Saturday, November 10, 2007

Village Pictures Sildeshow

Football! OpaleSup, and Le gigot

This update contains a quick recap of Saturday and Sunday, a summary of the rest of the week and then highlights from each day.

Saturday I slept in. I was luckily able to fall back asleep after being woken up at 8:30am by the house man who wanted to fix the toilet which was continually running. I got up and did my work out video. After lunch I went to the office and fiddled around with my computer. Pascal came to visit in the afternoon which I would have normally been happy about except I was anxiously praying for my brother who was running at his state Cross Country meet and just wanted to left alone. I think he got the picture and left. Later that night I did see him at dinner and was much better spirits after learning that Jordan took 18th place making him all state! I was so proud of him! Running in the state meet was something I always dreamed of and was never able to do. It is so wonderful and uplifting to see Jordan succeed in this way :) After dinner I went over to Leanna’s and she and Tyler and I carved a pumpkin. We asked to Pete to bring one back with him from Bobo. He did and we had a great time carving it. We even saved the guts to make a pie when Thanksgiving comes around. Which, might I add, I realized is coming very quickly!

Sunday I went to church with Lenna and Lorinda. They go to the Padua Alliance Church. It was women’s day so the ladies of the congregation run the service and afterwards they pass out snacks, ect. It was okay. I think I like the church from last weekend better. They really cool thing was there was a very new baby, 2 months old there. Lorinda knew the Mom so she was holding her and they passed her down to Leanna and then to me. You would have thought I would have been all like, “Oh, look a cute baby.” But I was freaked out afraid to hold her. When I was little I loved holding babies, but it has been so long I was afraid she was fall apart in arms. Anyway, it was awkward at first but I quickly got the hang of it… and she remained intact :) After church we went to the Marina Market. I spent $40 and didn’t feel like I bought anything that is actually useful. Oh well. I got breakfast for the month, more milk, bread, and juice. I have to add that they didn’t have the digestive crackers that I LOVE, so I tried a different brand and have been supremely disappointed. I had lunch at 2iE and spent the afternoon cleaning the kitchen, hanging up pictures, and otherwise organizing the house. There was a women scheduled to arrive who would be staying in the house here for a month and I wanted to make sure I had my space claimed and things the way I wanted them. I then took a nap and got to go play Ultimate Frisbee at ISO. It was great fun. Drew, Tyler, and Ben were all there along with a bunch of younger kids and some of their parents. After ultimate I raced home on my bike, showered and hopped in Leanna’s car and headed to the rec center for Sunday night football. The first game was pretty lame, but the second game was the Colts verus the Patriots which was an awesome game. We normally only stay for the first game, but this week we stayed for both. Leanna is a fan of the Browns and they were also playing in the second time slot. Needless to say I was out again until like 12:30 at night. Not a good way to start the week. The women staying at the house arrived as I was leaving for Frisbee. I stayed and talked for a minute and invited her to football. She readily accepted, happy to have something to do and a way to meet people. The women’s name is Marcia. She works for the IWMI, an international water management group. She is helping to organize a conference at 2iE at the end of November. She is very friendly, high spirited and nice to have as a housemate. I think we have a lot to offer each other as far as similar interests yet varied life experiences.

The week in Summary:

This week I felt like I was back at Princeton. Why? Because I was crazy busy. I wasn’t getting to bed until late and having to get up and go to classes. In summary, this week I attended a training course for new software called OpaleSup that 2iE is using to create distance learning courses. It allows you to make different modules, with chapters that have movable content. It then at the click of a button creates a web based presentation and a very professional looking document. It was quite fortuitous that I was able to participate. Konate asked me if I wanted to attend and I said yes not knowing it was a week long training thing. Normally, I would have complained because they went so slow, but I was happy to be with other people instead of alone in my office. Also, the course was taught in French which resulted in my having to focus very hard to follow what was going on. The teachers were both from France. The girl was actually originally from brazil and I could understand her French very easily. They guy on the other hand was a native Parisian and was a more difficult to get. Luckily the girl taught most of the classes. Basically, I didn’t get any of my work done. But, I did learn a lot of French and made some new friends and learned how to use a sweet new computer program probably better than anyone at 2iE.


