lundi 8 juin 2009


This is my student Kirsi. His name means "first son born after twins." No joke, that's what his name means. He is the nicest kid. To come to school he bikes 3km and once his bike chain broke so he was having to walk all that way (My principle likes to use information like this "oh! The children walk so far! look how hard their lives are!! They suffer! We are poor!" to make me feel guilty but I know these kids that walk all that way to school and it's true they walk far and school is expensive and they DONT STUDY or pay attention in class and therefore they might as well stay home for all the good it does them). Kirsi however works his butt off. He was first in his class this year (6th grade). Anyway, that time that he broke his bike chain our Secretary bought him a new one because he was a nice kid who worked hard. Well, Kirsi was so touched that he has been pumping three buckets of water for her everyday since (this was months ago) to show his thanks. I was looking for a source of regular water so I told Kirsi if he would pump two buckets for me everyday for 6 weeks I would buy him a soccer ball. A soccer ball is a big deal - they are highly coveted and very expensive. You can't even buy them in my village. Kirsi said he would be so so so happy to get water for me but he didnt want a soccer ball, if I could just buy him a pair of pants that would be payment enough. Oh Kirsi. So, when the six weeks were up I told Kirsi that we would go shopping together the next market day. I told him he was to pick out a pair of pants, a shirt, and a pair of shoes. He tried to refuse the shirt and shoes and I had to use my teacher authority to make him accept the offer. We shopped around for the items and the picture above is of Kirsi in his new outfit. What a sweet kid. He went around for a day showing everyone his new clothes and wasn't madame rebecca so nice to buy him a gift. He is also his class representative and during our end-of-the-year meeting he stood up and said "I would like to thank all the professors for teaching us. Mme Rebecca bought me pants." I was a bit embarrassed. Anyway, the point of this blog is how sweet Krisi is not how nice rebecca is for buying him clothes. I will tell him that I worte a story about him on the internet (this necessitates explaining the internet . . . hmm . . . that might be impossible) and it will make his day.

Banfora or Bust

All of us volunteers up in the north of Burkina experience a very different climate (thus totally different scenery) than those in the south. In the North it is MUCH hotter and drier. The rains end in October and return in June. In the south it is much cooler (like 20 degrees cooler) but more humid and the rains return in february. The north is BROWN and the south is GREEN. So another volunteer and I took a short 3 day trip down to Banfora to bask in its verdant richness. The area boasts a waterfall (what?? water?? I havent seen water in 6 months! jokes.) and a geographical phenomenon found in Burkina and Australia but nowhere else. The latter are rock domes formed by water and wind erosion. Here are the puictures:

Thats me at the domes.

More domes.

The upper portion of the waterfall. Is that grass?? I havent seen grass in MONTHS.

Lower part of the upper part of the falls. Thats not cunfusing.

Same thing.

The bottom of the falls. Thats our guide who requested he have his picture taken. We said ok and he immediately without provocation struck that pose you see there. Why? I dont know. They love karate movies here and thats the best guess i have. I decided to join the theme.

TREES!!!! The name of that tree in french is Fromager. It is only found in southern Burkina and makes buttress roots everywhere - Ive not noticed any other species of tree with buttress roots in this country. It's seed pods are a lot like milkweed - they POP open with a burst of wind dispersed cotton-y fluff. Trees! Trees!! I miss trees! All i have are scrubby acacias with no leaves. Yuk. Even I cant muster the enthusiasm for acacia.

mardi 2 juin 2009

Goodbye Party

The high school threw me a party to say goodbye and thanks. I forced everyone to take a picture with me:

Me and the Principle and his wife (left) and her sister (back)

Mariame the secretary. She is one of my neighbors and she loves to agitate and aggrivate me.

Salmad, Mariames baby and frequent guest on the blog and indoor pooper

Diallo and little Saidou are my favorites. Saidou smiles all the time and Diallo explains everything to me when I dont understand which is often

Giatin, one of the english teachers. he loves to make me mad by telling me women have rights in Burkina and then I get all huffy and start lecturing him on the plight of the african woman

They're presenting me with my gift. They gave me a "tradtitional" Burkinabe outfit. The one I have on in this picture is typical of contemporary african clothes.

