Bonne Année! 2013!
I was on Facebook the other day and noticed several of my fellow Mali RPCVs posting about January 6, 2012. This was the day we swore in at the US Ambassador’s residence as Peace Corps Volunteers in Mali. Little did I know I would be swearing in yet again within the same year in Burkina Faso.
2012 was a CRAZY year!
I miss Mali. Everything and everyone that went with it.
I am ready for a new year and new beginnings in Burkina Faso.
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
So bring it on 2013. I’ve been through a lot already and think I can handle just about anything you throw my way. Just no more coup d’états and evacuations. Thanks.
Ala ka san kura kɛ hɛrɛ san ye. May God make the new year a peaceful year.
I have been living at my new site now for 3 weeks. As I’ve mentioned I think in a previous post, my village is just a few hours south of Bobo-Dioullasso, about 10 kilometers from the border of Côte d’Ivoire. I found out the other day a bit of the history of my village. Turns out the name of my village means “Hippopotamus” in the local language, Gouin. Apparently, the village had a lot more water before and a hunter came, killed a hippo and decided it was a good place to live. I tried to nail down a date when the village was founded, but no luck. Burkina Faso has more oral than written tradition, with history passed down from village chief to village chief.
This land of hippos is where I will call home for the next two years. There are no hippos now, but rumor has it they are in the river that flows at the border. I need to make a trip down there to see if I can spot one! What I’ve discovered thus far about my village: the population is around 7,000 people. The main languages spoken are Gouin, Jula and French. Occasionally people like to throw Mooré at me as well. Always have to stay on my toes! We have a Catholic Church and a mosque. Supposedly, there’s a Protestant church nearby, but I have yet to discover it. There’s a primary school and an adult literacy/technical school. We have several little “restaurants” where you can buy café au lait (instant coffee with lots of sweetened condensed milk), bread, salad, achecké (not sure how to spell this but it has a cous cous consistency), fish, rice and sauce, woso (an African sweet potato) fries and grilled pork, goat or sheep. You can also regularly find garlic, onions, tomatoes, hot peppers and bananas. We have a couple bars, as well as several places where women make and sell dolo, the local beer. There is a border control center with police, but it is a few kilometers from the center of town. This is the only area with electricity, which means cold drinks :) The train that goes from Ouagadougou to Abidjan passes through my town a couple times a day. At one time there was an operating train station in the village, but it has been abandoned for several years now, haven’t found out the reason why. However, there is a station in the town just north of me. I want to take this train someday, but Côte d’Ivoire is off limits still to PCVs because of the political crisis that occurred at the previous year.
My main hang out has been the CSPS, our local health clinic, as this is my partner organization. The clinic has 9 on staff including a guard/grounds keeper. Only two of the staff is from our village, the guard and the depot (dispenser of medication, a pharmacy of sorts). The rest of the staff comes from other cities and are on contract, but all are from the Cascade region. The CSPS serves 8 other villages on top of its own and also has quite a large population that comes from Côte d’Ivoire. We also have a community health organization, the COGES. Normally this organization is made up of about 7 elected community members, with the head nurse of the CSPS. For the moment there only seems to be 3 members, but they seem motivated!
My house…I will try to get pictures up soon. It is a cement two room abode with an outdoor “shower” (no running water, just a little cement room with a drain) and latrine. Since I am the third volunteer the house came with some furniture, other supplies and painted walls. Not sure if it was Lindsy or the volunteer before her, but she left several areas to hang pictures and what not. I think this is one of my favorite parts. And the big book shelf and dresser. I finally feel settled, not having to live out of my hiking backpack. Outside I have a little walled in courtyard with a few Moringa trees and a hangar. I love it!
I’m slowly starting to meet my neighbors. Many of them have still been harvesting in the fields. Many of their fields are about 20km away so they have little houses they stay in out there until they finish harvesting. Thus my area of town has felt a little empty. Minus all the pigs, goats and chickens that live around there. I was talking with a few people and town and it seems they are almost finished so maybe it will liven up more.