Monday: Finally signed my contract.
Had to finish my French HW that morning which was like 30 sentences!
First OpaleSup training in the afternoon.
Had a chill night and watched Grey’s Anatomy. I have decided that is going to be my Monday night thing that I look forward to.

Tuesday: All morning was OpaleSup.
Got to talk to my family briefly before lunch.
Just enough time to say Congratulations and hear about the state meet!
More training in the afternoon.
Rode my bike over the Nehlsen’s to drop off a book for Amy and picked up my malaria meds from Karen.
Got back just in time to meet Drew for dinner.
I was so pumped because I felt like my French was getting so much better, then at diner the guy at the window acted like he didn’t understand me and that was super frustrating!
The good news is they lowered the price of the rice meals to 400CFA, so now it is less than a dollar to eat there. Really, what motivation is there for me to cook for myself when I can get food already made up for less than a dollar! It would cost me more in time and supplies to cook for myself, not to mention when I eat at home I don’t get to interact with anyone.
After dinner Drew and I headed over the rec center to watch Sahara. It is a movie with Matthew McConaughey that is set in Mali, a country that borders Burkina. Living here and watching the movie and seeing how things are portrayed totally inaccurately was pretty amusing.
The movie was great, but even more entertaining was the fact that Drew’s moto broke down as we were trying to leave. So we had to go on a night Ouaga adventure to find a mechanic who could fix it. Luckily in Ouaga there are mechanics on virtually every corner and they stay open pretty late. Sitting there waiting for them to fix the bike I had so much fun people watching and just taking everything in.
Really, my being here still seems SO surreal.
In Burkina you can buy cigarettes individually. Interesting.
I finally made it back to 2iE around 11 and hit the hay!
I wonder what the guards must think of me. It must seem like I am quite the party animal always out so late…

OpaleSup in the AM and free time in the PM
I actually helped Konate with the some of the program and was helping him in French. Boo-yah!
Unknown to me they provide lunch for the participants during the course days. I didn’t know this so I didn’t go with them on Tuesday. I did go today though and it was excellent. We ate at the little house next to the student café. I had wondered what that little place was used for. Now I know. It was a much nicer meal than the student ones, naturally it is more expensive, but the school paid for everything.
I was late to my French lesson, because of lunch. I was going to leave early but they insisted that I stay and my teacher could wait. At first I felt bad, but now I realize that is how things work here. That is simply Africa.
After work I went back to my room to finish my NSF fellowship application.
When I finished and left my room I was surprised to find a large TV, 3 small TVs, 3 mini-fridges, a new big fridge and new range in my house.
Marcia was funny and asked if I won a game show or something :)
I guess each bedroom is getting a TV and mini fridge. I think they want to make the house like a hotel. Anyway, I’m not complaining. I would like to figure out how to hook my computer up, or get a DVD player…
I quickly worked out for 30 minutes and got ready to go out, again.
Prof. Weithe and another faculty guy, Angel, had arranged for a group to go to dinner at this awesome restaurant called Le Gigot a la Frielle. Their specialty is gigot, or lamb thigh which is slow cooked over a wood fire hanging from a string. When you order they cut one down and slice it up for you. Also, the waiters are all on roller skates, AND there is a pavilion and every night local artists come and perform. There were 2 singers, 2 bands, 1 acrobatics group, 1 marionette performance and 1 costumed roller skater. Very cool! I also tried one of the local beers, Flag, which was actually quite refreshing. We left the restaurant at like 10:00 and I was ready to go to bed, but unbeknownst to me we weren’t heading back, but instead to another locale to order some drinks. Oye. By this time my interest in listening to rapid, rapidly spoken French had waned. I still enjoyed myself and Marcia, not my housemate, but the female teacher from France saved me and talked with me in English for a bit. End of story. I get back around 12 again! Have to be at the training again my 7:30 AM.