Im at the big kids table. Burkinabe are really into protocol so the most important people are always seated front and center and by themselves. So, Im with the Mayor, Prefect, and the Principal.

Sodray, the other english teacher. he moved into my old Jesus dirt house. He's a bit drunk already . . .

Yelkouni is also a bit drunk already and he really likes to dance Dance DANCE!

Ok. Pierre is like the school gopher, he does odd jobs and he and I are making sad faces because . . . well . . . its a long story that would take more cultural explanation than i feel like getting into. I will spare you.

Bazie, chem/physics teacher and i like talking to him because he is very smart and makes interesting observations about development in Burkina

Bado, history/geography teacher. He is very short like me and he talks in a really low voice but then makes these really high pitch squel noises that make me laugh . And he's a snappy dancer

Bonane, philosophy teacher. He has a really big vocabulary and talking to him is like talking to Robert my brother-in-law but in French so i understand even less. And yes, philosophy is part of the educative program for the higher grades but really its also religion, psychology, politics ect all that stuff

Dipama, math and biology teacher and the school clown. He is always talking and developing new catch phrases that are infectious and you find yourself talking like him. He is up to noooo good.

Konate, math and biology teacher and long time neighbor and good good friend. She is very sweet and patient and I'd be screwed (oh no Jay bird the S word!) without her

The Serveillant, he is in charge of discipline and he is VERY drunk in this picture as it was also a market day and theerefore a day for sampling the dolo beer

Sawadogo, math teacher. Those little feet you see sticking out from behind her back belong to her baby boy Alverique

Wrapping things up

Peace Corps service is wrapping up. The rains are starting to fall on Tougouri. There are tiny ambiguous green plants proudly pushing up through the red sandy soil. My neighbors are preparing their feilds for farming. Corn, millett, sorgum. I really love the rainy season and its my last one. I love the blessed cool air. I love that bright color green of plants that are newly showing their leaves. Two weeks ago even the acacia trees were bare. Brown. Brown. Brown. Sand. Dirt. Dust. The rains will wash the dirt from the earth and all will be green again.

This is a new event of course. Three weeks ago I could not have imagined what it felt to be cool to not sweat all night long. Around the 13 or so of May I was busy teaching my very last hours of school. Ever. EVER. The rainy season was a distant memory from last year. I was in my favorite class teaching our last hour of the week (and consequently our last hour of the year, of my life) and, chalk in hand, I found myself writing the very last sentence and then the very last period. Remarquez-vous classe! Cest notre derniere phrase!! I finished the sentence, poked the chalkboard with my chalk punctuating the sentence and began to cheer. All 90 students got up and cheered with me. Any excuse to be loud right? What a moment! It was made even more complete when i realized I had made a couple of french mistakes and hod to go back and erase. Typical.

Pretty soon I was teaching my very last hour of my very last class - the class that i really really despise and i didnt even teach the last hour because they made me so mad i walked out. I gave my last test

I corrected my last test

I filled in my last report card.

My last last last. To me, that was the emotional peak of leaving. All the "lasts." You all say how proud you are of me . . . but I am proud of myself. I dont think Ive ever learned so much in so little time. When I think back on my first weeks and months here I just laugh at how much I didnt know. The language and customs and general "way of doing things" etc. If i knew then what i know now. I cant even explain this because it wouldnt make sense to y'all. Let me put it this way, Ièll never say that I cant do something and I ill never feel like i cant figure something out because I can.

If the world ends the only survivors will be cockroaches, glitter, and peace corps volunteers.

Here I am at the very LAST staff meeting. It lasted from 7am to 1:30pm. Burkinabe have lots of opinions and everyones has to be heard even if its the same opinion over and over and over again. The teachers gave me a present and Konate and Diallo wrapped it in blue plastic and made flowers and ribbon out of pink and white toilet paper. I was tickled.