Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Visitors and Voyages

I realize I've been neglectful in my blogging/emailing duties lately, so I thought I should just let everyone know I'm still alive and well, albeit tired and sweaty most of the time. Nothing much new going on here, I'm trying to get in as much studying as possible since I'll be taking the GREs in just a few weeks, but studying in village is a little tricky. Distractions include sweat dripping onto my book, children climbing over my lap, and goats storming my courtyard. But other than that, life is continuing as usual, making very slow progress on our CREN garden and now in the planning stages of CSPS (health clinic) repairs, which are much needed. My daily work at the CSPS continues as usual, and we recently got two new staff members there, including a young midwife and assistant nurse. Both have just finished their training and this is their first job. It's nice to have more company and a lighter workload for both myself and my head nurse at the clinic. Before their arrival, there was a period when it was just the two of us, and several women ended up being forced to deliver their babies alone and unassisted at the clinic since both my head nurse and I were away at trainings.
I've been traveling outside of my site quite a bit lately between Mom and Ben visiting, the FESPACO film festival in Ouaga, and then a recent party to send off the volunteers who are finishing up their service soon. The traveling back and forth between Tin and Ouaga is tiring and expensive, but it's always nice to see other volunteers from outside of the Bobo region. Despite that, I'll be glad when I can settle back into my regular routine in Tin and spend a solid amount of time "sans voyager."
Mom and Ben's trip was wonderful, though logistically tricky with the typical Burkina issues of transportation, language barriers, and questionable schedules. But they got a chance to see Ouaga, Bobo, and Tin, as well as spending a night in the town of Boromo, where we tracked down some elephants with the help of a guide. Once Mom figures out how to work her new camera I hope to get some of her pictures uploaded.
After 10 days here in Burkina, they whisked me away to Morocco for a week, and as Ben said "It's a good thing we did Burkina first and Morocco second and not the other way around." Though Burkina is always an interesting adventure, the transition to the comparatively luxurious and rich Morocco was startling. There is certainly poverty there, and it's far from the USA in terms of development, Burkina and Morocco seems worlds apart. We spent three days at a lovely guesthouse in Marrakech, navigating the labyrinth of streets and colorful local markets, and eating lots of delicious food. Highlights included a great cooking lesson and subsequent meal, and getting a well-guided tour of the markets and shops.
Spices for sale in the Marrakech souks (marketplaces)
Ben preparing to eat his self-cooked Moroccan meal
Mom perusing the Berber carpet options

After Marrakech, we ventured to the High Atlas Mountain region, where we stayed in a traditional Berber guesthouse high in the mountains at the base of Toukbal, the second-highest peak in Africa. Mom took advantage of the fresh air and trekking paths and did an admirable amount of hiking, while Ben and I relaxed at the house a read books by the fire. Going from hot dusty Burkina to hail in the Moroccan mountains was a bit of a shock for my body, but the beautiful location and heavy wool sweaters eased the transition.

The view from my window in the Atlas Mountains

Making our way down the mountain with the assistance of a sturdy mule

I've been back in Burkina for a while now, and am spending most of my time outside of work getting ready for the GREs, though as I mentioned before, I'm afraid I'm not studying very effectively. I guess we'll find out come April 8th, when I'll be taking the test in Ghana. Several other volunteers and myself are going together, and afterwards we'll spend a few days relaxing in Accra before heading back to Burkina, just in time for rainy season to get started and take the edge off this heat (hopefully).
As always, my love to everyone at home, I appreciate the continuing letters and packages and hope everyone is doing well!
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