Thursday: Man was I tired trying to get up this morning!
I did however get up in time to get my dirty clothes to Namuro to wash. I was fresh out.
The training was a bit boring and I finished the exercise early so I was excused and went to my office.
I finished and submitted my NSF fellowship application!
Yahoo! Now I just have to finish the other school apps and I will be set. This is more exhausting that applying for undergraduate studies.
I went back to training around 11:00 and went with them to lunch which was not as good the first day. It was some mystery fish. Not salmon, I promise.
The afternoon training finished up without event. I started making a module all about me. It was kind of fun to divide up my life into different categories and subcategories, ect.
At 5:00 I went running with Drew at the parc. It was by far the longest run as of yet and very much appreciated. The run was followed by a fast shower and dinner in the café. I got to talk to Pascal who I hadn’t seen all week. He is making a program to help a local area school to manage all their student internet activity, which is pretty impressive. After dinner Leanna picked me up and we went to the ISO music recital. This was in place of the Wired Youth Group this week.
After the recital, the youth group went out to sweeties for ice cream. Fun times.
What a logistical nightmare though… all these kids having to get home, having to find rides, to not quite like the US in that sense.
Leanna dropped me off last and we ended up talking in the car for like over an hour. She had had a tough week at work and it was nice to be able to be there for her when she needed some one to talk to. I find it incredibly impressive, but not unbelievable how God has placed me here and put in contact with these people. This whole time has been such an exercise in trusting God. And the amazing thing is he comes though. I guess it shouldn’t be that amazing, I mean he is God. But still. There is a whole new level of dependence I feel here that I never felt in the US.

Friday: Today has seemed like a bit of a let down. I slept in until 8:30 because I was SO tired. It was a challenge though because all morning all I kept hearing was workers outside my house machete chopping braches off the trees…
Anyway, uneventful day. I rewatched part of Grey’s during lunch and finally went through the Koubri pictures so I can post them.
I had a meeting with the lady in charge of the house to ask about little things like a shower curtain, dish drying rack, ect. She was really nice and it seems like everything is being taken care and should be here by the end of the month. It just takes them a while to organize and register everything on the school’s system.
I also got paid today!
Hallelujah. Except now I have to go to the bank to deposit the check. Good night. I am going to go tomorrow morning right when they open so I can be frustrated and embarrassed without a bunch of people around. I will let you know how that all turns out.
For dinner they had macaroni which was awesome. That still costs 500CFA, but that is a small price to pay for such goodness.
Drew stopped by to get Season 4 episodes of Grey’s from me as well as the pictures from Koubri. He also dropped Grey’s Season 1 and 2 which I look forward to watching :)
And I have spent the rest of the night writing this epically long update. Such is life. You learn to deal.

Sending you smiles across miles and miles…

Much love from the West of Africa.

The Village

First I must apologize for not keeping my word and posting pictures right away as I promised. I took so many pictures and wanted to write so much that the thought of actually sitting down and doing it was a bit overwhelming. But after an action packed week which you will soon hear about, I finally have some down time to update my entries. And now, as promised, I give you reflections and pictures of the village.


Leaving Ouaga Drew and I headed southwest to a small town called Koubri. It is only 15km outside of Ouaga, but takes about an hour to get to via moto. We left around 7:00 after having to make a run back to 2iE so I could change out of my shorts into Capri pants. Drew had mentioned it would be very hot and there would be very little shade so I though shorts would be best even though they are somewhat of a rarity. Well, when Drew mentioned that I would draw even more attention in shorts, I decided to change. Best choice of the day. I can’t imagine how awkward I would have felt wearing shorts!

The back of Drew’s moto is less than comfortable. Imagine those old plastic crates they used to carry milk in. It is kind of like sitting on one of those, and you just brace yourself every time you see a bump coming up. The trip there was without event and we met up with Mari once we arrived at Koubri. Mari is Drew’s assistant who speaks the local language and acts as the interpreter and cultural mediator. Anyway, Mari had a moto with a much more comfortable back seat so I rode around with Mari the whole day.

From Koubri, which is a town that still has electricity, we drove another 30 minutes or so to some more remote villages. One village was called pissa, which means granite. Funny enough, while we were there I noticed some outcroppings of rocks and wondered what type they were. You guessed it, granite. These people are so clever at naming things :) So we are driving along and driving along, there are open fields everywhere. The landscape is a combination of yellows, oranges, and reds with a little green thrown in every once and a while. As we went, we would occasionally pass someone riding a pedal bike or pushing a cart full of who knows what. It became very obvious very quickly that my previous conception of remote was somewhat inaccurate. When you are out in the bush and there are no telephone lines, or electrical wires in sight you realize how different life can be than the experience you are used to. There were no paved roads once we left Koubri.

