laafi baala?

21 10 2008

From bar hopping in the east village to eating spaghetti bare-handed with my new Burkinabe family in Ouahigoya, the last seven days of my life have been an experiment in adaptation. After visiting with two of my best friends in the city that never sleeps and having an absolutely amazing time breathing in every ounce of American art and culture possible, I met up with the rest of my Burkina Fall ’08 Peace Corps Volunteers in Philadelphia for staging. Within 24 hours it was off to Ouagadougou via an 8 hour layover in Paris. I think one of my saving graces throughout everything so far is my inability to stress prior to something…for those of you who know me, you are familiar with how my anaphylactic shock and recovery mode typically rears its head during the later, post-reflective stages of my life. …be my friend when I come back to America?! But really?! Moral of that soapbox—the dusty, hot land that awaited me was foreshadowed by the wee few hours I was able to spend in Paris. Though it was a mad dash for fresh, non-airport air and a bite to eat, it was fantastic and I can’t wait to visit again after I can speak the language. My hat goes off to Maggie, a fellow PCV (Peace Core Volunteer), who helped a group of us navigate the rail system maximizing our tour de France. Though brief, it was enough excitement to allow my first moments in Burkina the anti-anxiety and paranoia it deserves. In the words of Linda Richman, my first sight in Burkina made me “veclempt (sp).” After descending down Air France’s runway stairs in a jetlagged stupor, my eyes panned from a few men in black suits holding pieces of paper with names scribbled on them to a group of men and women, varying in age, race, and nationality, carrying a Peace Corps sign…complete with dove and flag symbol- the real deal. After exchanging salutations with them, our group gathered that these people were the PC Burkina Country Desk. No more affiliated with e-mails about bike helmets and travel arrangements, these faces were the people who tirelessly lay the ground work in Burkina for volunteers aiming to “make a difference.” In short, it was a lot to take in and the Coldplay (save it) that I had just listened to on the plane didn’t ease the heaviness of the situation one bit. After a brief welcome at a hotel and talks with a few current PCVs near a pool, it was off to bed to await a morning full of…shocker…more paper work and placement exams. Following the delight that has been my ENTIRE application process, all the trainees packed into “a” bus and headed to Ouahigouya where our two month training takes place. The next couple of days were filled with block schedules of immunizations, French, Moore, hygiene, and cultural learning sessions with a visit to the local king to offer him a chicken (picture to come soon), and random excursions for internet, beer, and pagnes to boot. Today (Sunday) after our host family ceremony, I followed Amena (my new Bukinabe sister—yeah, finally got one of those) to my new home. It’s completely different, and great. Most of tonight was full of awkward and bad French on my part and smiles and giggles on my host family’s. So far, Amena along with her older brother seem to be the primary French speakers and care takers of moi. They were the ones that went over everything in my honestly lush and large pad as well as where the latrine and bathing areas were. When I first arrived on bike with Amena, I was a little nervous. We tracked to an area of town I haven’t yet visited the whole time my friend pointing to her school and neighbors and me thinking…ok, where the hell am I and is this close to the marche. We rode through an entrance that I can only refer to as Moroccan in-style and were all of a sudden in my new courtyard. I first met Amena’s dad and then sister, babies, cousins, a slew of welcoming humanity…all that I will be living with during training. While first settling in, I asked if I could eat with Amena and am not sure of what the social consequences of this action. There have been many talks about whether or not you will be seated to eat with the men or women of a family (Burkinabe typically eat by gender). Discussions have ensued about how American women are viewed as a third gender and can subsequently eat with men (status) or women (ensuing you have a better look at domestic affairs). Though I ate in my room, many of the family members stopped by to ask how the food was, offer peanuts, and yes—have my first Obama/Africa talk. Though we couldn’t really delve into policy, I’m ecstatic to know that were at least on the same team and had a uniting moment despite the bastardized French and English. One cool tid-bit, Amena speaks French, Moore, some English, and some German. This is extremely rare for such a young woman in Burkina. Ouahigoya is a wealthier town in Burkina, but traditionally, families send boys to school before girls, if any at all. Oh yeah, I’m hanging with a progressive family. Good times. I feel really inspired for the first time to speak French. No amount of tourism or self-satisfying grades has been able to spur as much determination as me trying to ensure that I can learn as much from my new family as they will from me. Peace Corps rocks, Bon nuit.

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4 responses

22 10 2008
Your "Mommie"

Sweetie – It was so wonderful to hear your voice last night – even though we awakened you from your malaria med induced slumber. Sounds like you are very busy learning everything you possibly can – including Moore. I wrote a little something yesterday but it did not go through. It says “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” I don’t know what that means – I’m trying to get through again – we’ll see what happens. I love you so and miss you – but so proud and happy that you are over there with the Peace Corp. Love you forever and always, Mom xxxooo

22 10 2008
Gillis

Was the chicken dead or alive?

23 10 2008
Dana

adelaide, that sounds amazing! im SO jealous. this is going to be an insanely enriching experience. thinking of you here and anxious to hear more. whats your internet access? good question gillis, im guessing it was alive, but who knows. love you d-laide.
dana

27 10 2008
Your dad

How is it going? Have you learned to pluck and skin a chicken? We love you, stay well and let us know how you are doing. We are reading the news everyday on a website that tells us the news in the area. Wish I could speak More or French but I will say I love you in English. Love, Dad

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