Aug 24, 2009

Mom is here!

Summer continues and it is going great! Even after Pobe's Girls Camp, things have been very busy and fun. I helped with our final Girls Camp of the summer in Djibo. Well, helped is not exactly the best word. More like, I went to Djibo but just laid around taking advantage of Sara's electricity, computer and fan. Why, you might ask? Well, after biking into Djibo I went straight to the post office to pick up mail and fainted. Yes, fainted.....again! I seem to always choose public and embaressing places to do this. If you read this blog you'll remember that I fainted a few months ago while teaching in front of my 110+ students (who, thinking I was possessed by some genie, screamed, stampeded and trampled eachother out of the room, leaving me sprawled on the floor!)
Well this time it happened in the Djibo post office when it was, of course, packed with people. I remember feeling a little dizzy. Next I knew random men were surrounding me, one throwing water on my face to revive me. After they saw that I was awake, the men promptly returned to work or to their seats, leaving me dazed, confused and embarrassed on the floor. Needless to say I wasn't much help for the Djibo camp. (No worries. During my Mid Service Conference, which included a dentist appointment and physical exam, all tests turned out fine. The only thing bruised was my ego.)

With the rain we've been getting recently Pobe has transformed into a sea of green! Even my garden is coming along, corn, tomatoes and eggplants growing, flowers blooming! The end of August has meant the beginning of Ramadan, where Muslims fast for an entire month, only eating at night and before the sun rises in the morning. Thank goodness I'm not Muslim because in all honesty, there is no way in hell I could do this. In fact, I wouldnt even be able to go longer than 1 hour 38 minutes. I know this because, it has been proven.

A couple friends in village decided to tattoo my feet (its like henna, temporary) before I left for Ouaga to meet my mom. This is a long process that should be started at night before going to bed because your feet are wrapped in plastic sachets and you can't walk at all. In the morning the last of the dye is put on. Well, because the decision to do this was so impromptu we did it during the day for just a few hours. After the first part was done I was left to sit outside for 5 hours, with strict orders NOT TO WALK. I thought I'd be fine but this proved impossible. After just 7 minutes I started thinking about food, after 46 minutes I began seriously considering getting up to cook something and after 1 hour 38 minutes I actually did (During this time I also constantly stared at my watch). So this proves that not only am I incapable of staying still but the idea of me ever attempting to fast during Ramadan is ridiculous. (note: the end result of the tattoo is actually supposed to be dark black but because I didn't leave it on long enough it ended up being light brown)

Family reunion: Harouna (host family brother), Charlie and I; Representing the Hard Corps North: Thomas, me, Sara and Charlie

The swear in ceremony of the new GEE and SE volunteers occurred Aug. 25 at the ambassador's house. Great excuse for me to dress up for once and actually feel like a woman again. Also a great excuse for free drinks and food! Can't believe the stagaires are now volunteers! Out of the 32 new PCVs only one is located near the Djibo area. Charlie is replacing Christina (who is doing a 3rd year in Togo) in the village of Belehede. Welcome Charlie!

My most exciting news? My MOM is here!! Yep, after months of anxiously waiting my mother has finally arrived in Burkina. Her visit is going to be so exciting because she'll be here for over a month! She is working with Friends of African Village Libraries (FAVL), whose director teaches at Santa Clara University, where my mom also works as a librarian. Michael (the director) is bringing several students to Burkina for a study abroad program. Knowing that my mom both speaks and has taught French, and knowing I'm in Burkina, Michael asked her to come and work with the Burkinabes that will be teaching French to the American students. While she will be busy in Ouaga during the week, on weekends she'll come visit me in Pobe, each time bringing a few students to experience "village life." After being gone 15 months, Im so thrilled to finally see her and be able to show and share my life here with her. After her work with FAVL is over we will be heading to Morocco for vacation before she heads back home!!

Aug 2, 2009

Pobe's Girls Camp

Pobe's ¨Camp des Filles Modeles¨ is officially over and it went....GREAT! The camp was amazing, the girls were amazing and so far I truly believe it's been the most fulfilling activity I have done so far in village.

I don’t think anyone, villagers or girls, were expecting much from the camp or had any idea how it would go. But everyone, including myself, were impressed and had so much fun. Even other volunteers that came to help me out, those who had been doing camps for a second year, were impressed. The girls were fun, respectful, easy-going, active and participated in all sessions.

