Ne y taabo! Bonne Fête! Happy Holiday!
Excuse me for my long absence. I have been a busy bee working away in my village! After welcoming the new trainees and helping them get settled into the wonderful world of Burkina Faso, I went back to site and got down to business.
It’s been an interesting 4 weeks. As soon as I got back it was babies galore in my courtyard! Before leaving for the states I had seen that several of the women in my courtyard were pregnant. (In village the women never talk about being pregnant, it is a bit superstitious since health care is so limited you are never sure what the outcome will be). Then when I came back, Voila! A baby girl had been born. A week later I had noticed a woman in my courtyard had gone to get her basin to go and get water and she didn’t make it out of the courtyard before she passed off the basin to a child and came over and took a seat, which was very abnormal. I could see she was very pregnant, but didn’t know what to make of it. An hour or so later, I saw her walking out with a few things tied up in a pagne (the fabric we wear as skirts and make into clothes). Soon after one of the younger adult men of the courtyard had gone off of the moto and picked her up. He came back maybe 30 minutes later and said, “Siaame!” Meaning that it was over. She had had the baby, but didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl. So, I waited until the next morning when she came back. And she also had a baby girl! Now there are still at least 3 women, that I can visibly see, that are pregnant. It is also fun because the women know that I looooove the children so I always get one of the babies passed off to me while the women are working. One of my closest neighbors has a little girl that is maybe 6 or 7 months old and I often get put in charge of her. I have started to tie her to my back and carry her around to get her to stop crying and go to sleep! So, it will be exciting to get some more babies in the next few months!
So, I have resolved to make the most out of the time I have left in village and not stress over the failures that I have unfortunately encountered, but have learned from. I have been in close contact with the director of my middle school and the head of the health clinic as well as the midwife, who is one of my closest friends and ally in village. All of which have fully supported my work with them and have been completely motivated to work with me to better the community. I have been absolutely thrilled!
When I got back to site, school had started so I went in for a visit and said, “I’m here!!! Let’s get to work!” The director (who has the firmest handshake I have ever received) is ready to support me and help me with any ideas that I have. The one he loves the most in the world map project that I will do (hopefully soon!) That entails painting a giant world map on the side of a wall for everyone to see and to show people that, in fact, you CANNOT drive a car to the United States from Burkina Faso. So, I just have to get the materials (paint and such) and plan on how to reveal it and what kind of “festivities” to have once it is finished.
In the meantime, at the school I have been helping with 3eme English (or the equivalent of 9th grade). I usually sit in on the classes and facilitate the professor when needed. If he can’t be there then I usually take over the class. It has been great to get to know the kids (who are a bit older and speak French – usually confidently). Also, with the same class, I have started an English club, as they will take an exam at the end of the year to get their second diploma (there are 3 for the equivalent of our high school diploma) and English is one of the sections. So, I figured a little extra help wouldn’t hurt. So far it has been a success (I think…?) I’m not entirely sure that the kids think, but they come and they ask questions and some participate! We have had some great discussion and have suggested ideas for future discussions.
I am also in the process of starting my girls club with 6th, 7th, and 8th grade girls and the same with my boys club. Because I have been more reliant on the school to help me get organized it has taken a bit longer to get things done because they have a lot on their plate with a few staff members and hundreds of students. But, nonetheless it is started and we will get going soon! I have just gotten some manuals from girls and boys clubs that have been run here in Burkina Faso and other Peace Corps Countries called: Camp G2LOW (Girls (and guys) Leading Our World). So, all that’s left is finding a time for the 2 groups to meet and… well, have meetings! I’m hoping that these kids will be as open as the other group that I have started with.
Just before I left village was the Muslim holiday of Tabaski, which is a bit like Thanksgiving in the fact that they celebrate the harvest. However, Muslim holidays are all lunar, meaning that they go by the moon. It was cute because all of the kids had asked if I was going back to the US to celebrate Tabaski because I left just in time to celebrate the end of Ramadan in the US. So, they were happy to know that I was going to be in village to celebrate Tabaski with them. All day Saturday, I had heard that the holiday was going to be the following day. So, I prepared and knew that I wanted to do something for my courtyard and family that I lived with. I got up Sunday morning and noticed that people weren’t really around and getting ready to “celebrate”. I was a bit confused. Having not experienced a large Muslim holiday in my village before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. So, I waited around in my hut and waited… It didn’t seem like anything was happening. Later in the afternoon I had a friend stop by and he told me that Mecca was praying today and we could not pray before Mecca, therefore, the holiday would be celebrated in our village the next day. So, I knew that it was for sure this time.
