Saturday, November 14, 2009

One month later...

Bonjour mes amis,

It appears that I've been in Burkina Faso for one month now: I'm feeling a lot more comfortable here, but as I just arrived at my new site less than a week ago, I'm still the new kid in town. It's been an interesting experience simultaneously counting up (one month in Burkina and one week at site) and counting down at the same time (nine months of service left). Sometimes I feel guilty for it, but I think that as long as I remain focused on my work, I'll come out of this experience satisfied with my work.

And I can't complain about working in Bogande! It's much more ofd a town than a village: there are three high schools and even more primary schools, along with a post office and a cyber café! No paved roads, but a tree-lined gravel main street. I have my own house now, right next to the school, with a private courtyard, outdoor shower, two rooms and a covered porch! It's quite a change from the one room I rented from my former host family! My neighbors are super friendly and I'm slowly getting to know them.

Okay, I'm sure I could write more, but my credit is almost up. Happy Thanksgiving if I don't post before then!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I'm in Burkina Faso!


I finally made it back to Africa. I feel like I can breathe a hugh sigh of relief now that I'm a real Peace Corps volunteer again. I arrived in Ouagadougou on Thursday afternoon after almost 24 hours of traveling. All in all, I was not expecting the trip to be that long. I think when I looked at my e-ticket, all the time zone changes were confusing so I wasn't expecting to be traveling for so long. Could have been worse though; I didn't have any bad flight delays, etc. The country director, a Peace Corps driver, and another volunteer were at the airport to pick me up. I found them right away, which was something I was nervous about. They took me to the "transit house," which is where I've been staying since I arrived. The transit house is a big Peace Corps house with about 20 beds where volunteers can stay when they come into Ouagadougou. It sounds like most volunteers are pretty close to the capital, so they come in about once a month.

On Friday, the Peace Corps office is only open for half a day, so I met everybody in the morning, had a few meetings, and signed some papers. And I got fitted for a bicycle! All Burkina volunteers get their own Trek bike and helmet to use during their service. There's some "community" bikes in the Ouaga, so I've ridden around town a few times and it's so much fun!

Yesterday, I had a language class in the morning. I'm going to be learning Gormantchema, which is in no way related to any language that I currently speak. It's a little frustrating to be starting this whole language-learning process over again, but I know the extent to which local language knowledge can help your service. Tomorrow evening, I'll be moving in with a host family who speaks Gormantchema, which should help facilitate my language learning.

And finally, I got my site assignment as soon as I arrived. I'll be moving to Bogande, which is in the eastern part of the country. It's halfway between two larger towns -- sort of like M'Bout was -- so it's not a tiny village, but not a real city either. I haven't been out there, and probably won't see it until Peace Corps drops me off on November 2, but I'll be visiting villages in the area.
So for now, it's back to Peace Corps life -- slightly different, but still essentially Peace Corps life.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Photo #26

And the winner is...BURKINA FASO! See my posting below. (Photo credit:

And I'm off! (again)

Wow, I haven't posted since July. I think so much happened between then and now that it just became too overwhelming to try and explain it all. I'm going to attempt to summarize the last two months:
--July 24: I receive a call from Peace Corps while I'm in Kaedi telling me that I need to be in Nouakchott in three days for an "evacuation drill." (I'm already heading that way anyway since I have a flight home on August 6.)
--July 27: All volunteers currently in country leave Nouakchott really early in the morning on a bus to Senegal while a safety and security team from Peace Corps Washington assesses the security situation.
--July 27 - August 6: We all chill in Senegal at Peace Corps Senegal's training center while the team tours around the country to look at security stuff. (I have no idea how this works.)
--August 6: I fly home to AMERICA! Mom, Dad, Grandma, and Grandpa pick me up at the airport.
--August 10: I get a call from Peace Corps Washington that the Peace Corps Mauritania program has been suspended (no going back) and that they've closed my service (no direct transfer option).
--August 10 - September 25: I call Peace Corps Washington every day in an effort to get back overseas to finish my service ASAP.
--September 25: I'm assigned to Burkina Faso!
--September 30 - present: My flight has been changed three times from October 8 to October 11 to October 12 to October 14? Is Peace Corps trying to make this difficult?