Like the previous camps I helped out with, mornings were reserved for educational sessions with a half hour break and snacks (peanuts or crackers) at 10. At noon they would go home to eat and rest before returning after the repos at 3 for a more fun, leisurely session.

The schedule for the week looked something like this:

Day 1: opening ceremony in the evening. Register and welcome girls, go over schedule and rules of camp

Day 2: Sessions on Self confidence/self esteem; Your Goals and steps to achieving them; Art in the evening (Origami and colored ‘stained glass’ designs to decorate)

Day 3: Sessions on Gender Roles; The history and preservation of Korumba culture (led by my expert friend in village Adama); Music (learned about notes, sang and learned a song in English)

Day 4: Revenue Generating Activity (how to be good/successful merchants); Intro to theatre; Soccer (led by Sita)

Day 5: HIV/AIDS (led by nurse from Pobe's health clinic), theatre; kickboxing

Day 6: HIV/AIDS prevention including condom demonstration; theatre; kickboxing (the girls begged for another session!)

Day 7: practice theatre skits and kickboxing routine in the a.m., closing ceremony in front of parents and Pobe’s civil authorities in afternoon

Christina leading the popular kickboxing sessions

Of all the leisurely afternoon sessions, kickboxing was the biggest hit, so much so that we did a second session the following evening AND the girls created a routine to perform during the closing ceremony! (I even got it on video but unfortunately my camera doesn’t record sound!)

The girls loved theatre and created 4 incredible skits showing how to overcome peer pressure situations (like drinking or sex , for example) which they also performed during the closing.

Playing the Glove Game during the HIV/AIDS prevention session

I was alittle worried about the more educational sessions and whether or not the girls would understand, pay attention or participate; issues we dealt with at the two previous camps. But not only were the girls respectful but they actively participated, took notes and even asked questions. Even during the condom demonstration, led by yours truly. There were obviously some nervous giggles and laughter (even from me) but during an evaluation at the end the girls said they were grateful to actually be able to SEE how a condom was put on.

Another hit was the session on Korumba culture. While a vast majority of the girls are Korumba, few actually knew anything about their language and culture. After the session Adama even took them to his home, where he keeps hundreds of old and incredible artefacts found in the surrounding areas that his family has been collecting for hundreds of years.

While the camp itself was great and I knew the girls were having a blast, it was the closing ceremony that really sealed the deal. It started with stress, of course. The ceremony was supposed to start at 3 p.m and by 4 not a single person (besides the girls) had shown up. The first person didnt arrive until nearly 4:20! Lateness....its the Burkinabe way! After that people started trickling in. While not as many guests as I would have hoped for showed up, it was still a good crowd, a nice mix of functionaries, village authorities and parents. We went over what the girls did and learned at the camp and then they performed their skits and cardio kickboxing routine. It was obvious everyone was impressed. The Prefect stood up and made a speech about how great the camp was. Villagers asked if the camp could happen next year, if they could help run/organize it (sustainability!!!) and even recommended other educational sessions to add for next year. The closing ended with a feast of zoom koom and riz gras. The girls also received certificates of participation, which, honestly if we were back in the States no one would really care about. But here the girls were so excited and proud to receive this certificate, since most had never received anything like it.

Again, I am beyond pleased with how the camp went. In such a short time span I was able to see the girls' positive development. They were able to learn new things and ask questions in a comfortable and safe environment. I literally saw shy, quiet girls become confident and outgoing. For example, one girl was very young and small and barely said a word at first. But once the theatre started she went on stage and totally transformed, literally becoming her character with the most powerful booming voice! It was incredible. Another girl was shy and too scared to participate in the skits during the closing. I told her Id like her to participate in the skit but wouldn’t force her. But at the end she found the courage and, despite her nerves, performed in the skit. I love my girls!!!!

Chistina, myself and the girls during closing ceremony

As wonderful as I am feeling about the Girls Camp, it's bittersweet. I recently found out my grandfather passed away from cancer. Because the death was so sudden making travel plans to attend the funeral in Montreal dont make sense. Its hard to go through, being so far away from my family. I just wish so much to be with them now. But on a positive note my mother visit is just days away. Shell be arriving in Bukina at the end of August and I just cant wait to see her, I've missed her so much!

Papa Gilles, tu me manques. Je t'aime pour toujours. Je pense a toi XOX