The first stop we made was in front of a tree where two young men were sitting. Much to my surprise we had arrived at the first village. You could hardly tell though… Each village has a counselor and the first thing to do when you arrive in the village to do some fieldwork is talk to the counselor. In this case, one of the two boys we found went and got the one of the village counselors for us. At first we thought he was the chief as he was looking pretty old, but we later found out he was actually the chief’s son. Oye, the chief must be old! The counselor accompanied us and brought us around to each of the wells and pumps in the village. This particular village had many water sources. And, they do in fact look like the kind you see on TV and in photographs. They are metal with some sort of handle. The people collect the water in these multi-colored jugs. They are so inventive as well as far as transporting the water back home with them. I saw people tying the water jugs onto there bikes like saddle bags and others with a push cart that could hold many jugs. We visited many wells. Drew and I laughed, and I was about stunned when I first saw the wells. I don’t think it would meet OSHA safety standards. Basically, they are giant holes in the ground. The well structure itself usually comes up to about waist high, but some were considerably shorter. One in particular which was right by a school, was especially troubling. I couldn’t help but imagine these little kids, livestock and other things falling into the well. Another thing that I witnessed was malfunctioning of equipment. Part of the problem with installing pumps and digging wells is that do not last for a long time. They can break or the well can dry up if it wasn’t dug deep enough. Depending on when you dig the well the water table level will be different. During the rainy season it rises because of the water infiltrating the soil. However, in the dry season without any rain, the water table falls again rendering the well useless. The pumps are a different story. Pumps use suction action to draw the water up. The problem is if the casing cracks or holes develop the suction no longer works. Instead of having someone come fix these wells, they just sit used. Each pump and well costs several thousand dollars to construct. This is why water development is so darn hard!

The day continued as much of the same. We went from village to village surveying pumps. I learned about four different types of pumps, ABI, India, Wheel, and Saudi Arabian (The government of Saudia Arabia gifted Burkina Faso with constructing many pumps in the 1980s-ish.)

It was always interesting to see who was at the wells. Often times it was children collecting water. Women were next and I did see a few men getting water, but not many. At each village we went to someone would guide us from place to place. When we were done in that village they would go with us until we got to the next and found someone else to help us. It was very cool.

Very few people in the villages have motos. If anything they have pedal bikes and not nice 18 speed schwin bicycles, but falling apart one speed, no breaks kind of bikes. I was just thinking how many bikes we have in our garage that we never use… Regardless as our little entourage passed through each area we attracted some attention. I had no idea, but Drew estimated our coming through would probably the most exciting thing to happen to these villages for months! What a thought.

So of course as you can imagine it was awesome seeing all the kids. I would describe them as heart wrenching. Some people say they are cute, but to me cute is not an appropriate word. The little girls are not wearing polka-dot dresses with white ribbons, that is cute. These boys are wearing shirts with so many holes it hardly constitutes a shirt. And the girls have on dresses that fall off their shoulders or just a piece of fabric wrapped in a special way. What was inspiring, however, was their curiosity. More than anything, they were simply curious to see white people. Imagine living you life never having seen a person who was green, you have heard of them, maybe even seen them driving past in a fancy vehicle. And then, all of the sudden two show up riding motos poking around in your wells and pumps. Well, what would you think! It was pretty funny because as we are standing around writing down the information Drew says "Want to see something funny?" and of course I am always up for a laugh... so all of the sudden he runs towards the kids surrounding us waving his arms around and making funny noises. I wish you could have seen it! It was awesome. The kids all scattered and were genuinely freaked out at first and then once they realized the joke, they all started laughing and laughing. It was amazing, indeed!

I brought my camera with me hoping to get some great pictures and help Drew document some of his work. At first I was a little intimidated and felt awkward, but by the end I had gotten over that. I didn’t want to take pictures to send to national geographic and I know people have seen the picture of poor children in Africa. So, why was I taking pictures? Why, because it was awe-inspiring. Not the poverty, like I said that was heart-wrenching, but the smiles these kids had; the lack of cares and true innocence. In the villages, they don’t have televisions and bloody video games. Of course they have their own terrors I am sure, but it is not the same. I wanted to capture that feeling. I also wanted to see and record first hand what water collection is like in the village.

