Sunday, September 30, 2007

Time keeps on tickin', tickin', tickin' into the future...

1 year...that's right...1 year since I touched down in the paradise that I like to refer to as Burkina Faso. Can it really be that long? I honestly feel like I just got here, and that I am still trying to figure things out, but here I am crossing the 1 year hump, and getting ready for a new set of trainees to come in. I look back at all that has happened in this past year...all the hardships, the sicknesses, the friends lost--not died...they went home, and the triumphs and achievements. It has been a rollercoaster ride, but I feel like I am finally settling in to things here, in work and in life. What's cool is that in the next few months I get to help train the new "me's"...i.e. Small Business volunteers...have I really come that far? Sometimes you expect such HUGE change...but in the end it is almost imperceptible. Only time will tell what effects this experience has had on me.

Things in village were a bit difficult coming back. As most of you know, my cat Gateau went missing...and as the drama unfolded it was revealed that my homologue--he owns my house--hit and killed him. So, I was having a hard time dealing with that--especially because in Gateau's absence an entire mouse colony (mom, dad, babies, and all) set up shop in my house. I arrived at my house a little bit in shock at the massive change that had happened in the time I was in Senegal. 8 volunteers were sent home for various reasons while I was there, so I had lost some very good friends. On top of that, upon entering my house I discovered not only the mouse infestation, but also a SERIOUS mildew problem. All my leather sandals were molded, my belts and clothes (ALL OF THEM) were moldy and damp, my mattress had mildewed, and the dust was BAD. But, thanks to a 5 1/2 hour tranport ride to my village, I arrived at night and couldn't do much about it. That first night I was unpleasantly awoken to the noise of gnawing, and then a small creature skittering across my bed. Yes, peeps, that's right...I had a bedfellow...a large mouse. That almost did me in...I called Mike and made him talk to me for an hour because I couldn't sleep. The mold/dampness in my house made it difficult to breathe...yeah...I don't think I need to say was just hard. I went from an air-conditioned hotel room with continental breakfast in this.
My village did feel rather bad about my cat, and got me another, and although he is nothing like Gateau...he at least eats the mice, and that is thankful:

Say hello to my new kitten....Shea

Work, on the other hand, has been going well, and keeping me busy. If not for that, I fear I probably wouldn't have lasted a year. My women's groups that did the shea butter formation just started the formal process to become a government recognized Union, and a Netherlandese NGO, SNV, is coming to my village to meet them and work with them in building their capacity and skills in business management, etc. My girls camp...THANK HEAVENS...also ended. I completed another 2 weeks of the camp and then we had the closing ceremony.

I loved doing the camp, don't get me wrong. I will say that it was at times the most stressful and frustrating thing in the world. Burkinabe are anything but reliable when it comes to saying they are going to do something. I had a last minute cancellation from the nurse at the hospital for my womens roundtable, and the teacher that was supposed to come never showed up. So, my roundtable consisted of 2 people...a secretary and a HIV/AIDS specialist. An hour later the Manager of the Caisse showed it was a little dissappointing. Then the guy who was supposed to help me with composting just decided he didn't want to do it and not tell in about 5 minutes I had to pull together a Fuel Briquette formation for my environment group. But, as I have said countless times before...somehow, always works out. The Fuel Briquette training was a huge success...and the most fun activity I did thus far...sometimes tons of planning doesn't always make a difference. Here is a couple pics of the girls doing the briquettes:

It was a major stress for me to plan an event like this...up until this point I had hit up against cultural barriers...but nothing like this. Their rules/cultural regulations regarding parties (or "fetes" as they call them) and who you invite, what you serve, how much you serve, etc. is UNBELIEVABLE! I had to invite every major figure in our village, which skyrocketed the price of the is a domino invite one person and you have to invite another, until I had a 60 person guest list. I wanted the girls to feel special, and feel that the community cared about this event...and I think I achieved that. We killed 11 chickens, and had TONS of rice, and cokes ( Southern that means it could be any drink...Sprite, Fanta, Coke, whatever) for everyone. I definitely lost my patience more than once, and felt taken advantage of because I am the "white" girl...but you know what...I had the money, everyone enjoyed themselves, and in the end I threw a party for 60 people and spent about $85 USD...not bad. Here is a picture of the girls after they had received their certificates:

