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22 11 2008

First off, now would be a great time to thank everyone for posting comments. It may seem like something very little, but seeing the slightest communication from the states makes me feel ever so-connected and positive.

Now… Great News!

After some anxiety, and a lot of speculation, site announcements were made. My new home for the next two years will be in Niankorodougou! Located in the lush, jungle-y mango spawning southern region near Banfora, this site is already host to many agricultural and educational programs. I will be paired up with a counterpart who works for a local cotton union and is associated with the area’s mining company. The current volunteer who will be leaving in December has already been successful with a number of different projects. (her site). Among them, women’s credit and savings clubs, women’s gardening groups, a girl’s empowerment camp, and a library! I’m really excited to contribute to these projects, as well as, start some new ones such as a shea butter soap initiative. My advisor has already spoken to me about the library and garden projects and I hope to hear more from the volunteer herself this weekend. A few fellow PCVTs (trainees), visited the site for their dymystification trip. Dymystification is the Dumbledore-esque word for when a group of volunteers goes to visit a volunteer and observes their typical routine and projects. I have heard nothing but positive things from those that went to Niankorodougou and was even able to see a few pictures of my future abode. I have a guest room! (now accepting reservations for winter ’09) I have a really great feeling about the site. As life would have it, the first PC memoir I was ever introduced to was Sarah Erdman’s Nine Hills to Nambonkaha in a chance meeting with some friend of a friend’s friend who lived in Towers at Vanderbilt my senior year. Turns out, my site is less than 70km away from where that health volunteer was located in Cote d’Ivoire! The book is amazing (parents-could you mail it so I can re-read it? It’s most likely on top of my drum in Austin) and I am so excited to be able to compare and contrast what progress has been made in the dozen or so years since the book was written. The only less than perfect site condition I could dare complain about has a silver lining. Though my site doesn’t have electricity, I now have the perfect chance to live in a semi-carbon footprint-free way. Ladies and gents, I’m going solar. AND, if anyone comes across some good article on wind-power, send it along. I’m not sure how much wind South Burkina gets but I’ll be in an area that experiences a “rainy” season, so I’m guessing that period is sufficient enough to at least experiment with the idea. It’s still another month (and several language tests…+safety and security+ cross culture) till I reach site, but I am thrilled to know where I will be and even a few fellow volunteers that will be in the area.

As long as I am on the “travaille” aspect of PC, I should mention a project a group of SED volunteers and I have come up with in the last week. To preface our product, you have to understand the entrepreneur environment here in Burkina. It is hard to explain people’s business logic here in Burkina without actually seeing the lack of infrastructure, perennially dusty products, and busy markets. What I will say, is that marketing in Burkina does not exist. Product differentiation, price differentiation, location differentiation, promotion, and experimentation in general……does not happen here (the only country in Africa I’ve been to where I don’t see “coca-cola” signs everywhere). In fact Zain, a cell phone carrier/service provider is the only company making progress by supplying vendors with signs that say “recharger ici” One honestly has no clue what someone sells, until they ask him or her. I’ve even heard volunteer stories about products going bad (leaking, deteriorating) before vendors could move the merchandise because the products were never taken out of their original package box and stored in some poorly- lit, poorly trafficked corner. In addition, Customer Service is a travesty here. Here, choices are made by the vendors solely on a price point. What’s cheap for them…you may get to buy. That is, as long as you have the proper change. A lot of stores do not carry a lot of change and instead of bartering or stocking change; they will simply refuse to sell the product. Odd, I know. For the project, our concept is the simplest thing: iced coffee. For a month trial-run, we have convinced a woman who already sells saches of water and juices like, bissap (hibiscus) jus de citron, and zoom-koom (ginger) to sell our product. I’ll be sure to update soon on the progress!

UPDATE: cafe au lait (iced milk coffee) was a great success. Though a large part of the customer base were nasaras (read white PC people), the woman selling the products was very receptive to new ideas and during our trial run did experience a lot of increased sales!! I now hope that she keeps this up….

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4 responses

24 11 2008
Renee Bludau

I am so impressed with you Adelaide. You inspire us all!!

Renee Bludau

25 11 2008
Kira

D-laide! All of this sounds amazing. That’s great you know your site now too – sounds like it’s right up your alley. Dana and I discussed visiting you next winter so keep that guest room open! Also, all of these bananas – good work, maybe you will meet a monkey friend along the way. Alright, and I need some details on this John Mayer hair. Short and spiked? Shoulder length and wavy? A friend’s gotta know these things. I miss you and love you SO SO much!!
P.S. I’m on skype – look me up!

30 11 2008
Dana

adelaide!! so awesome that you know your sight. GIRL POWER! im all about girl empowerment clubs. amen kira, that guest room will def come in use. i was so upset to wake up the other day with a missed message from you on ichat, i have skype too, username: dmsmiles. LETS SKYPE ASAP. miss u, u rock~ lOVE U

1 12 2008
Your mommie

Sweetie – loved talking with you Thanksgiving from Austin. Guess what? Burkina Faso made page 183 of the December Vanity Fair. It showed the Burkinabe women making shea butter for L’Occitane!!!! It was a pretty big blurb under their “Beauty” section. I’ll send it to you. the founder of L’Occitane started a foundation in 2006 in Burkina Faso to help women make money from the shea trade and to give them independence. Pretty cool!!! Miss you and we’ll talk soon. xoxoxoxo mom

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