samedi 2 février 2008

Where Does All My Money Go?

What the hell do I spend money on in a village? Good question. I often wonder where all my cfa goes (thats the currency here about 500cfa/1$). Let's break it down shall we? Here are provisiona for a month

2 boxes of oatmeal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2000 cfa
1 box powdered milk . . . . . . . . . . . . 1200 cfa
"cheese" (vache qui rit) . . . . . . . . . . 1600 cfa

Every marche day (market day) i buy:

tomatos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 cfa
onions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 cfa
curi-curi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 cfa (this is cat food/these fried peanut things)
minnows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 cfa (cat food again)
lunch (benga or riz sauce) . . . 100 cfa
other veggies/fruits . . . . . . . 150 cfa (it depends on whats in season: cabbage, bananas, sweet potatos, cucumbers)


gas for my stove . . . . . . . . 4000 cfa
petrol for the lantern . . . . 500 cfa
beer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500 cfa (like i said, i teach 16 yr olds. sometimes you need a beer or 3)
bread (everyday) . . . . . . . 150 cfa
cellphone minutes . . . . . . . 1000cfa a week

so yeah. That's basically what i spend my money on. Sometimes I have to buy little things like matches, flour, margarine, pagnes (bolts of fabric that africans use for clothing, luggage, bath towel, curtains, sheets, pagnes do it all), or yogurt. It's the trips to Ouaga that make me poor - ice cream, chicken sandwiches, cab rides, beer, iced tea, pizza etc. Not that budegeting has EVER been one of my talents.

vendredi 1 février 2008

Mud-Colored Month

All volunteers have the goal to spend an entire month in village. Usually, PCV's will do two or three weeks and then take a weekend in a bigger city or visit another volunteer etc. Mental health - you know how it goes. I just spent all of January in Tougouri and loved it. I really like being in my village. I became so much better integrated this month - I actually have Burkinabe friends!

My neighboor, Konate (ko' nah tay), is my best friend in village. Quick profile: Katherine Konate is 24 years old, teaches math, dates the censeur, is very timid, very funny, and lives in the celibatairium with me. She thinks im crazy . . . which i am. We make food together and bitch about african men and the role of women in africa. It's fun! Another woman moved into my celibatairium too. Her name is Fathou (fah' too) and is the Lycee's hard-working secretary. Because she lives alone and thus has beaucoup de leftovers she cooks for me a lot. Friday nights, I go over to the other celibataraium where the other teachers live and we talk about African and American politics. Good times.

My triumph for the month was blowing my students minds with my national geographics. I love national geographic. When I explain the pictures etc in NG students look at me in horror or disbelief . . . depending on the photo i guess. Whales, Dubai, Volcanos, women who smoke, anything that lives in the ocean - it all freaks them out and I am happy because I know I am broadening their perspective on the world. Yes! Sustainable development! Albeit, on a small scale. However, I am more than content with that.

The real Harmattan began this month. WOW. How do I describe it? The Harmattan is an amazingly gusty and constant wind that sweeps across the Mahgreb and the Sahel knocking over all the sky scrapers, light-up signs, electrical poles, and trees in its path. That last part was a joke. We don't have any of those. It is sooooo gusty! It moves my outdoor chair arround and lifts my tin roof. The thing you must remember is that we've not had rain since early september. This coupled with persistant gale force winds means that the ground is now in the air. There is a general haze all the time because of all the dust and dirt in the air. Is dirt a greenhouse gas?? Haha. No, really? If I dont keep my mouth tightly closed outside, my teeth will wear dirt sweaters. Gross. Teeth are not the only things that suffer. There is a constant battle between me and the perennial layer of dirt covereing my house. Thank you GOD that I only have a two-room crumbling shack to sweep out. My entire world is the color of mud . . . my clothes, my skin, my formerly white cat, the air, the ground . . . the harmattan displaces what usually stays beneath my feet and repaints the whole world.

My exercise regimen in village is very intense. I run in the mornings - but thats the easy part. Getting water from the pump is a great total body workout. You bike to the pump. You pump the pump which resists your mighty efforts to "enleve l'eau" so you have to jump as you do it to add to your pump force. Then - the worst part - you have to lift the water jug (20 liters of water or 5 gallons) and get it back to your house. Africans can strap it to their bikes and bike it home. Or, they put it on their heads. I can do neither so I strap it to my bike and walk the bike/water home. Man . . . you gotta love a faucet. Watch-out for my wicked water-toting biceps. Another favorite exercise routine is doing my laundry. By hand!! Basically, its an hour of being bent in half while rubbing cloth against itself. My hanstrings are sore for three days after doing laundry. Life is hard people. If you come visit me I will let you pump water and do my laundry just so you can have the full experience.

The month of February will be another village month for me. I am looking forward to all the tasty tasty To Konate and i will make. Between watching my cat eat lizards, reading 3 books a week, and teaching I will be very very busy. Or not . . .

King of Siam

There are many cultural differences between my native glory-land of America and my current dust-bowl country of Burkina Faso. Some of these never fail to confound me even though I have had 8 months to get used to them. Specifically, teacher-student customs. For example, when a teacher walks in a class all the students have to stand. Thats not all that weird. BUT, there is one custom that always makes me feel awkward. It is routine for students to bow to the teachers. In fact, all kids bow to teachers. Ok, when I say 'bow' i dont mean that they bend in half or curtsey or anything. They cross their arms high-up on their chest and then bend at the knees and say "Bonjour Madam!" I just dont really like being bowed to.

This in itself is pretty goofy but the best part is how the little children who live in my neighborhood bow to me. Je m'explique . . .

I'll be walking down the "road" past where my gaggle of children are always playing. They will immediately stop what they are doing when they see me - this happens a lot with people of all ages. Then, the kids all-out run towards me and throw themselves directly in my path blocking the road infront of me, and in slow-motion cross their arms over their chests, bow down really low and, with huge eyes and a look of bewilderment on their face cry, "Bonjoooour Madaaaaam!" Sometimes they call me monsieur . . . they dont really speak french. I mean . . . we are talking LITTLE kids. Like 4 or 5 years old. They line up behind in each other and bow to me like i'm the King of Siam or something.