Though I have had many visitors. And by visitors, I mean LOTS OF CHILDREN. When they were on Christmas break it was horrible. They would come every day, sometimes at 6:30 in the morning. “Il faut me donner bon bon” which translates to “You should/need to give me candy!” They then continued to ask for other things. I said when it’s Christmas then I’ll give you candy. Later my response changed to “I’m new here. Where is my candy?” I think they were testing me. And they really did test me! I have a latch on both sides of my door because it doesn’t stay shut when you are outside unless you latch it. Well one time I was inside my house and kids were at my door demanding candy yet again, so I told them to go away. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but I went to leave and my door was latched from the outside. I couldn’t get out! I then had to yell at some kids to come back to let me out. Yes, I got locked inside my house. By children. We do have some fun times together coloring, painting nails, playing some baseball type game and having them teach me things in Gouin. They have been friendly, but sometimes TOO friendly if you get what I mean. However, kids are kids wherever you are in the world.
I celebrated Christmas in village by going to services at the Catholic Church on Christmas Eve night and Christmas morning. For the Christmas Eve service the youth put together a little play of the Christmas story with Mary and Joseph travelling to find a place to stay. You know the story. I love how they had the tallest guy play Mary even though they had plenty of females a part of the play. Afterwards it was almost like a high school drill team, with them performing choreographed dances. There was a visiting priest from another city and I guess he noticed me because he made me introduce myself in front of the whole congregation in Jula. Guess that’s one way to let people know I’m here! There was kind of spontaneous dancing that broke out afterwards and it went on until after 1am. Everyone was up though the next morning for the 8am service! Additionally, I was able to purchase enough phone credit to talk with both sides of my family on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. It was so great to hear everyone’s voices! I also spent some of Christmas day watching Elf and enjoying some hot chocolate. It’s so strange when it’s over and you are back in Burkina Faso. Movies really do take you out of reality for a moment.
New Year’s Eve I decided to travel to Bobo to celebrate with other PCVs. There was a group of about 20 of us there. Many of us went out to dinner for some pizza at one of the nicer restaurants in town. I got what we would call a Hawaiian pizza, though it was ham instead of Canadian bacon. (I don’t think I’ve done it much on this blog, but I LOVE talking about food. Lately I’ve been having dreams where I am back in the States with friends and family at various restaurants. Sometimes it’s buffets. And they are so vivid! I haven’t even been here that long! Ahhh! Mefloquine!) Afterwards we kind of went bar hopping around the city. People lit off fireworks at midnight and then we all danced at this bar/restaurant called Trigone, or as what some people refer to as “The Junkyard.” (This then reminded me of the bar near the training center in Mali called the “The Trash Pile”-given this name by PCVs because it was across from a giant pile of trash.:) ) Some of us ended the night/morning by watching some Modern Family on a little netbook and then passing out. All and all it was a good time.
So here I am now. In my village of hippos. Trying to learn as much as I can. During our first three months at site we are not supposed to start any projects, but work on what is called the Etude de Milieu. This is basically a formal report of your village/town/city that has basic information on what your town has to offer as well as baseline data on health topics such as “How many women attended 4 or more prenatal consultations this year?” or “How many households have latrines” or “How many hand washing stations are available and where are they?” The report seems like a lot of information at first, but the purpose is for us to learn as much as we can about our site and to have data to look back on in the future, to see if we have made any progress. During this process, (and that is what all this is, a process, that cannot be rushed. I must remind myself of this daily!) we are getting to know the people in our community. At the same time, we are discovering potential work partners. Already in my short time in village I am meeting people who you can see truly care about their community and would be great to work alongside. The issue is knowing where to begin! Dɔɔni Dɔɔni!
Dɔɔni Dɔɔni kononi ba nyaga la. Petit á petit, l’oiseau fait son nid. (Little by little, the bird builds its nest. In Jula and French respectively.)
Thank you to Lindsy or Sara for painting that on the wall. This is a very important phrase to see and to remember daily!