I have been asked an array of quesions lately, so I felt that it might help if I answered the most common ones in this posting (For those of you who don't know where Burkina is, sbove is a map).
Alright, here we go:
(1) What will you be doing there? - According to my assignment booklet I will be in the Small Enterprise Development Program and my title is "Small Business Advisor." Sounds official enough huh? They say my main duties will be:
(a) working with entrepeneurs and cooperatives to provide business training.
(b) help create market linkages (anyone wanna buy Shea Butter? It's their biggest export and it's great for the skin!!).
(c) Asssting the organization of Savings and Credit Clubs, Advise on and Facilitate product development, packaging, and promotion.
(d) Assist entrepeneurs to develop business plans, maintain financial records, conduct financial analyses, and make informed business management decisions.
(e) Work with other institutions to promote export of products
It seems complicated, but consider this. Most people there don't understand what a "profit" is. They may buy something for $50, and sell it for $25 and still not understand that they are operating at a loss. So, that is what my "vast" expertise is there to teach them.
(2) How long will you be there? - I am supposed to be there 27 months (3 months of training in the country, and then 2 years of service on site). But, they don't force you to stay, if you want to leave you can.
(3) Where will you live? - Although the Peace Corps keeps us mainly in the dark about this one, chances are that I will live in a rural area, in a mud hut or some other form of a house. Thanks to the Peace Corps though I get a cement floor, windows with screens on them, and a door! Compared to those living there I will be living in the lap of luxury! The Peace Corps quotes, "Animals might wander around your house and bats, mice, and cockroaches could likely live in your house. You will have no running water or electricity." -- aside from the running water and electricity how is living in NYC any different??? Well, maybe it's not that bad...
(4) Will you live with other volunteers? - This is definitely a question that has my mom worried. But, NO, I won't live with other volunteers in my village (chances are anyway). I will however in all likelihood live biking distance from someone. The Peace Corps issues us mountain bikes and that is how we are expected to get around.
(5) What is the weather/living conditions there? - Burkina is a Sahelian country with some forsests in the South, woodlands in the center, and desert in the North. The tropical climates has rainy (June-September) and dry (October-May) seasons . Temperatures range from 50 degrees F in the early dry season to 104 degrees just before the rainy season. Pretty much it's just DAMN HOT all the time... :-D Chances are I WILL NOT have electricity or constant access to internet...but I will have a cell phone that will work in the main areas.
(6) What language will you speak? - I will be learning at least 2 languages during training. The first is French, and the second will be a tribal language...most likely something called Fufulde or Moore'. Fun times!
(7) What will you eat? - The locals mostly eat maize or millet flour paste (yeah...I have no idea what that is), or locally produced rice with leaf sauces, local veggies (okra, eggplant, tomatoes, and meat (lamb, goat, or beef). Generally it is heavy on the carbs, light on the protein...YUMMY...
(8) Are you scared? Excited? - YES! I am scared as hell about this entire thing. But, I figure some of the most worthwhile things in life are scary...so all you can do is just jump right in. I may love or I may hate it...but I have to go to find out. I am a little worried about getting sick...not deathly ill or anything like that because the Peace Corps takes good care of us...more worried about little intestinal parasites taking up residence inside of me and making me eject my food from all places (sorry...I tried to make that as PC and clean as possible). So...here's to hoping I have a strong stomach. I will be on so many medications for malaria and every other disease that I am not too worried about that.
Anyway...I am a bit tired so I will stop here. The movers are coming in a moment to move stuff out of my apartment. If you have any more questions leave them in the comments section or email me and I will post them up here...
THANKS to anyone who is reading this, and I hope to see some people at my going away party this evening!