Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Aїda, Aїda! Oui!! Aїda, Aїda! Non!!


Wow, everyone. It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve gotten to Burkina. There have been so many new things I’ve already experienced and it makes the time seem so much longer. How long has it really been? Like a month? I couldn’t tell ya.

I’ll try to start near the beginning (and also not take too long explaining). Our trek to Ouagadougou was long and didn’t go exactly as planned, which was a good introduction to Africa and the PC, I think. We were supposed to have a very short layover in Niame, Niger (the kind where you don’t even leave the plane); however, due to some electrical problem on the plane, the layover became a night-long stay in a hotel in Niger. At the time, the capital wasn’t the safest place to be (election issues?); so, we were advised to stay in the hotel and do no exploring. It was a really nice hotel with a pool and good food and everything but the surrounding area was not very pretty or exciting to see. This was actually great because we got to be eased into the experience of arriving in Africa and once we got to Ouaga, I was so grateful to be there and appreciated its beauty much much more. It was funny how “right” it felt to finally be in Burkina – the layover increased the anticipation and helped highlight how pretty and awesome Ouaga was.

We didn’t spend too much time in the capital; although, we did have a really nice meal at the Country Director’s house. Our CD, Doug Teschnner (sp?), is really nice – he loves keeping us up to date on US sports stats (which is actually really comforting, even though I don’t know anything about sports).

So, we fairly quickly moved to Ouahigouya, our training city. There are two sectors of trainees here – secondary education (SE) and girls’ education and empowerment (GEE). The SE kids all live in host families in Ouahigouya and all of us GEE people are out in the surrounding villages. We’re divided by language ability and study language (which, for the time being is French for all but the most advanced) with our village group every day. We also have many sessions on GEE with the whole group of GEE people (we switch off which village we have class in every day). We also have lots of medical sessions and safety sessions and cultural sessions all together (SE and GEE alike) in Ouahigouya – which usually means the village folk come into town and stay at a hotel for a night once a week or so. Coming into town means we get some lovely things like cold drinks and fries and veggies and ample protein; but, it also means missing my host family and village air and the village way of life.

I’m so happy with my village and my host family. I live in Bogoya Z (as opposed to Bogoya F or the far-away land of Komsilga) with 4 other awesome volunteers (Julie – a.k.a. Medina, Molly – a.k.a. Mariam, Devin – a.k.a. Zalissa, and Jon – a.k.a. Ibrahim) and our “language and cultural facilitator,” J.P. J.P. runs our language classes and is our liason for any issues that arise in our families (like, the carb overload we all had for our first week in village…haha); he’s a fun guy and is great support for us.

The village is a little hard to describe – there are a lot of “quartiers” or little groupings of houses/courtyards/storage facilities/stables that are all connected in a maze-like fashion. Each of us is in a different quartier. Mine is the one closest to the school and entrance to the village and there is, luckily, a water pump right outside of the compound. My family lives in this compound along with many other families – I’m not really sure how many because it’s hard for me to tell who is grouped with which family. The structure and definition of family members is much more fluid here, possibly because people are kind of closer to each other and depend on one another more.

I do know a bit about my own family, luckily. My grandfather is the chief of Bogoya Z (super cool!), which means that I see him all the time and must be very careful with my greetings…
My father speaks French very well and is very well-respected in the community. He works as a photographer in Ouahigouya and I don’t really see him very often (possibly because I’m a woman). I’m pretty convinced that my mother is the coolest woman in Burkina. She is so spunky and straightforward and knows very well how americans work because she has hosted 3 other people before me. She always makes sure im doing well and she cooks the best food. Its great. She also seems to be very well known and liked in the community, which is really nice. I also have 2 awesome sisters who, along with my mom and all the other children around, constantly call out the name they gave me, which is Aida!

Now, I wish I could write more but my connection is about to expire so I think Ill have to get goin! Hope everything is well with all of you back home. I think about you so much and miss your loveliness!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Soaking it up

Here I am, less than a week away from The Big Day, packing and checking off to-do lists like mad, and (the best part) enjoying being in the midst of many lovely going away gatherings...

And it feels a little overwhelming. Not that that's a bad thing. I feel like I'm on the brink of experiencing a lot of Life (you know, because I've been dead up until now...). After 22 years of gaining many bits of experience/knowledge and a ton of support, I feel as ready as I'll ever be for this big big journey.

The last few weeks have felt very interesting. America already looks quite different to me when I'm thinking about all the little luxuries I'll soon be leaving. And all the people in my life who mean a lot to me (I bet you're among them if you've stumbled upon this blog) are just these treasures that I'd love nothing more than to sit next to and soak up like a sponge so that I can take them along with me when I go.

So, I'm soaking it all up and soaking you all up (twss?) in the midst of packing it all up and finishing it all up. And it all makes me smile and cry. :)

Whew, now that all that mush is over - a few quick practicalities. I don't know how easy it will be to keep this blog going strong in Burkina given the internet and electricity availability, but I'm gonna try my hardest to do so. I'll also try my hardest to make this something interesting and not too cliched to read.

As for the big dates coming up: Tuesday morning I get on a train to Philly where I'll meet all my fellow Burkina Faso PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees). Wednesday morning we get all our shots and Wednesday night we fly off to Ouagadougou (with a brief mid-way layover in Paris).

Silly pictures of me with my big old bags to come...

For now, thanks for stopping by and make sure we get a good goodbye in however we can! You know it goes without saying that I'll miss you all very much...