So I think that just about sums it up. I can't really say that I'm that nervous/excited to leave yet because it hasn't really hit me. I've had so many false alarms that I think I've learned to keep calm until the very last moment. I know that I'll still be working in girls education and that someone from Peace Corps should be at the airport to pick me up. In typical Peace Corps fashion, they haven't told me anything else: what part of the country I'll serve in, what size town/village, will I have a site mate, what local language will I learn? I'm expecting to find out all of that information as soon as I arrive, so I'll let you all know when I get there! Hopefully, that will be soon...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Photo #25

The 2009 M'Bout GMC delegation:  me, Hapsatou, Keri, Nangui, Haya (our mentor), and John.  Most of the conference activities took place here, the Stade Olympique in Nouakchott.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

July, July!

So, I haven't done much work this summer, but a lot's been going on. Many volunteers' summer plans changed dramatically when we found out that we wouldn't be welcoming a new class of volunteers mid-June. Normally, Peace Corps Mauritania trains a new class of volunteers over the summer, second-year volunteers close their service at the end of the summer, and everyone helps out at training (first- and second-years). Unfortunately, our new class didn't receive visas from the Mauritanian government and since it's impossible to know when the government will begin issuing visas again, Pece Corps released those new trainees to other programs.
This is bad news for those of us who still have a year left. As it stands now, all second-year volunteers will leave the country by August 6 and since we didn't get newbies, our numbers are essentially cut in half.
All of this I knew before going to girls' conference in Nouakchott. Each year, Peace Corps organizes a conference for GMC girls and mentors to discuss issues pertaining to girls education in Mauritania. It's an honor for the girls, and for many of them, their first time to the capital. John and I were forced to leave M'Bout a day late due to rain (we had to wade across the seasonal river with three girls and a female mentor), but we made it for day 2 of the conference. With girls from around the country, we learned yoga, visited some working women at thier offices, painted, sewed, watched skits, visited the beach, and met girls from centeres around the country. The activities were really well-organized, and despite the stress that ever volunteer was feeling by the end, the girls had a great time. My host sister Nangui, who was one of the girls chosen to attend, couldn't stop talking about it when we got back to M'Bout last week.
During the conference, we did get another important email from Peace Corps concerning an offer of "interrupted service" (IS). Because of a recent murder in Nouakchott, Peace Corps was allowing any one in my class to essentially leave early with all the benefits of two years of service. This offer had a deadline of July 6. For a number of reasons, I decided not to take IS: my previous two-year commitment to Peace Corps service, our newly created mentoring center which would be unmenned if I left, my feeling of safety at site, and my love for my host family and friends. Yesterday, I found out that 21 volunteers did take IS, which means that by August, our program will shrink from 120 volunteers to about 50.
Fewer volunteers means a lot of empty mentoring centers, which brings me to my last bit of news. Since John and I will be the only girls education volunteers working at the same center, John has decided to move 120km south to Selibabi in order to take over their center. So, as far as I know, I'll be living and working in M'Bout next year without my "sitemate". John won't be far, but I'm going to miss him. There's a chance that a new volunteer would be assigned to my site, but I don't know when that will be.
(Sigh...) All in all, things aren't bad, just different than I thought they'd be. Now more than ever, I'm looking forward to my trip home in August to tahings over with my family and friends and come back refreshed and ready for my second year.
On a more positive note, we had a great Fourth of July gathering in Kaedi. Cooked and grilled some delicious food, hosted a talent/non-talent show (I did a circus / gymnastics-type act with two other girls), and dance to the song "Sandstorm" in a real sandstorm! I've been hanging out in Kaedi since then, but I'll head back to site in the next few days in order to spend time with my host family before my trip home. Don't be suprised if my hands and feet are henna-ed when I get back home -- my host family's been threatening me for quite some time now...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Photo #24

This is a photo of the seasonal river that we had to cross recently in order to leave M'Bout for the girls conference.  The day before, the rain had swelled this river dramatically forcing us to postpone our trip to Nouakchott until the next morning.  You can see John wading across on his way back to help the truck.