Now, I am at a bit of a break in my work, and getting ready to be out of my village for quite a while. I will be in village for a couple of weeks, including several days of hosting some trainees in my village so they can get the "vrai" village experience. After that I pack my stuff and leave village for good for 6 weeks! I will spend a week at the training center, board a plane to the USA...WOO HOO, and then after arriving back in Burkina I will spend another week and a half with the trainees as they prepare to swear in and move to their sites. So...I leave my village Oct. 21st and don't get back until Dec. 14th!!! To be honest, I am not all that happy about it, considering that my work comes to a complete halt...but, I am excited about visiting home and helping with the new my village will survive. I have a lot of ideas for small projects to start in my village when I get back: A school garden to supplement their canteen lunches, a girls soccer club, an after-school study program for girls, a business management workshop, and of course their is always Shea butter kickin' around. I hope to bring home lots of samples for you all to try!

Anyways, otherwise, all is well. I am battling yet another case of Staph infection, and trying to make a decision on my marathon hopes. Right now my ankle is swollen like a grapefruit, and I am battling with my stubborness on what to do. I will keep you posted. EITHER WAY, I will be home on October 31st ready to visit and take in as much of America as I can. I miss you all...and I will see you soon! Stay close!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Burkina Sweet Burkina!

I have had serious dental work in Africa...and I live to tell the tale! As my Aunt told me, that is a first for a Gottlieb. So, I am happy to set the family record. Who is spreading this vicious rumor that root canals hurt...STOP IT...because they don't. HUGE MYTH! As scared as I was, the dentist was amazing, and I never really felt any pain. I have a new tooth to show for it...not gold, ceramic...but still fun all the same. I am glad that this is behind me, and I can move on to more interesting illnesses like parasites and giardia. It isn't all that cool to say, "yeah, I am here on dental"...much cooler to say something like, "yeah, I'm here because I have a parasite living in my intestinal tract eating away at the lining."

Burkina Sweet Burkina! Who thought I would ever say that! After a 3-week sejour in Dakar, Senegal I am back in familiar territory. It felt so good to hear a local language that is familiar...even if after a year I still don't know what the hell people are saying. It felt good to see everyone, and get caught up on all the PC Burkina Faso gossip...and believe me there is a lot! Just in the 3 weeks that I was in Senegal 6 people went home (either ET'ed or Separated). So, it has been a whirlwind trip to the airport everyday to say goodbye to someone else.

I had such a great time in Senegal...from running with my Senegalese friend Fatou, to sunbathing on one of their many islands, to scuba-diving--that's right...scuba-diving...awesome! I ate my way through most of the wonderful restaurants, met some great volunteers and people, and now it's over. When I came back from Israel it was a difficult transition, and I am feeling that again. It is hard to be back, having been away for so long, and know exactly where to pick up again. I have to rejuvenate my girl's camp, work on shea butter, and at the end of this month I will be welcoming the new trainees! Can you believe it...a does that go by so fast?!?! My head is still spinning...

Anyhoo, so...back on my crappy transport to village and back to my life in Burkina. I am scared to death to see what my house looks like. One of my other friends who left for a few weeks came back to mildew and a termite infestation. So, I am afraid I will have my work cut out for me. Lord help me...if there are roaches and spiders (and no Gateau to eat them for me)...I don't know. I think I will pay some small child to just clean my house out for me...the beauty of Africa. Best part is, that would probably either be free or cost me $.50. Gotta love it.

What I am most excited about is doing my last 2 months of marathon training in village. NOT!! Yeah, this should be a blast trying to avoid gigantic mud puddles, potholes, and random farm animals. Could someone please remind me what I was thinking? I have come to a realization in the past few weeks...I am a social runner...much like a social drinker. That whole "runners high" thing...yeah, I don't get that. That is a load of crap. What I loved most about marathon training last time was the great friends that I that when you go on that 20 mile hell run you at least have company and conversation...a comraderie. Now, all I have is my iPod and random people yelling at me as I go. And, lets not forget the weather conditions on top of that. How do these Kenyans do it? No wonder they win everything. Yeah...not fun! This may quite possibly be the hardest thing I have ever done. And, once again I remind you, if you would like to show your support--which I know you all want to do...hehehe, click the link at the top left of my blog to donate to my charity! I need your help to succeed in raising $2500!!

Anyhoo, I am boring I will let you go for now. Stay safe, happy, and healthy. I will probably get back to the computer in a couple of weeks. to you soon...and SEE YOU IN 2 MONTHS!