Greetings from a thankfully cooler Burkina Faso (but if your dad, its hot)!
We have arrived again in the “Cold Season” where the Burkinabé dress for a blizzard. It still amuses me to see them in their winter coats, gloves, hats, earmuffs, scarves, etc, however, I have to admit, that I find myself a bit on the cold side. Ok more than a bit, often times at night I feel like it could be freezing outside! But once I think about it, the temperatures in the north on average are over 100 degrees and during cold season it can get down in the mid 50’s low 60’s at night. So, subtract 40 degrees from the norm and its downright cold! If we translate this into Michigan weather, when it starts to cool off in the fall, after having had some nice sunny days around 80 degrees, subtract 40 and you think it’s about ready to snow! (Well, ok it is getting close to snowing at 40 degrees.) Anyways, so what I’m trying to say, is that I guess I have acclimated a bit and find 60 degrees to be a bit chilly. However, during the day, when the sun comes out, the sun can still be downright painful. That is when I get confused as to how people can be working with said clothing mentioned above. Yes, the air is cold, but being in the sun and doing manual labor… its warm! I wouldn’t say hot, because It’s not anywhere close to what “hot” can be. (Look forward to March and April for HOT!) So for now, we have nice cool nights and warm sunny days. In the north its very dusty and the Harmattan (cool winds from the north) will be starting and cooling it off a bit more. Then we get to March and the hotness come – lets just say, I’m NOT looking forward to it, but know that its bearable.
I hope that everyone had happy and healthy holidays! Mine were eventful, traveling around the country visiting my host family. It was great to be back again. I hadn’t been to visit them since July and once again upon arrival I was handed… a beer! In the last year my host dad has fallen ill and cannot eat salt or drink beer (amongst other things, but those are the 2 I find to be the most tragic!) so, I feel that because he can’t drink, I have to make up for it! Ok, not really, but he did make sure that I was never thirsty! They are a wonderful family and always make sure that I have eaten enough. If they don’t think I’m eating enough, they put some more on my plate or bring out something else to eat! The great part about this time of year too, is that there is salad! (And since they were my host family, they were trained on proper cleaning of the veggies so I don’t have to worry about falling ill!)
Then shortly after the New Year I took a bus from Ouaga to Accra, Ghana. The bus ride itself isn’t horrible. It just took about 20 hours to get there and the bus ride was freezing because they ran the air conditioning at about 62 degrees the whole way down! Then when I got off the bus I was hit by a wave of humidity that doesn’t exist in the desert here in Burkina! It was awful and I wanted to run back on the cold bus because I almost instantly started sweating. We left at about 9:30 am and got into Ghana at 5 am. Dads arrival wasn’t planned until the following afternoon at 2 pm, so I had quite some time to relax and hang out, but I had no idea how I was going to do that because I knew nothing and no one in Ghana. I had found a place to stay so I decided to try my luck and see if they would give me a bed a few hours before check-in started. I was in luck, so I cleaned up and hung out for the day. The following day I hung out until checkout at noon and went to the airport to wait for Dad. It’s a good thing that I’m good at waiting! I got there around 12:30 so I knew I had some time to kill, unfortunately the arrivals terminal in Accra doesn’t have a whole lot to look at… So, I waited. Around 1:30 I got up and checked the screen and it said that the plane was coming in about 20 minutes early! I thought this is great! I don’t have to wait as long now! So, I waited. And waited. And waited. Around 2:15, after seeing many people from the same flight, I started to wonder if they didn’t make the connection flight, or decided not to come!? (Because we didn’t know if my phone would work we set up a plan that I would check in with Mom if there was any news). So, I called Mom to see if she had heard anything from Dad. Nope! At this point there was the last few passengers coming through the gate. So I look back and I see them standing at another counter, but they actually hadn’t come out yet. I was able to talk to them and figure out what was going on. Welcome to Africa (and more to the risks of traveling and having a layover)! Their bags didn’t come! Now, normally this wouldn’t be so bad, but one of the bags that they checked was full of delicious Americaland food for me!!!! Haha so it wasn’t too tragic really. The connecting flight was in DC so I had the confidence that it was probably still in America and not roaming around somewhere in South America. So, we found our taxi driver that the resort had sent to get us at the airport. We gave them my number and we got one for them and would be in contact if there was any news.
