Dec 13, 2010

'Tis the Season

  I have to admit that during the past two Christmases I spent in Burkina, my holiday spirit was definitely lacking.
 Call me Scrooge, but it’s hard to get in that Christmas spirit when your sweating profusely in 95 degree weather, sand flying up your nose, not a tree in sight, camels passing by your house….not to mention living in a predominately Muslim community!

But this December has already proved different, that holiday cheer slowly creeping up on me. Last week while biking, Charley and I passed this tiny dilapidated stand selling tacky Christmas knick knacks, gaudy lights, the most fake looking plastic Christmas trees and faux sparkly garlands. 

First we gawked in disgust. Then we bought everything we could. 

 Riding home, we were so excited to decorate our little faux Christmas tree and put up our colorful lights. It took all of two minutes.

So now that our home was decorated, we wanted to have a get-together. At first we decided on a BBQ but quickly realized that neither Charley nor I could BBQ, let alone COOK, so we opted for a simpler option: A Holiday Brunch! Even the worst of cooks can whip up scrambled eggs! Never mind that neither of us ever hosted a brunch or had any idea of what we were doing. The holiday spirit would guide us into hosting a wonderful Sunday Brunch.We invited a few Ouaga friends, FAVL people, and PC volunteers in Ouaga. I have to admit the brunch went great. 

We cooked up cheesy scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes and merguez sausages. Guests brought fruit salad, cookies and a special guest just arriving from the States brought bagels and lox! Thanks to several care packages we made our brunch classy with green olives, crackers and pate. Charley playing Mariah Carey’s Christmas album all day only added to the class.

So, I’ve learned a couple of things in the past two weeks:  

1) If you want to raise your cooking self esteem, invite a bunch of food deprived PC volunteers who haven’t eaten a good meal in months
 2) I’ve learned to embrace the holiday season no matter where I am. The Christmas spirit is here, even if it comes in a one-foot tall plastic tree.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Dec 7, 2010



Back from Senegal and all I can say is, WOW! Everything about the trip was amazing.

The conference itself was very well organized and informative. It is mandatory for all Peace Corps Senegal volunteers and is an opportunity for them to get together and learn about what other PCVs are doing. It is a huge event and Peace Corps Senegal invites other volunteers from across West Africa to give presentations. In addition to Burkina Faso there were volunteers from Mali, Togo, Gambia, and Cape Verde.

                                                  The infamous statue

I gave presentations on enriched bouillie (to fight malnutrition in village) and promoting literacy (focus on FAVL). I met a volunteer from Mali who was presenting on adult literacy so we worked together to combine our presentations. Overall it went really well and we got a lot of positive feedback.

When I wasn’t presenting I was attending other presentations such as Best Practices for Working with Youth and Conducting NGO Workshops; all very interesting and informative.

It was really cool to meet other volunteers from West Africa and hear how different their experiences were from my own, especially those from Cape Verde! Sarah, a second year pcv in Cape Verde, says she and five other volunteers live on an island and almost never see other pcvs. If for whatever reason they need medical help or need to leave the island they have to fly! She also described one of the volunteers living inside the crater of an ACTIVE volcano! Apparently the soil there is incredibly rich and the villagers there have a vineyard and make their own wine!

Praying 5 times a day is not so bad when you have an ocean view!

Although I was only in Senegal for 5 days I was still able to do a bit of touring around. I went to Dakar's downtown and meandered through the streets and along the beaches. Dakar is so much different than Ouagadougou, so much more developed! The streets were all smoothly paved, the main road was beautiful because it went all along the coastline, kind of reminded me of a mini Highway 1 in California. High-rises were everywhere, vendors with beautiful and colorful art work lined the streets. The food, especially compared to Burkina, was delicious. Fresh fish, delicious rice dishes, vegetables galore...I was in heaven!

We stopped at the Monument de la Renaissance Africaine, an infamous and controversial statue. They say an estimated $25 million was spent on that could have gone toward health and education. Also, the statue is of a Muslim man, woman and baby. The woman is wearing a skirt so short it nearly rides up her crotch and her nipple is visible through her shirt.

In a poor and Muslim country where appropriate attire means covered tops and skirts below the can easily see why the Senegalese people find the statue so inappropriate.

I also went to Ile de Gore, an island just off of Dakar. It is small but incredibly beautiful. A number of people still live on the island and survive by selling beautiful and diverse artwork to tourists. There are no roads and no cars on the island; to get there one must take a ferry. Walking around the island I could not help but feel completely at ease and at peace. Eating lunch and sipping drinks at a little cafe right on the beach, I couldn’t help but think "Damn, life is good!"

I could go to these type of conferences any day!

Isle de Gore