturday there will be a party in Komsilga to celebrate and honor the families that hosted Kait, Brian and myself. There will be music, food and fun so I'm definitely excited!
I will be sure to post photos of the party, as well as photos from Ouaga and the swearing in ceremony before I head out to Pobe Mengao.

With training and my home-stay experience ending, I can't help but look back on the last 3 months and think of how much I've gone through and learned. Here's a look at a few of those things:

Things that I've learned/have experienced/have gone through during my training:

-time = W.A.I.T (West African International Time). People here have no sense of time. Arriving to a meeting one hour late is considered arriving early. I've definitely had to learn patience and flexibility while here.
-navigating through the city streets of Ouahigouya is a risk to anyone life!! People here do not believe in following traffic rules/laws (a red light has no meaning to many). I've learned to bike very cautiously and am always constantly aware...dont let your guard down and trust no driver! Example, just recently one trainee was biking down the street when a man on a moto, driving with one hand, and carrying a large metal door on his shoulders with the other... cut off this trainee who was trying to turn left and sliced a piece of the trainee's ear off!!! It was literally dangling by a piece of skin!
-having said that.... while I was riding my bike I did hit a little boy trying to cross the street...but it wasnt my fault!! (and the little boy was fine!)
-since the rainy season started in July, I have never had less than 30, yes 30, mosquito bites on my feet and ankles
- You are going to be called "Nassarra" (white foreigner) at least 20 times a day by all Burkinabes, men, women and children. Get used to it and dont take it personally.
-street food sold by vendors is the BEST and CHEAPEST food!! Anything from corn and peanuts to meals like benga (beans and rice, etc...soooo good and easy on the wallet)
-the fashion here is definitely.... interesting. The crazier the patterns and colors you wear, the more fashionable you are!
-I love bucket baths!!
-I know I've somewhat adjusted when I can go to the bathroom at 2 am and the sight of 10 cockroaches crawling around and flies buzzing all over me doesnt faze me in the least.
-the best way to integrate and adjust to life in Burkina.... learn to laugh at yourself.
-I can greet a Burkinabe in FOUR different languages (Moore, Fulfulde, Koromfe and French)
-trying to go to the marche and buy stuff in local language is hard! Their money system is difficult and confusing. Not only is it difficult to mentally translate whatever number they are saying, which can be anywhere from 25 to the thousands, but whatever number they give you you have to multiply it by 5...and that is the real amount that you confusing.
-People in my village work so hard. I went to work with the men one day cultivating the field.
Such freakin hard work !! I spent 2 hours weeding with the hoe so the « mil » can grow. After 2 hours I already had blisters all over my hands and my back hurt, so the men told me to stop and rest. But these men do this all day for months at a time !! (see picture above)
-lastly, as much as I love being here and can say Im here trying to do good, there is no denying that I am a privileged person. I have complained about the food on my blog, eating nothing but carbs like pasta, rice etc. My family has never complained to me or asked me for anything. But during a conversation with my sisters they talked about how difficult their lives were, how hard they had to work and how having enough food is their #1 concern. All they have to eat is "to" a bland mushy dish made of a type of grain which they grow, and sauce. Exact quotes they told me(translated):
"I hate 'to' because we eat it 3 times a day, everyday, but its all we have to eat."
"I force myself to eat to because Megan is still breastfeeding and I need to eat to be able to produce enough milk for her."
"I hate being so skinny. I hate that my bones stick out."
Not exactly things that make you feel great after just chowing down on half a pound of pasta. I guess hearing things like that from my family, who ALWAYS have a smile on their face and are so generous to me, really hit home. I am in Africa, I am in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world. Even though I am here as a volunteer and just paid a stipend to live on, I am still receiving more than most villagers. Just something I know I have to keep in mind during my entire 2 years here.

Aug 12, 2008

New Address and Wish List!

See my new address (I will be there at the end of the month for the next two years) and my wish list on the right hand side.