Halfway through training!
The days can seem long, but time is going by relatively quickly. My host dad, Nuon, keeps track of the days better than I do. “You only have about three weeks left here with us. Samira says she is going to lock you in your room so you can’t leave!” Samira is my three year old host sister. She is probably my favorite of the family even though we cannot communicate directly, as she only speaks Nuuni. She is always laughing and seems to be a little trouble maker. However, you can’t get mad at her because she’s just too cute! Living with a host family is always great for the learning process. You are immersed in culture, language, family customs and everyday village life. It is still amazing to me how quickly you become just another member of the family. At the beginning things are a bit awkward, but by the end you are sad to leave. I have been extremely blessed with the families I’ve been welcomed into in both Mali and Burkina Faso.
Moving away is always difficult, but opens the door to new opportunities. I remind myself of this whenever I am homesick for family and friends in the States (and in Mali). Also, I just see it as my “family” growing as I continue to form new relationships. This also includes my fellow trainees. Trying to soak up as much time together as possible before we move to our sites! We have already experienced several ups and downs together. Some of our PCVFs (Peace Corps Volunteer Facilitators) have already suggested the following possible names for our stage (training group): Swagger Stage, Street Cred Stage, Solid Stage and “Sup?” (must be spoken in a low, bad ass tone while simultaneously pumping your chest forward in a taunting, “I’m dangerous” fashion) Stage. Hopefully our stage continues to be interesting, but in a “not-getting-into-bus-accidents” kind of way J
Last Wednesday we had our Site Announcement Ceremony. One by one they read off descriptions of each of our 26 sites like we were all on some game show. We then had to guess which PCT will be moving to that site (PCT=Peace Corps Trainee. We become PCVs on December 13th when we are sworn in as volunteers!). I think I’ve explained this before, but sometimes I speak in Peace Corps terms that would not make sense to the average reader. When I say “site,” I mean the village/town/city each of us will move to and begin our 2 year service. Each of these sites has requested a volunteer and has specific needs such as in the sectors of health, business, education, agriculture, etc. Peace Corps then matches each volunteer with a site. The announcement ceremony continued with each of us putting a stick figure picture of ourselves on a big hand-drawn map of Burkina Faso on the location of our site. We are all over the map!
My future site seems to be the furthest south, about 3ish hours from Burkina’s second largest city, Bobo-Dioulasso. I will be the third volunteer at this site and I had the chance to talk to the PCV, Lindsey, who I will be replacing, meaning she is finishing up her service now and will be going back to the States a bit after Thanksgiving. What I know so far without actually having been there: The village has about 2,000 people and is made up of a mix religions, with many Muslims and Catholics. The border control for Côte d’Ivoire is in my town and their building has electricity. This means I can get cold beverages! Also there is a cell tower so I will have cellphone service and a place to charge small electronics. There is a primary school and of course the CSPS (community health center) with whom I will be working. My house has 2 rooms and it sounds like Lindsey will be leaving behind some useful furniture. She also sounded like she loved it, which is another reason to look forward to the move!
Oh I almost forgot to mention I am learning Jula! Jula is basically Burkina’s version of Bambara, the language I was using in Mali. I am kicking myself for not having brought my notes from Mali, but I have found some online resources. This time around we are learning Jula in French though (so learning a third language in a second language). At first I thought I had forgotten a lot of the language, but it is starting to come back. Donni, donni! We will have a final language oral exam, but this is only for French. I am not too worried about the exam, but I hope I will have improved since I have been using it every day. The French used in Burkina villages is often simplified and sometimes my host dad and I cannot understand each other. Language is one of the most challenging parts of PC, but I love to learn. I am hoping to pick up some Mooré as well, one of the dominant languages spoken here. Well, at least the greetings. It still blows my mind how many different languages are packed into one country that is only about the size of Colorado.
Some other topics we have been covering: how to make hand washing stations and liquid soap, how to make enriched porridge for infants and children, how to avoid getting infectious diseases, basic first aid, how to facilitate/teach a training, history and ethnic groups of Burkina Faso, how to best integrate at site (aka how to make friends and find good people to work with at site. This is an ongoing process.), how to help with breast feeding consultations, how to help with baby weighing at your CSPS and nutrition in Burkina Faso. We’ve had more safety and security sessions, which are lessons straight from PC Washington. This means they are kind of boring and situations where you just use common sense, like “bystander intervention.”
Thanksgiving is this week! We will be making our own dinner together and have invited PC Staff as well. We’ve divided up the different cooking tasks and I’ve decided to help with the homemade mac and cheese, garlic bread and….forgot the other thing. Oops. Though our diets are lacking variety, this dinner will help make up for it. We’ve also had a couple opportunities for some good meals in Léo and Ouaga. Sunday we all usually bike into Léo to eat and relax at Hotel Sissilis. At one point we started referring to it as “Hotel Syphilis.” Contrary to the nickname, the hotel actually is pretty nice. However, the pool water is…questionable. Did this stop us from swimming in it though? No. It’s the 2,000 CFA ($4) entry fee that limits our use of the pool. When I refer to good food it usually means something with vegetables and/or is not doused in palm oil. My favorite thing to eat there is probably the salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, and shredded cabbage with a mustard vinaigrette) and l’omelette mixed (the one at the hotel has ham, onion and CHEESE, and is served with some sweet bread). Dinners at my host family’s have consisted of: rice and beans, spaghetti with an oily tomato sauce, toh, fountou and enyam (a starchy “sweet” potato) in an oily tomato sauce. A few pieces of meat are always in there, but for the most part I avoid them because I found out they eat guniea pigs and rabbits in my village. They also chop the meat in a weird way where there are random chips of bone in it. I’ll stick to my beef jerky I brought. At least until it runs out…
Saturday afternoon is our other free time from classes. We usually meet up at Emma’s (another PCT), bring our mats, snacks, books, games and sometimes homework and have a “Pause Café,” or coffee break. This “pause” lasts all afternoon. Yesterday we spent time listening to music, playing some Phase 10, working on some homework and coloring hand turkeys and pilgrim hats to make into headbands for Thanksgiving. Yes, we are all out of college, but we still love to color :) (Wish I could add some photos here, but the Internet is not letting me upload them. Pictures to come at a later date…)
Hope you all Stateside have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Enjoy your time with family and friends, feasting and watching football!