Thursday, August 03, 2006

2+ Years Down To -2 Weeks

Hey All! Time flies. I’ve been living in Burkina Faso for over two years now and it’s already time for me to go. The last few months have been a bit crazy, but I guess that was expected. I’ve been finishing up projects, showing my sister around West Africa, hiking in the mountains and deserts of Mali, spending a lot of time in Ouaga, and trying to get everything ready for my next move--- France.


2nd Shea Butter Marketing Workshop

The first week of June, I hosted the 2nd shea butter marketing workshop in Sindou. Burkinabé experts came from the capital, Ouagadougou, to teach the women in my area that produce shea butter how to do it well and how to make a profit. They also help explain to the women the opportunities available in the shea butter market. It went really well and the women that participated were able to make some good contacts.

Amber's arrival and tour of Burkina & Ghana

Within a week of the workshop I was in Ouaga awaiting the
arrival of my sister, Amber. We
spent the next two weeks trying to see as much as possible in Burkina Faso and Ghana. Just getting out to my village is a journey across Burkina, now add to that the suffering we endured in Ghana trying to get down to the coast and back in bush taxis. Somehow after taking about 6 different forms of transportation in one day we made it back to Ouaga. Just in time to catch her plane back home the next day.

Between all the back breaking transport we were able to bond through our challenges and even treat ourselves every once and a while. We saw the ocean and slave forts and the changing landscape from our window seats.

My Dogon Country Adventure

Amber left at about 10pm Monday night and by 5am Tuesday morning I was at a bus station en route to Mali to "do" Dogon Country. I probably shouldn't have gone right after getting back from the Ghana trip, but I only had a few weeks to use up the rest of my vacation days, plus I had a week to kill before my COS Conference. So, together with 3 other volunteers, we traveled all to Mali in very uncomfortable positions watching the landscape get drier, dustier, and less populated. We were met in a town Koro by our guide, Pik, and for the next 5 days he led us around a part of Dogon Country. Dogon Country is an area of southern Mali where there is a long escarpment or mountain chain, where the Dogon people live. The Dogon are known worldwide and ironically are one of the biggest tourist attractions in Mali because they have been able to preserve their culture and keep their way of life intact for centuries in a beautiful setting. Their villages are built below, on top and inside the mountains or cliffs, which also contain waterfalls, rivers, forests, and sand dunes.

It is a difficult journey to hike around those cliffs for five days with a large backpack, tent, and thermal rest, on your back. I guess that’s why I didn’t and paid for a porter to carry my things most of the time. By the end, I was completely exhausted and just a little bit tired of the heat and the monochromatic mud buildings. I was glad when we arrived back in Burkina Faso.

COS Conference and Party

I had exactly one day to try to rest up before my COS Conference began. We were put up in a nice hotel with air conditioning, television, a pool and feed well. Sadly, I was not able to fully appreciate the amenities after I became sick. Oh well, I wasn’t about to miss out on my own COS party after going to other peoples for so long. They party was really not to be missed, we were treated to an Americana themed day of fun, swimming and field games in the afternoon, dancing and drinking games at night. And that was before we moved the party to a new bowling alley and then a club even later. Our Peace Corps parties are always fun, but this one upped the stakes.

I’ve also be fortunate to be in Burkina the same time as two other Howard alumni, Sadie & Lungi Okoko. I’m always thinking I recognize people because I’ve moved around so much. But, I knew it was weird when I saw this woman at a conference in Bobo that looked really familiar. As I looked hardier, I recognized her from Howard University and the Ralph Bunche International Affairs Center. As it turns out, Sadie is a diplomat at the US Embassy in Ouagadougou. We talked later and have met up in Ouaga since and it really does prove this is a small world after all.

What the Future Holds

I am currently a ball of confusion, as I try to write up the numerous reports I have to turn into PC, finish up projects in village, say goodbye to everyone and try to get myself to France legally and in one piece. In case you are unaware: I am leaving Burkina and going straight to France to teach English part time. The assistantship program is offered by the French Government, which will be a good transition form one bureaucracy to another. I won’t mind the transition from Burkina to the French Riviera though. I’m going to be teaching in a hospitality high school in Nice, which should be interesting. I have my ticket, but still no visa, hotel reservation or housing yet. It’ll work out, ça va aller. I would have liked some time to go home and rest with my family before this next transition. But I guess I’ll just have to wait till Christmas and manage with weekend trips to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Milan and Barcelona. ça va aller.

Friday, May 26, 2006

2006 for those in the Mix!

I figured it was about time I sent out an update of my status here in Burkina Faso. Sorry, I’ve been a little busy, actually doing work--- of all things. Only 4 more months to go and I’m outta here in September. Hip-Hip Hooray!!!

I decided to use this blog format, because I can put photos up to and it’s more attractive than a boring old email.

Since it’s been so long, I’ve gotta a lot to say. I’ll break it up monthly. Here goes:

January

  • After much indecision, I spent New Year’s Eve in Bobo with friends. I tried to explain the new dances I learned back home and play some new music too, thanks Michelle. Shake that Laffy Taffy. I have only vague memories of the count down to 2006 and me making people take shots of duty free Cuervo.
  • Back to Sindou, eased back into village life and life in Burkina after my fabulous visit home that included stops in Atlanta, San Antonio, and New York.
  • Left village for a LOST marathon MLK weekend. What’s in that hatch?

February

  • My friend and fellow (French) aid worker, Nathalie with Doctors Without Borders left Sindou and prepared to close their office in Sindou.
  • Went up to Ouaga for our yearly training, learned a bit about projects and a lot about the mass exodus of volunteers leaving in the coming months.
  • HOT season + deciding you’ve had enough of PC = ET (early termination) time to go.
  • Talked to lots of people about shea butter and helping the women that make it in my village.

March

  • Mixed business with pleasure by going to Ouaga to talk to shea butter people and going to a COS (close of service) party for a group of volunteer about to go. Also, accompanied some of my friends to the airport, not to say au revoir, but à bientôt & après, I hope.

April

May

  • Waiting on funding so I can go ahead with part 2 of the shea butter workshop with a concentration on marketing principles.
  • Trying to organize my tourism projects before I go, like editing the brochures and tours info, translating them into English, and compiling the results of the questionnaires I have been giving out to tourists.
  • Hallelujah! Found out I am going to be an English teaching assistant in France. Not just anywhere in France, but Nice, the freaking French Riviera. What a change from Burkina that will be. I applied to be an assistant in France back in January. I’ll be going there straight from Burkina and stay for a little less than a year. I’m so excited about it, I can’t think about anything else, except….
  • …Planning Amber’s visit. I’m very excited about that too. I figure we’ll do a week here in Burkina and a week in Ghana. Oh yeah, a beach and good food, I’m going to go crazy down there.
  • I am officially the Last Foreigner Standing in Sindou, now that the Cuban doctors have finished their 2 year service.
  • My birthday is coming up at the end of the month, I think I’ll just stay in village and celebrate with my friends there.

Well, there you have it. If you want to contact me you can still email me or post comments.