There were two pumps we visited that were one school grounds. At these pumps it was virtual mayhem when we arrived. I felt like a celebrity, but pretty unworthy really. How was I any different than these kids? I had done nothing special that I should be born in the United States into a wonderfully loving family. It is times like these that I am so comforted to have faith in the living God. I can’t begin to answer questions like the ones I posed. It seems unfathomable and on the surface so unfair that poverty like this exists. But this is where faith comes into the picture. This is when I realize that God is the ultimate designer of the universe and although I don’t understand, there is a reason and a purpose which in the end will work out to his glory. I can’t explain it, but all day long I could not stop praising the Lord in my thoughts. Just for the people I saw, the way they lived. I realized there is a whole other way of living which is different from my own. Most of these people will never visit a large city. They may never own a new piece of clothing, ride in an airplane, or order a meal from a restaurant with air conditioning. But their life has a purpose and they are as important in God’s eyes as I am. What a thought, what a sobering way to drive home the point, that salvation through Jesus Christ is not about how much money we make, or what we can accomplish. It is about surrender and accepting the gift of God’s love.

In the United States, we turn our taps and don’t think twice about the water quality more over we never consider the water running out. Those are two real concerns to people here. Imagine having to carry every drop of water you use from a community well to your home. Also, imagine it is hot. Hotter than temperatures you think your body was ever intended to withstand. Imagine you work each day hand sowing fields of millet. I can tell you shade is rare. The water in the water bottle I brought was hot, not just warm like it gets after carrying it around Disneyworld for the day. Hot like I was looking for oatmeal to cook in it… That being said, I now realize the challenge of wanting to get people to treat their water. It is hot. You want to drink some water. You have already carried it home after having worked to get it out of the pump or worked even harder to pull it up out of a well 40m deep, the last thing want to do is spend more time treating it! This is something I don’t think I would have ever understood if I hadn’t come here and seen these things myself.

Lucky for us it was market day in pissa. This is where we had lunch which consisted of rice and coca-cola. I am not even surprised that Coke has made its way to Africa bush… The market was fun to walk through. I bought some Samsou which is fried bean batter. It looks like funnel cake and tastes like, well, fried dough… who can complain about that. We also bought a slice a watermelon, which was good but a bit warm… like everything else. The whole meal costs about 75 cents.

When we finally finished for the day we had surveyed 25 pumps and wells. On the way back to Koubri we passed a man on a bicycle and I heard what sounded like children wailing. Turns out it was a goat tied to the bicycle. You think I’m kidding, I’m not. That is how they transport them. Just tie their legs together and hang them on your bike… Anybody hungry yet?

At Koubri, before heading back to Ouaga we stopped at a mechanic because Drew’s moto was acting up. They fixed up his ride and we headed back to the city. I got to drive the moto back until we reached the city limits where the traffic was getting a little too heavy for my comfort level. It was first time I had driven a moto and it was pretty fun. I would also like to note, Mom and Dad, that I was wearing a helmet and I applied sunblock several times throughout the day and wore a hat. I am happy to report that I successfully avoided getting sunburned.

That night, after returning to my house I quickly showered and went to the rec center for what was supposed to be a Halloween Party. The shower floor was so dirty when I was done. The day in the village was SO dusty. My camera bag aged like 10 years in one day. My shoes are toast, and I could not imagine what it must feel like to be that gritty all the time. Drew met up with me at rec center for the party and it was funny because aside from one other lady and the employees we were the only ones there. But hey, whatever, they had free popcorn and shrimp chips for snacks so I was not complaining. I was fairly tired by this point so I was happy to go home early. I would also like to mention that they said on the invitations that costumes were encouraged, so myself, being the always willing participant that I am dressed up. I wore a pinkish shirt and pants and cleverly thought I would be the human incarnation of the dust that is everywhere! I thought it was quite clever, and maintain that it was. However, I was only person dressed up. My only saving grace was that my costume was really just regular clothes, so it really just looked like I didn’t know how to dress…

Thus ends my adventure to bush. There are pictures that go along with post. I hope you enjoy them. I am very happy I have my fancy camera, but also wish I had a smaller one that I could with more discretely. (ah, hem… Christmas present, maybe…)