Tuesday, December 11, 2007

NEW ADDRESS

I will be moving to my permanent site this weekend (I officially swore in as a volunteer this past friday!!) so
please take note of my new address if you're one of the amazing people who likes to send me cards, letters, packages, happiness, etc:

Morgan Cole, PCV
s/c Corps de la Paix
BP 1065
Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso

On that note, here are things that I like to get in packages, categorized by type:

FOOD: things that dont go bad and are hard to get here
meat (tuna, chicken, etc in those vacuum-sealed bags)
cheese (parmeasan, velveeta, cheese whiz, etc)
beef jerkey
sauce packets (just add water stuff is great like cream sauce, pesto, etc)
just add water stuff in general, like baking mixes and soup packets
maple syrup!!
snacks- chex mix, chips, munchies of any sort
candy
dried fruit (craisins, pinapple, etc)
ENTERTAINMENT
magazines, both trashy and otherwise
letters!!!
pictures from home
OTHER
anything you can think of, its all appreciated!!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Things I've Learned In Burkina Faso



- Burkinabe are the most welcoming, hospitable people in the world. As Bintou, one of our language instructors explained to me, they view strangers they come across as a gift from God, providing an opportunity to learn new things as well as share their own culture and hospitality. This is such a change from America, where people are so often closed off and wary of anyone they don't know.
PIC: my incredible host mom with me



- The Lion King is Disney's adaptation of the Jula legend of how their people came into existence. I'm going to be frolicking in Simba's homeland!

- With enough practice, you can balance anything on your head





- 70 degrees is actually cold, and requires the Burkinabe to bundle up in full parkas, wool hats, and hoods when the temperature dares to dip below this level in the mornings. PIC: My littlest brother wearing his usual morning ensemble, when its probably about 75 degrees.





- It takes very little to make a person happy: a cold drink on a hot day, a smile while you pass on the street, a short letter in the mail. Thats the way it should be and I hope it stays with me even when I return to the comforts of the States.

- Food and drinks that you never thought came in bag form actually do. Just bite off the corner of the bag and suck out the contents. examples include water, yogurt, gin, and peanut butter.










- certain things are universal. harry potter is one of them
PIC: my little brother Le Vieux in the best shirt in Africa








- Being taught a third language (Jula) in your second language (French) is hard. Really really hard.




- African cows are not like American cows. They're skinny with big horns and fatty humps on their backs. Like American cows, they often get in the way on the road. PIC: the road to Rikou, filled with cows, as usual









- Roads in Burkina Faso are not nice. The one between my host village and the city of Ouhigouya, in particular. This is the road under "construction" on our last day.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Picture Goodness

Thanksgiving was fabulous, complete with turkeys and stuffing. No cranberry sauce but somehow we made do. Here is the whole group of us that are living with host families in Rikou, along with our language trainer Yvette. A little sad to be leaving soon, but cant wait to get to my site in a couple weeks! New address to come soon...Me and my little brother Nuru. I love him and want to take him with me to Tin.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It finally happened...

I knew it was coming, but kept hoping I could avoid it...but no, I finally droppped my flashlight down the latrine. I peered down the 15 ft hole in the ground and could see the light faintly flickering away before dying out completely. Another possession lost to the evil latrine, alas.
In happier news, Thanksgiving is coming up and we're planning a big dinner as close to the American tradition as possible. Its a little tricky in a country without cranberries or apple pie, but I think it should turn out pretty well. My group is in charge of stuffing, and considering bread goes stale here in about 20 minutes, getting breadcrumbs to make it from scratch shouldnt be too difficult.
The longer I am here though, the more I realize I'm really going to miss my host family when I leave at the end of training to go to my permanent site. My mother and father are incredible and have made my time here so much easier than it would have been otherwise. My little sister and girl cousins and I had a little dancing session the other night, frolicking around my courtyard in the lamplight while they sang. Its amazing how much you can communicate wiithout actually speaking the same language. Now of course after the flashlight incident, they think I'm an idiot, but they've been nice enough to only laugh at me a little bit for it.I managed to take this picture while I was biking, so ignore the slight blurriness. Women here carry everything on their heads, its very impressive. I can now manage a bucket of water, but thats about it, and these ladies will have anything from their lunches to a 30 lbs saxk of rice perched on top of their heads, and walk miles like that.
This is part of the road between my home village of Rikou and the larger city of Ouhigouya where we have class sometimes. When we first arrived, this section was entirely flooded about thigh deep at points and fording it was a little too exciting. Now its mostly just muddy...
Mom requested more pics of me, so here you go. behind me is the booming metropolis of Rikou.
The mosque in Rikou, right next to my house.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Congratulations, you are going to...TIN!

