Jul 19, 2009

Summer Days

Pobe's crocodiles

For a lot of volunteers, summers can be long and tough. Most of the teachers have left for their homes in the city. Nearly all the villagers--husbands, wives, children--head out to their fields (which sometimes can be up to 5K away) to cultivate. In other words, villages become ghost towns.

For fear of boredom creeping up on me I made sure that my summer was busy. I'm helping out as a Peace Corps Volunteer Facilitator for the new group of trainees that arrived in Burkina in June. Basically I come to Ouahigouya for a couple weeks to help run training sessions, answer any questions they have and help them adjust to life in BF. It's been fun yet strange at the same time. I'm "experienced" now. I'm able to answer the trainees' questions on language/culture/life in Burkina and share my experiences. I see the curious, shocked and confused looks on their faces and it feels like just yesterday that that was me! It has truly made me realize how much I've learned and how much I've adjusted to life here.

Another summer activity I'm involved in is Girls' Camps. Three other volunteers and myself are running girls camps in each of our villages. So far we've run two camps in both Christina and David's villages which are within 40K of Djibo. Helping run the camps were a lot of fun. Basically about 25 to 30 female students are invited to participate for the week-long camp. Mornings are for educational sessions on issues like self esteem, hygiene, HIV/AIDS, etc. Afternoons involve theater or other fun activities like soccer, music and art. Being apart of both David's and Christina's camps has given me a lot of tips and ideas for my own upcoming girls' camp that starts July 24th. Im really excited about it and will write all about how the camp goes on my next posting!

When you see this......RUN! ....or you'll be eating sand for lunch.

The rainy season has finally arrived up North, which is obviously a great thing. The villagers are completely dependent on the rain, otherwise crops don't grow and there is nothing to eat! The people of Pobe are woried, however, because it seems like every year there is less and less rain. Every year more crops dry up because of lack of water. On days when it finally does rain, the children shriek with excitement and jump about in puddles. The men sit calmly on a bench outside, but you can see the relief and happiness in their faces too.

Storms here are something else; I've never experienced anything like it. It starts with huge dark clouds of dust and rain that you can see coming at you. When you see this you drop whatever you got, run your butt inside and close all the shutters. I learned this the hard way...twice. The first time I had just spent an entire morning cleaning and scrubbing everything in my house. Then the storm came and literally left about 2 inches of sand and dust everywhere! I couldn't even see or breath in my own house it was so bad. The second time I went to get water at the pump. There were several other women there and after a while we all saw that large dark cloud coming at us from the ground. Most of the women quickly grabbed their bidons and ran for home. Me, thinking I was tough and it was just a rain cloud, stupidly stayed, determined to fill up my water bidon. Within minutes wind and sand were blowing everywhere. I couldn't even see my own hand in front of me. By the time I finally made it home I was covered head to toe in sand and dirt. The poor white t-shirt I was wearing will never be the same.

The rainy season is obviously a wonderful thing, except for one area: transport. Rain storms and dirt roads are not a fun combination. Transportation has become a nightmare! A couple weeks ago I was heading back to Pobe from Ouahigouya, usually a 2 1/2 hr bus ride. It took 20 hours! After a long rain storm, part of the road had literally turned into a river. After hours of waiting they realized there really would be no way for the bus to cross. I ended up having to stay the night at the closest village and wait until the next morning. Luckily I was with another volunteer so it wasn't too bad. But this was at the START of the rainy season, I cant even imagine what it will be like during the next couple months.

A car crossing the "river" (It made it across but obviously the car wouldnt start after)