So, I got up Monday and prepared to go to the neighboring village and wish a happy holiday to my Muslim friends. I was there around 8:30 am and the midwife asked me if I was going to stay for the prayer. I asked what time it would be and she said at 9. I figured that I could wait the 30 minutes (my neighbors were not worried when I left that I wouldn’t be there to celebrate with them, so I promised that I would return quickly). So, we waited and waited some more. Eventually, I found out that we were waiting for the neighboring Imams to bring in the smaller villages into the big one for the prayer. Closer to 10 we heard the chanting and saw the group of people headed towards to Mosque. We followed in when they passed. When we arrived at the Mosque, we took our places and shortly after the prayer started. I stood and faced Mecca with a couple thousand fellow villagers and joined them in prayer. It lasted 15 minutes or so and after I headed back to my village. When I arrived, I found out that my fellow villagers did not pray with us in the neighboring village. I had just missed the prayer with my village. I headed back home after greeting everyone and found the women hanging out in the courtyard. I started chatting with them and hanging out with the children. Shortly after, the head of the courtyard came in with a goat. Normally the choice of meat for Tabaski is sheep, but that can be expensive especially for the holiday, so we had a good alternative: Goat! So, I watched the neighbors slaughter and divide up the goat. I ended up being gifted a large chunk of uncooked goat.
Having never cooked goat before, I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. I finally decided that I would make spaghetti and cook the goat in the sauce. So, the Marth Betty Crocker Stewart came out in me and I made some spaghetti sauce with goat. I kept some for myself, and if I do say so myself, it was quite tasty! I presented the head of my courtyard with a giant bowl of spaghetti and he seemed quite pleased. And they shared their rice and sauce with me. Afterwards, I went and visited the first family that I lived with and wished them a bonne fete and they fed me too. So, needless to say, I ate very very well.
Now, I am back in the capital for MSC (Mid-Service Conference) where we discuss challenges and successes thus far and our action plan and projects we have planned for the last year. We also were presented with certificates certifying that we have second year status! (Yay!) Also, we had physical exams and dental exams. So, I had to go to the dentist, which, I normally don’t mind, but the dentist that I went to here had a tool that I had never come across before. It was like a vibrating pick, and lets just say that I’m not fond of that device. After talking with other volunteers they have heard of this device in the States too.
That ended on Wednesday and Thursday was… THANKSGIVING! The director of Peace Corps Burkina Faso invited those that would still be in the capital to come to her house for dinner. Since there were quite a few of us she asked us to make side dishes and she would make the main stuff. So, Wednesday night a few volunteers and myself were at her house baking cookies! Then she needed help with some other things, so we helped make apple pies, stuffing (my favorite!) and chocolate mousse. While we were cooking we of course taste tested, but also needed dinner. So we went to the Chinese restaurant down the street and got some delicious dinner.
Thursday morning, another member of PC Burkina staff invited us over for breakfast and games. So around 9 am we went over and ate sausage, cinnamon roles, french toast and drank coffee. We played games, including the Christmas music game, which got us all ready for Christmas! Later in the afternoon we went over to the directors house and feasted! Of course because Peace Corps is all about cross cultural exchange, the entire office staff (which is largely Burkinabé) were invited. A large number of them came and shared in giving thanks with us. We had tons of food, and even more left over. We all ate very well for a long time. I hope that everyone else had equally satisfying meals!
After that, I went back to the training center for a week to help with the training of trainees that arrived in October. They are almost done and have about 2 weeks left until they become volunteers and go to village! I hope they are ready because it is coming up soon! I think they are. 9 weeks of training is a long time and the days are long, but, we all have to go through it to become volunteers.
Now, I am headed back to village for a couple of weeks to work on my projects and put my action plan… into action! I have some new ideas on how I can proceed and find some more partners to work with in village. So, I’m excited to get started on that. Then, I am planning on visiting my host family for Christmas again, like I did last year. Then, just after the first of the year, I will meet Dad and Pat in Ghana for a vacation on the beach and then they will come to my life here in Burkina and check it all out! So, look forward to hearing about their adventures here in the B.F.
I hope everyone has a safe and happy holidays!