Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Life is a just put your hands in the air

The longer that I live here the more that I am not only learning, but more importantly accepting, that things don't always go the way you want them to, or as smoothly as you want them to. Most of you know me, and in my life I like to be in control...I like to "plan" pretty much everything. My mom will tell you that by 9th grade I had my entire high school curriculum planned out for every year until graduation, and I already had my college and major selected 14 years old I knew exactly how I wanted my life to go. I have always been like that...well, that is until now. I have been in Burkina Faso a little more than 10 months, and in those 10 months I have learned so much about myself. I have learned that I am capable of a great many things (and that doesn't just mean poo-ing in a hole and living without electricity), and that I am capable of handling a great many things--setbacks included. The easy part is realizing that things don't always go your way or how you planned, the hard part is ACCEPTING that things don't always go your way or how you planned.

This has been an extremely busy least by my African standards. I just finished my shea butter training with 25 women in my village. This experience, as difficult as it was at times, was so extremely rewarding for me. You all know my love of the shea butter process and the teamwork it requires of women, and my women were so amazing and inspirational. Here is a picture of them at the end of our formation holding their certificates:

The weather conditions were anything but perfect! The first day we stood for hours holding a plastic tarp over two women who were roasting the shea nuts while it downpoured. After doing that for two hours, the women decided they would rather move the fires into a one room hut and sit in there--with the smoke and heat!!--and roast them in there. least they were dry. The next day we got another torrential downpour that completely flooded the village--we are talking like over my knees, river rapid, type flooding. Yet, the 5 women who were participating from a neighboring village 5 kilometers away still road/walked their bikes in (with babies strapped on backs) to the formation. It was an amazing testament to the work ethic and resilience that exists here amongst these people. I was like a mother watching her children perform in a recital...I was absolutely bursting with pride!

Looking back on this formation, there were ups and downs...I couldn't control the weather, I couldn't control the women and whether they showed up on time, and I couldn't control their enthusiasm. The day before the formation I was threatening to cancel the whole thing because the women were not showing up for the preliminary orientation meeting, and for a moment I almost lost it. Then, I had to stop and cliche as it is..."Let go and Let God." All my life I have been told that, and all my life I have said, "oh yeah, absolutely." But, I never really meant it. Now I am truly learning the meaning of this saying, and positive impact it can have in my life. If I worried about controlling every aspect, it would drive me insane...and at one point I almost let that happen. Things here in Burkina Faso are never perfect...but in the end I am not sure I want to strive for utter perfection. I am learning that I am just happy to get to that "mediocre" level. If I see a light of recognition flash in their eyes, or a smile and a laugh...I am okay with that. Of course I will never stop striving for the best, that is in my nature, but I think that I am learning to be satisfied with the simple things...which for me I think is a step in the right direction. Here are several pictures from the shea butter formation, you can go to my Flickr site to see them all:

Here is a woman (with baby!) in the smoke filled one-room hut, roasting the shea nuts

Here are the women working together to wash the raw butter before boiling and cleaning it again as an oil

Here is your's truly getting her hands dirty

Here is Fatou, showing off our freshly roasted shea nuts

Here is a participant skimming the impurities off the top as the oil boils

I am experiencing the same thing with my girls camp as well. Again, I can't control the weather and I can't control the girls. I can only worry about the program and myself...the rest I have to leave up to them and to fate.

Here is the Welcome Sign on the first day of the girl's camp.

Some days it rains, some days the girls don't all show up, some days my speakers cancel on me, and some days the girls look bored. But, there are the days that they do all show up, and the days that they laugh and participate, and the days that they give the right responses, and the days where they look at me and I see in their eyes recognition and pride. It is those days that happen more than the bad...and it is those days that buoy me on to the next, and re-energize me. I may not have exactly the impact that I planned on from the beginning...but if just one girl learns something new, or feels better about herself...that is okay too. That is all that I can really strive for, and for the first time in my life...I am okay "letting go, and letting God."

Something very interesting to experience here in Burkina Faso is the rainy season. Wow, they don't joke when they mean it rains...just for fun, here is a "before" the rains picture of my street, and here is an "after" the rains picture...I feel like I live in a river bed.

My village before...really green isn't it?!

During a rainstorm...we'll call it the "River Banzon"

The last unexpected turn of events would be my health...definitely one thing that I have no control over! If you have been reading the blog, you are aware that my dental problems have been extensive here. I don't know what it is about Burkina Faso...but my teeth have just said "screw you!" Well, I am currently in Ouagadougou, the capital city, because it looks like I will be flown to Dakar, Senegal for a root canal procedure of some kind. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of details. A few weeks ago an abscess appeared in my mouth, and from there things have just been spiraling. My dentist back home said I have bone loss?? Could require a bone graft?!?! And definitely a root canal?!?!?!?! I have conquered my fear of needles thanks to Peace Corps and a list of vaccinations a mile this should be a peace of cake right? What's one more phobia to conquer? This is just another reason to let go of the situation, since it is entirely out of my control, and go with the flow...or as I said in the is a it's time to open my eyes, let go, lift my arms in the air, and enjoy the ride.

Hope all is well...don't forget to look at the entry below for my fundraising website link, and for the new pics. Et aussi, n'oublie pas, I am coming to the States Oct. 30 - Nov. 26 so clear your calendars! Missing everyone...stay close!

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