samedi 30 juin 2007

My Host Family

I live in the third largest city in Burkina Faso -- Ouahigouya ( from now on just "OHG") -- and my house is just a few blocks away from the training center for peace corps. All the people here live in a courtyard style set-up. So, behind one courtyard wall there may be anywhere between one and four houses. Usually the extended families live in separate houses in the same courtyard etc. I live with what must be an upper-middle class family. Actually, its pretty ridiculous how much my family has compared to some of the other volunteers staying in villages or further out in OHG. Okay, so my family has electricity, which means i get to sleep with a fan every night -- its the most awesome thing ever! Also, we have a TV and a satellite dish in the courtyard so we get like 20 channels. Hahaha. I know it sounds pretty ridiculous. The TV is turned on constantly -- i mean my siblings here make American kids look like they play in the park all the time. I watch a lot of dubbed spanish soap operas and TV5 France. Also, we have a refrigerator and a freezer -- these my mom uses to freeze the juices she sells.

Our house is the only one in the courtyard. Most of the volunteers in OHG have their own small room apart from the main house but my is inside next to the living room. So, there is a straw roofed "porch" in the front and then you walk in the front door and you are in the living room. This room is about the size of my kitchen at home. Off of the living room are two short hallways and a door. The door leads to my room at the back of the small living room. One of the hallways doubles as a kitchen and leads to the back part of the courtyard. The other hallway gives access to my parents room, the room all three kids share, and the indoor shower. Both of these rooms are about the size of my bedroom at home -- definately smaller than my dorm room in new south. The indoor shower is a small tiled room with a drain in the floor for your bucket shower. All of the rooms have lights -- this is also atypical of the majority of the volunteers home stay experience. Another cool thing is that we have a water pump right in my courtyard -- most people have to carry all their water to their house. Not me!

I live with a family of five. My dad, Abou, teaches math. He is the most outgoing member of my family and he likes to make me use my french. None of my family speakes more than 5 words of english. My mom, Amie, is my favorite. She cooks me all kinds of good food and makes sure I am always comfortable. Shes real sweet and she works really hard. Everytime she makes a new beverage she gives me a little with filtered water. Bissap is definately my favorite. Her french is a little harder for me to understand -- Africans talk really fast. I have three siblings. The oldest, Raicha, is 12. She helps with all the house work. She is really shy. My middle brother, Chaquie, is 10 and hangs out with his friends all day. He is really shy as far as Im concerned. The youngest, Papice, is 2 and he is super precious. He comes in my room just to stare at me. He is mostly just fascinated by my foreign-ess.

In the back of the house is the latrine. It has no door and no roof. I really dont mind the latrine at all. Okay, so thats my situation with the host family. I am sure I left something out but thats all for now.

jeudi 28 juin 2007

L`Hiver Nage

Well . . . it is the rainy season here in Burkina or locally known as L'Hiver Nage becasue when it rains it gets really delightfully refreshingly cold. And by cold i mean 75 or 80. My entire definition of hot has completely changed. The low 90s are toally comfortable and 80 is freezing cold. So, every couple of days we get a good rain -- and by a good rain I mean thunder and lightning for 12 hours. This poses a few interesting issues. Firstly -- there really isnt any grass so rain and dirt just become mud. Mud is really interesting to ride your bike in. And really its not just mud but a certain latrine smell that kinda complements the red dirt and covers your bike in all kinds of fun. I love the thunder and lightning -- it gets so cool at night and if I close me eyes it fells like i am in arkansas. The craziest part of the rainy season isnt the rain but the gale force dust cloud that swallows you whole just before the rain hits. I was on my bike riding to class when the dust cloud ate me alive. The whole sky just becomes orange with dust and its hard to see becasue the wind is blowing all of it right in your face. Usually these storms come at night and i just listen to the doors shake. Even under my mosquito net, inside my house, with my one window i can taste all the dust in the air. Its really crazy. Life in Burkina is always interesting. Some things are easy to adjust to (like bucket showers) and others not (like the absence of privacy). Flat tires on my bike always ruin my day but a good storm at night always sets me right.

lundi 25 juin 2007

Food for Thought

I thought I would give you all a small glimpse into Berkinabé life by relating the various foods, libations, and customs. Get ready.

