Friday, April 27, 2007

A Small Update...

Well, well, is it going out there? It has been a little while since I last wrote. Honestly, it is because I have had too much to say, and every time I sit down and write something I can never think of exactly what to say. Anyhoo, I am in Ouagadougou--the capital--right now doing a workshop called "Measuring Success." I think it is all about making our results here quantifiable in numbers...which is hard to do considering my work consists of sleeping, eating, and talking with people...I can tell you that sleeping takes up 53% of my day at approximately 12.2 hours per 24 hour period...that's what I learned. WOO HOO! Okay, I am just kidding...well not about how much I sleep, just about the workshop. We are learning a technique of measuring levels of awareness in our villages regarding certain topics (Malaria, HIV/AIDS, Malnutrition) and monitoring that level as we do our work to see if we are being effective. One of the members of my organization came here with me, and overall it was really helpful. He is totally motivated to go back and start our work...and the work that we did this week is going to be made into a book that will be given to Peace Corps Volunteers all over the world...kind of cool I guess. There are so many lovely perks to being in Ouaga...the biggest being FOOD!!! I have eaten so well since I have gotten here, and I am sure I have padded my frame even more than it already is. Excellent!!

So...I am sure you are wondering what I have been up to. Well, besides sleeping, reading, running, sweating, and hippo watching on tax payer dollars....I have been quite busy. When I got back from training I immediately did a composting project with my association and a local farmer. This composting technique could save him upwards of $300/year. Which is HUGE in Burkina Faso. He really enjoyed it, and I enjoyed my first experience with a gigantic pile of pig poo. Who knew that they could produce that much poo...but oh they can. There I was just stopping around in it barefoot, packing it into the compost pile. inhibitions have completely dissappeared when it comes to poop-related things (well, except for the human form...just gross....ECH!). It was very successful, and with the help of my Agriculture agent in village we are hoping to expand the technique to other farmers.

I also put together a formation to teach several leaders in my village about the benefits of a tree called Moringa ( It is a pretty amazing tree whose leaves contain all of the vitamins necessary to combat malnutrition. So, they just have to dry the leaves, make it into a powder, and add it to their food. I talked with several women's groups and I am hoping to start a small plantation and get them to sell the powder in the marche to make money. I am also looking to implement this powder into the Maternity Ward for women giving use for themselves and their babies. I think this could be very cool.

Lastly, with a group of about 8 women (well, I asked for 8 but about 15 showed up) I held a formation on creating wood conserving mud stoves. I was dreading this activity at first, but I have to say that it went extremely well! We made over 15 stoves, and with them they can conserve up to 50% of the wood that they use. Here in Burkina if you want wood you either have to buy it or chop it down this saves them a lot of time and money. Like I said before, I have no problem with poo from any animal...except when it is fresh. Look, the poo I work with is nice and a powder. So, when I asked the women to bring a bucket of dried poo to the workshop...I thought it would be no big deal. Well, all of them came with big hulking buckets of fresh cow poo...and what might you ask did I have to do with that? Well, stomp on it barefoot of course! Yeah, I wasn't too happy about it. I have a high treshold for all things gross...but this crossed the line. What made it even worse, is that when we were finished making the "banco" (the mud used to construct the clay), a small child that was with his mother started eating it...yup...poop and all. HELLO!?! And they need me to tell them why they have health problems? Hehehe...oh is just full of fun surprises and stories.

Living here in Burkina Faso has taught me so many things. I am in awe and wonder at this country, and in the same instant am beyond frustrated. There are so many obstacles that the people living here face, and they meet them with such grace and fortitude. I truly am in awe about their resilience and spirit, and I hope that with that we can accomplish a's a tough road...but slowly we are putting along.

Anyway, going back I am pretty stoked (that's right...I use that word...) to start my data collection, and some of the other projects that I want to work on. I am definitely doing my business workshop, and I am still debating between a girls club and camp...not sure yet. Anyhoo...saving my village one activity at a time. HAH...yeah right. Well, at least I am keeping myself busy as I approach my vacation to Israel with Mike...YEAH!!! I can't tell you how excited about that I am.

Sorry this post wasn't filled with lovely anecdotes or hilarious stories...I figured my last post was good enough. My heart goes out to the people at Virginia Tech. I was sitting in my marche and some policemen in my village approached me--having heard about the incident--and asked me why we did things like that over there. And, to be honest, I don't think there is an answer for that. There is no answer or solution that will ever suffice...we just have to be vigilant, and send our thoughts and prayers to the families affected.

I hope all is well back home...stay in touch...and stay close!

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