The big news right now is that this past week marked the beginning of my second school year. October 1st was the official first day of classes, although most schools here in Burkina usually start a week or two late. However, the director of my school pretty much starts on time and I was in the classroom teaching on the 3rd. It’s possible that this could change over the next couple of weeks, but right now it looks like I’m going to be teaching 6th and 8th grade math this year. (Last year I taught 7th and 8th grade math.) The situation in the 6th grade class right is a little crazy, there are 156 kids registered for the class and I actually counted 130 in the classroom which is about the same size as a classroom back home. The kids are sitting 4 to a desk which makes it pretty hard for them to write and there’s no room for the teacher to pass down the aisles so I think they’re going to have to split the class up or find some other solution. (Although I have no idea what that solution might be.) Also this year, I have the same director as the year before and the 3 other teachers who were with me last year all returned so it’s definitely nice to have that sense of continuity.
Since I last wrote (promising more frequent updates), the rainy season has pretty much come and gone. The last rain was about a week and a half or 2 weeks ago and it’s possible that we might get something small in the next week or so, but there’s a good chance that’s it for rain for the next 7 or 8 months. The rainy season was good in the sense that we did get lots of rain this year – actually I think it was too good in some parts of Burkina as there was some flooding in some places. All the rain did make it a little hard to get around for a couple of months. There were at least a couple of times I was stuck somewhere for a few days waiting for the water to go down a little so it could be passed and pretty every time I needed to go anywhere over a few miles, it was necessary to pass through water between my knees and my waist at some point (or multiple points). Anyhow, the benefits of the rain for the crops far outweighed the difficulties in getting around so it wasn’t something that could be complained about too much.
So as I pretty much just implied, the crops have been pretty good this year. Right now is a great time of year as far as food is concerned because the harvest is just beginning. That basically means that there’s a little more variety in the food than usual. Corn is usually only available for a few weeks during the year whish is just ending right now and there are a few other things that you’ll only get during the harvest time. (The corn isn’t exactly like the corn were used to back home – looks the same, but it’s much harder. They basically grill it over coals and eat it off the cob. You can boil it for hours and it won’t become soft like the corn back home - trust me, I’ve tried.) After the harvest, it goes back to being millet pretty much all of the time.
As far as what I’ve been up to the last few months with school out, there were a few different things that I had going. As I mentioned in my last post, we had a new group of Peace Corps trainees arrive in Burkina at the beginning of June the same as I came here in June the year before. They had 3 months of training which I worked for 3 weeks at the end of June and beginning of July. Working with the new trainees was definitely a reality check in realizing how far you’ve come over the past year. You don’t realize it on a day to day basis, but answering all of their questions and seeing them adjust to things that you’ve become accustomed to makes you realize just how much you’ve learned and adapted since you’ve been here. Anyhow, it was a good experience working with them and while I wouldn’t want to go through training again myself at this point – it was interesting to see it from the other side.
Right after I worked with the training group, I had a week consisting of my mid-service medical checkup which last 3 days and then 2 days of IST (In-Service Training). The medical checkup basically consisted of a TB test, medical appointment, dentist appointment, and giving 3 stool samples. The whole stool sample thing is a pretty common procedure for volunteers here when they get sick, but I had yet to have to give one since I rarely get sick over here. (is this more information than you wanted to know?) Anyhow, I was fairly positive that they were going to find something in the tests since I’ve been here for a year, haven’t been treated for anything yet, and I basically eat the same food as my family since I rarely prepare stuff for myself like alot of other volunteers. Well, everything came back fine so I don’t have any stories of some cool bacteria or parasite living inside of me – maybe next time. As far as the IST was concerned, you have 2 ‘in-service training’ conferences during your service of which this was my second and last. It lasted for 2 days and was mostly valuable just to get together with the other volunteers in my group and hear about their experiences and how they were doing. My next and last conference is called the
Skipping ahead to the month of August, I helped out one of the other volunteers in my group (who coincidentally was also born in
I think that pretty much catches you up on my comings and goings over the last few months. Next I want to mention what I consider to be the most important thing I’m working on besides teaching which is trying to get some help for my village with their water problem. In August, I did get to meet with the non-profit group that I mentioned in my last post that works here in Burkina on water related problems. While it was helpful in talking with them, unfortunately they’re not currently working in the region of Burkina that my village is in. This is a little ironic in the sense that the region I’m in probably has the biggest problem with water here than any of the other regions. From what they said, they’re just now looking into starting to work there, but probably won’t be doing much in that area in the very near future. So my plan now is to use a program through the Peace Corps called the Peace Corps Partnership Program to try and find funding for the villagers to build a small dam on their own. They already have a list of what they need to finish it (they’ve actually already been working on it for 4 years or so) so the idea now is to try and get some money for that (which isn’t that much) and see where it goes from there. I’ll keep you updated as I work through the process.
A couple of communication items to note. I’ve switched to a new cell phone carrier which seems to have slightly better reception near my village. I still can’t receive calls most of the time when I’m in Baraboulé, but it is slightly better. Unfortunately, with this new company I can no longer send and receive texts to the
As far as what’s coming up next besides teaching of course. My Dad’s coming out to on the 12th and he’ll be here for 2 weeks. I think we’re going to spend about a week or so in my village, visit a couple of other villages near me where there are volunteers, see the family that I lived with during my 3-months of training, and then spend a couple of days in Ouaga (the capital). He’ll be the first person I’ve seen from back home since I came to Burkina last June. So if you see him before he comes out and you know any French (or Fulfuldé, Mooré, or Keromfé), please practice with him. Teaching phrases like ‘I don’t want the fish head’ or ‘Please get the snake out of the latrine for me’ would probably be appropriate. :) (I’ve actually only seen one snake since I’ve been here and it wasn’t in the latrine, although I have walked in and seen a scorpion in the latrine.)
It’s also started to pick at my mind a little bit that I need to start considering what my plans are for after the Peace Corps since I’m now down to less than a year left, but I’ll probably start worrying more about that once we get into 2008. For those keeping track at home, I think my official end of service date is
Ok, that’s it for now – please send letters, emails, packages, or just come out here and visit yourself! Hope everyone’s doing good!