Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Iron Bowl Lives in Burkina Faso…

Okay, so I know all of you have been sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for my next post. You don’t have to admit it, I already know. Hehehe.

Things here have been moving along as best as they could be. Il Fait Chaud dans Burkina Faso!! Or for those of you English speakers….IT’S FREAKIN’ HOT! I go to bed hot, I wake up hot, I only get hot water to drink—whether that be tea, or the sun-heated water in my Nalgene. No other way to describe it but hot. Honestly, I have a much higher tolerance level for heat than I had ever imagined. In New York I kept my bedroom a comfy 69-72 degrees Farenheit, but here in Burkina Faso I get a nice toasty 85-89 in my room. That makes for a good night sleep, let me tell you! Truly it sounds a lot worse than it is…I think anyway. I am lucky in that I live with a wonderful family that has electricity, so I get a fan that blows on me at night. So, thank heavens for the small things.

Not to get all sappy and philosophical on you guys…as you know that is generally not my nature…this experience, even in the small amount that I have had so far, makes me realize and appreciate SO many different things. To even talk about it will sound cliché, but I am constantly amazed at the resilience and stamina of the people here. Life here is so vastly different from that of the United States, yet everyone here seems fairly content with the way their lives are. In my time in New York I found myself getting caught up in the non-stop life of “wanting” and “needing” so many things, and here the only thing they have are the things they “need.” I constantly found myself moving from one “want” to another, and never being satisfied. Now, that isn’t to say that wanting things is bad…I just think in my case I was never satisfied. I don’t know whether an experience like this can cure me of this bad habit…but for me to even be thinking about it is a good first step. Sometimes I have to look around and pinch myself…am I really here. It feels like an extended vacation (minus a pool, beach, friends).

Anyway, enough of that…back to more important things. Last night I had a wonderful time with my family. We stayed up extra late to watch the season premiere of “24.” That’s right….the Burkinabe LOVE Jack Bauer. Hah…and you wonder where they get their preconceived notions about Americans. We are on Season 2 here, and my dad was SO happy for it to finally be in TV. Watching it in French was interesting, and even though I have seen this season I still had no idea what the hell was going on. Lord help me when it comes to French. They say that one day it will all just click…I’m waiting!! A not to those that might be able to help…if you have any of the season DVD’s of “24” and you know how to burn copies, I would LOVE to give my dad a few seasons of “24” for him to watch. He has a DVD player here, so it will work. Anyone help me with this?

I know you must be wonder what I meant by my title, so here is the story. We started a savings and credit club here Ouighouya. Basically, you get a group of women together and you teach them how to save money, and every week they put some money in a box. They can either pool their money for some business purpose that will hopefully reap them a profit…or they can just save it for the joy of saving money. Anyway, as we are leaving this guy approaches. What do I see him wearing but an Alabama vs. Auburn Iron Bowl T-Shirt. I about fell over when I saw it, and for a second I thought I was home. I sat down next to him and in the most perfect French ever told him the significance of the Iron Bowl, the history, etc. I really made a connection. OKAY…just kidding. Since I have about a 1st grade knowledge of French, I sat down next to this guy, in broken French said I liked his shirt and that I was from the state of Alabama, and then he started to give it to me. Quickly, one of my Peace Corps partners jumped in and rectified the situation for me. Evidently, when you tell someone you like something they are in some ways obliged to give it to you. It was pretty hilarious. It was nice to see though…a taste of home in the hot, far away land of Burkina.

Today I got my first cooking lesson. I learned how to make sauce de arrachide (?) – Peanut Sauce. It was a lot of fun to make, but it also means standing next to a wood fire and stirring a pot for 4 hours…while it’s 100 degrees out. It was a tough experience, and next time they told me that I have to make it along with no help. So, as long as I don’t hurt myself or someone else in the process then I will be okay.

Anyway, I am rambling, so I will let you all go. Again, thank you for all the support and the emails. I am adding below a little “Communication Addendum” so as to clear up an confusion:

(1) Email/Internet: At this point I have fairly regular access my email/internet. However, it is costly (by Burkina standards), and is at times VERY SLOW. It took me 30 minutes just to look at 2 emails!!! So, I just want to let you all know that I DO read all of your emails, however it is a little difficult to respond. Now that I have my computer up and running I may read them at the Cybercafe, go home and form my response, and then go back later and send the reply. But, for now it is difficult…so continue to send questions and well-wishes and I promise I will read them and respond as soon as I can.

(2) Mail: I would absolutely LOVE to receive any form of mail whether that be a letter or a package. It truly doesn’t matter. I hate being the only one without a letter when they do mail call…Boo! Hehehe. As for right now, I have to be fairly discriminate on what letters I send to the states. I get a weekly per diem of $25 right now, and a letter to the states costs $1.50…so it doesn’t quite fit into my budget at the moment. If you send me a letter I promise to send one back…so I guess, as harsh as it sounds, I am instituting a “give and get” policy. Once I move into my village and have more money I will be more apt to send letters to those that haven’t sent to me yet…but I just wanted to warn you…so don’t feel neglected. As you can see on my blog there is a wish list or items…so feel free to donate to the feed Stephanie real food fund. Hahaha…

(3) Phone: I have finally turned my phone over to the very wise current volunteers, and I am waiting for them to return it to me unlocked and with a Burkina cell phone number. Until then, calling is VERY expensive. I am in the process of getting a headset to use with Skype, and I will try to make some calls with that when I can…it only costs me .02/minute. So when I get it up and running I will be making some calls to people. Otherwise, at the moment I am fairly limited. If you are interested, download Skype (, and we can talk for free computer-to-computer or you can call my Burkina cell phone for .24/minute…which is pretty good I think. I have used Skype and in general it works really well. Anyway, for those that haven’t received a call, don’t fear…once I get my headset and my phone we can try to keep in touch.

Alright, I think that covers me for the communication portion of this blog. I hope everyone is happy and healthy back in the States! So far, I have had NO real episodes of sickness (i.e. diahrea, vomiting, etc.) and I consider myself obscenely lucky up to this point. Keep your fingers crossed for me and my bowels. Stay close.

Also...WAR EAGLE!!! and Let's Go Mets!!

Ag Jamm—


P.S. Pictures will be coming soon. I have to send my USB Drive to my bro back in the states, and he will put it on Flickr. Stay tuned for that.

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