Mixing up some banana bread with my fellow volunteers in Rikou. You'd be surprised what you can cook in a pot over a fire. Notice how dirty I am, this is a pretty typical state to be in....
For the last 5 weeks, I have been living in my host village of Rikou, just outside of the city of Ouhigouya, where we bike to for classes and other necessities of life such as cold drinks and electricity. Up until now, we hadn't been told where our individual sites were going to be....but now, all that has changed and at the end of training I will be moving to my new home in Tin, Burkina Faso!
Tin is a small village with a population of about 1300 people, located in the south-western part of Burkina. Their primary source of income is agriculture, specifically mangos, so I'll be eating plenty of those for the next couple years. Apparently cashews as well. Its a good thing theres a lot of them, since there is no market in the village at all, and I'll have to bike about 13 kilometers to the nearest village that has a market as well as a telecenter. Should be interesting during the rainy season...
The biggest city near me is Bobo, about an hour and a half away by bush taxi, and I'm told thats a pretty hoppin' place, by Burkinabe standards. My house in Tin is part of a family's compound, so I'll have plenty of people to keep me company and introduce me around the village once I get there. Also, I hear theres an orange tree in my courtyard, yummy. The main language spoken in the region is Jula, so I've started classes in that, and am continuing french as well. Its a bit daunting, I wont lie.
In other news, we spent a night in the capital city of Ouga, which is quite exciting. There's semi-american food (at least things other than to and benga, staple foods here in burkina), a pool at the hotel, and even nightclubs that will play American music if we ask the DJ nicely. Pretty much, its a very welcome break from village life, though I was happy to get back to my host family after a few nights away. I consider myself just about fully integrated into the community (ha) since I'm now able to carry water on my head from the village pump, name a few things in their native language of Moore, and they all know my name now and have mostly stopped calling me Nasara all the time (meaning white person).

Finally, thanks so much to the people who have sent me packages and letters! A few finally arrived, and completely made my day.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Couple More

Dont ask why it took two seperate posts, i have no idea, but here are a couple more picturesThe lovely Village of Wangala, where another volunteer lives and I got to visit for the weekend. You see a lot of beautiful African sunrises when you're getting up at 5:30 every morning.
Its so weird to be walking around a tiny African village, go into a restaurant, and see a mural of Tupac staring back at you from the wall.

Finally some pictures!



uploading pictures takes forever, but heres a couple so that i finallly have something to show everyone back home! Here you can see the napping during class breaks under a tree in our village, and some of my fellow trainees learning how to fix a bike tire. more soon, hopefully!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Just a quick one....

I've only got a few minutes left on the internet after checking email, so I thought Id let you all know I'm still alive. Three of our group of 37 volunteers have gone home already, which was sad to see but actually has reinforced my resolve that this is something I really want to do, despite all the challenges. Challenges so far have included the heat, the bugs, not speaking French well, and not speaking the local language of Moore at all. But every day is interesting in the village and Im doing well.
Just to give an idea of my daily schedule:

5:30 wake up to the sounds of donkeys and prayer from the mosque next door, and untangle myself from my mousquito net
5:45 take a shower- this means stand in the latrine and use a bucket of water to wash myself
6:30 eat breakfast with my host father in our courtyard while little kids sit around and watch. attempt to speak french with him
8-5 have language class and technical training, usually under a tree in the village with 4 other volunteers and a crowd of kids watching. bike back to my house with kids yelling nasara at me the whole way
5-7pm sit with all the kids in my family compound and attempt to learn Moore, the local language from them; which is usually pretty entertaining. the women (who dont speak french) all laugh at me when i try to greet them
7pm eat dinner with my host father, again with kids watching my every move...women and children generally eat seperately so its just him and I and sometimes a random cousin or uncle that stops by. dinner usually covers topics such as explaining snow to him, or trying to explain why Tupac is dead (his music has made it over here, but not the news that hes not around anymore)
8pm retreat to bed, tuck in my mousquito net and get ready for the next day

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

First I met the king. Then I was adopted by the President.