Now, the adventure that was Ghana was just beginning. We put the few bags that we had in the taxi and took off. Already my impression of Ghana was that it was already much better than Burkina. And by better I mean that you could visibly see that the country was poor, but it was much more developed than Burkina. The infrastructure was much nicer and everyone spoke English, so I was ready to change my Peace Corps post instantly. We then quickly discovered that traffic in Accra was not so fun! There was some construction that was causing a huge backup! Our taxi driver said that he knew a shortcut to bypass all of the traffic. So we said ok! Great! Well, the shortcut… also had lots of traffic. I guess his shortcut wasn’t a secret. So, we still ended up sitting in traffic. It took us 2 hours to get to the resort. Upon arrival we were greeted with a bunch of people and the OCEAN! We were right on the ocean, which was fine by me since I live in a landlocked country in the desert. The next day we called and the said the bags would be there, so we got our taxi driver and went back to the airport, which took about 2 hours. Then we had to eat and go back to the resort… another 2 hours. So, it was a whole day going back to get the bags. Both times, he said he knew a shortcut so that we weren’t sitting in traffic, but we still sat in traffic for 2 hours. We weren’t in any sort of hurry so it wasn’t awful, we just learned that when he said he knew a shortcut, not to expect to get anywhere fast. Overall, Ghana was good. I would go back, especially because it was so easy to get to (except for the 24 hour bus ride). The people were nice; the food was good; there’s a beach!
The news back in village: So Dad came out to village for 4 days. We started by taking my normal transport out. We arrived in village and had a warm welcome from all of the adults and children (well most of the children, some were scared of a big white man!) That night we started off by visiting my current house and the first house that I lived in. In the time that I had been gone, 2 babies had been born, so I had to meet them too! Everyone was happy to meet dad, but they all wanted to know where my mom was (sorry dad, they were happy to see you!) Then we got back home and the head of the courtyard was waiting to give us a guinea fowl as a welcome gift for us.
Day 2 was a market day, so we went to Tougo to visit the CSPS (health clinic), CEG (middle school), and of course, the market! I think it was a bit surprising for them how few options there were for food: tomatoes, onions, cabbage, and carrots. We were lucky that the last big village we go through before getting to village (the day before) was a market day and they had more options that we took advantage of before continuing to village (potatoes!) It was long day, but we got a lot accomplished and they were able to see some of the work that I’ve been done and see my students that I have been working with and the midwife from the health clinic. Dad also tried tô! I don’t think he particularly liked it, but if he had to live off of it he could.
Day 3 we had to visit the chief of the village, just to present the “strangers” and explain who they were and what they were doing. He is a very old man, I’m just learning that hes probably in his 80’s, which is very old for a Burkinabé because they normally only live into their 60’s. We went back home and spent the day resting up. Later that night, one of the children of the chief came by with a chicken for us!
Day 4 we went out to the fields to see where everyone in my village is growing onions and tomatoes. Again, everyone was happy to see us and show us what they were doing. We took an abbreviated tour of the 30+ hectars of land (over 60 acres) that has been converted into a giant garden. Dad even got to educate one of the men on fertilizers and what the numbers on the bags meant! After that we went back home and rested for a while before continuing on to where the women’s association make tomato paste. We took the short tour and then they gave us a small jar of their product! So Dad is taking that home to cook with! Then that night my good friend in village gave us another guinea fowl to welcome us to the village! So we had plenty of meat to eat!
The 4 days were filled with adventure. Then it was time to leave village, and we really got a full “Burkina” experience. The guy that normally drives the bus that I take in and out of village had his bus break down. He just got a newer-ish bus that is bigger and holds lots of people and is pretty nice for Burkina. So, we had in his place just a bush taxi that holds maybe 15 (not comfortably). So they got a good view of what “transport” is and can be like here!
Other news that I haven’t updated! I got a dog!!! Before Christmas the kids were hanging out and I thought I heard a puppy barking. I went out to investigate and sure enough there was the cutest puppy! They told me to take her, and I couldn’t really say no, because she was so cute, I just had to take her. So I took her in and she has been my little companion in village since!
Now, Dad is on his way out of Burkina back to the land of plenty and unimaginables. As for me, back to village! I have been having a little down moment again. I have realized that I only have a year left and I haven’t done as much as I would like and am worried that this next year is going to pass before me and I will be horribly unsatisfied with my work. I’m trying to make the most of it and find motivated people to work with and sustainable projects to do, but getting things put into action isn’t always easy. I’m sure things will work out, but for now I’m kind of in a slump and not sure if I will be able to do get anything I want done accomplished. We will see.
Other than that, I hope everyone is well and staying warm!
P.S. Comments are always appreciated! ☺ Its nice to know who is reading and what more you want to hear about!