Food. Pick a carb, any carb . . . rice, cous cous, yams (okay this isnt what you think of as a yam. Really it is just a big potato), an occasional potato, or millet (it has a fishy taste to it that i dont care for). Next you add a sauce. My personal faves are onion sauce -- so tasty -- ragout, tomato sauce, bean sauce -- also good -- or peanut sauce. On occasion you might find some "meat" in your food. I am never quite sure what animal it used to be and it is usually mostly tendon and bone. I dont know how this works out but there are always tiny fragments of bone in your food that you have to pick out with your fingers. The same goes with fish. Sometimes we volunteers splurge and get brochettes which are little meat kabobs -- these are oh so tasty and of a much higher quality. In general, a regular meal here costs a dollar.

Other faves include Banga which is just mashed up beans with a flavored oil drizzled on top. Sanwiches full of delicious avocados or eggs are another favorite of the volunteers. Berkinabé yougurt is so amazing -- its just plain yogurt but it tastes like dessert. Sometimes it comes with rice or millet in it and then it is called déguè. All liquids here are sold in little bags which are tied off at the top. You just rip a hole in the corner with your teeth and go to town. After you purell your hands of course. Beignets are another breakfast time favorite. They are a chewy salty dough that they fry. My friend Clay gets these for breakfast every morning. All I get is baguette.

Beverages. I already told you about Bissap. There is also Zoom Koom, Jus de Gingimbre, and Jus de Tamarin -- these are all natural laxatives if embibed in great quantities. Jus de Pain de Singe is made from baobob tree fruit. There are also several local beers that we volunteers enjoy -- Flag, Sobbra, and Barkina. Single beers here are twice the size of regular beers and they cost the equivalent of a dollar.

Okay . . . now some nuances of Berkina culture. You cant do anything with your left hand. Here, in place of toilet paper, the locals use a teapot of water and the splash action of their left hand. So, handling food, taking money and especially greeting people are all done with the right hand. There are some people here who are left handed and its been pretty funny for them. Also, you dont wear your regular shoes around the courtyard and house so my host mom bought me a pair of flip flops for our area -- she is really sweet. The local language here in Oahigouya is Mooré adn when you greet someone in Mooré you go through a long discourse on the other persons family, job, health etc. This is not just with close friends but with anyone you stop to greet. Okay, I am out of time. I hope yu have appreciated this update. Next time I will tell you all about my host family.

samedi 23 juin 2007

A Day in the Life

It is 530 am in Oahigouya, Burkina Faso and the sun is coming up and so I am waking up. I stay in bed and listen to the various animals that live in the street outside my courtyard. Donkeys, roosters, pigs, goats, and some insect or bird that makes a sound very similar to an alarm clock.

Finally at about 630 I get out of bed, wrap myself in my pagne and fetch water for my bucket shower. There is a faucet in my courtyard so i dont have to go far. I love a bucket shower. You toss cupfulls of cool water on your body and dont think about how hot it will be at 2 pm. In Burkina, it is rude to talk to anyone before you have bathed and brushed your teeth so i dont greet my family until i sit down for breakfast which is always bread and hot tea . . . if I am feeling brave, i risk a little butter too.

And then I hop on my bike and ride the 3 minutes it takes to get to ECLA -- the base for Peace Corps Training operations. On the way 20 or so strangers shout "Nasara Bonjour" which means white person or stranger. I laugh and say hello. One time i stopped my bike and 4 kids came up to me and touched my arms -- Nasara! nasara!! I feel like Brangalina. I sit in language classes or technical training classes for 8 hours. At least once a day I have an ADD meltdown and decide that i cant sit still anymore!! Five minutes later i am over it and back in class and reminding myself that training is only a few months and my actual job will be very different. Its an exercise in patience which I can always benefit from.

After class I go home and try to communicate with my family -- African French is nothing like French French and most times i cant even tell if my family is speaking mooré or french. At about 730 it is dinner time and i love Burkina food! It is pretty much always some kind of grain and a sauce. Rice and onion sauce . . . cous cous and tomato sauce . . . plantains and sauce . . . bean sauce . . . beans and oil . . . actually it really is tasty. There are also a ton of special beverages. My mom makes several and sells them in the village. Everyones favotite is Bissap which is made from hibiscus flowers and then sweetened. It is magenta in color and oh so tasty. My host mom makes me some with my filtered water so i wont get sick.

After dinner, I retire to my room -- about 830 or 900 -- and journal, read, or do a little homework. I point my fan -- which the family went out and bought for me because i kept fanning myself -- directly at my bed and tuck my mosquito net in around me and hope that i wont have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The next morning i do it all again.