Im finally here and starting to feel settled in at my new home, which has been quite an adjustment. Advance warning: this is a french keyboard so excuse any typing mistakes...
To begin, the trip here was looooong. several flights followed by a van ride through Ouagadougou to our training site for the first couple days. There were so many incredible things to see as we drove through the city, and i just kept having the so,ewhat idiotic thought "Its just like in the pictures!" Women with babies strapped to their backs, vendors selling everything from mangos to adidas sandals, and hundreds of motos (mopeds). We spent a couple days in Ouga getting immunizations and doing some training before heading to Ouhigouya, where the next 8 weeks of our training will be.
All the other volunteers and I, along with our instructors, went to meet with the King of the region and be greeted by him. He is elderly by Burkina standards, and very dark and leathery, perched in a giant throne with his traditional white robes billowing around him; a pair of aviator sunglasses on his face and a cell phone in his hand. Everything is an interesting blend of American/Western culture with the traditional African way of life. Kids will be walking down the street wearing 50 cent shirt, balancing a huge tub of bananas on their head.
On to my new family! We're split up into groups of ( or so, and shipped out to the surrounding villages around Ouhigouya. After a squishy ride in a van over pitted dirt roads, through small ponds which had formed, and past various livestock in the way, we arrived in my village, where the entire town came out to greet us in a formal adoption ceremony. My father is very sweet and we do our best to communicate in french which is a little tricky considering mine is awful. Here is my journal entry from last night to give you all an idea of what it was like:

Theres so much stuff going through my head right now and all I can think is how surreal this all is. After the adoption ceremony, my parents took me home to their compound, acquiring a huge group of little kids along the way, all staring at me and laughing whenever I made eye contact. My father showed me to my room; which is essentially a small hut/room about 10 square feet with a tiny window. I spent a while setting up my bed and mousquito net, all the while about 15 kids had their faces smushed up against my screen door and window. Eventually dinnertime arrived, and out of respect they fed me by myself, so I peeled cucumbers, cut tomatos (no, i dont like them) and washed lettuce in bleach water with a massive group of people clustered around me watching EVERYTHING I did.

After dinner, I chatted (attempted to) for a while then went to sleep in my sauna of a room. imagine a brick oven. now imagine me in it, loaded up with benadryl and trying to sleep. It was easily 105 degrees, if not more. I was woken up by my mother at 5:30 to ride back to the city for training. More later, but Im running out of internet time now.

A few closing thoughts: I would LOVE letters and care packages so feel free to send stuff! My address is in my last post and things take a few weeks to arrive. My wishlist includes stuff to play with the kids (bubbles, markers, frisbees, etc), powdered drink mix like Crystal Lite (three liters of warm water per day gets boring); purel hand sanitiwer, and various sauce and spice mixes.
Also, for anyone who is curious, I do not have electricity or running water, I "shower" using a bucket of water, and I have to go the bathroom squatting over a hole which I share with the rest of my host family. And they stare and call me Nasara everywhere I go.

Overall, Iùm challenged but amazed and excited about this opportunity and the incredible country of Burkina Faso. Pictures to come soon!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Almost there...

A friend asked me yesterday what I was looking forward to most about the Peace Corps. Her husband jokingly replied that the answer should be "getting there," and I realized that that is exactly what I'm most looking forward to right now. After a summer spent waiting to hear where I would be going, denying the fact that college is over, and trying to savor the relatively cool temperatures of New England, I'm more than ready to start this new adventure.
There's not much else to say at the moment since I'm currently sitting in a hotel in Philadelphia waiting for my two days of training to start before flying to Burkina Faso on Thursday. I anticipate I'll soon have plenty of stories of outrageous temperatures, mosquitoes the size of my fist, and the many ways in which I'll be saving the world but for now its just me waiting for my room at the Holiday Inn to be ready.
Thats all for now, I promise my next post will have a little substance and entertainment!

Also, feel free to send me letters or packages! I know I'll be dying for news from home and would love to hear how everyone is doing. Care packages are nice too, and I'll have a better idea soon of what will be nice to have once I get settled in Africa.

Here is my address for the next three months of training:
Morgan Cole, PCT
S/c Corps de la Paix
01 B.P. 6031
Ouagadougou 01, Burkina Faso
The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps