Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Christina Update, Oct. 14, 2012

Here's the first Christina Update after a week in Burkina Faso. She's based in Sanga (my spelling is a guestimate), a village 8 miles outside Leo (pronounced Lay-O). Half her training is in the village, half in Leo, which unlike Sanga you can actually find on a map. It's a 45 minute bike ride from Sanga to Leo.   About a third of her cohort is training for agricultural work, with the rest (about 20 volunteers) training for health care. The training for the two groups is separate, so they don't see a lot of each other.  The PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers) are based in two other villages in addition to her village, which is hosting 9 other people.  This is the first time the Peace Corps has had training based in Leo, so everyone on both the American and Burkinabe side is still working out the kinks as they deal with a steep learning curve.  Almost all training is conducted by the Burkinabe, not by Americans, which she appreciates.  In fact, there are very few professional American PC staff in Burkina (just two if I understood correctly).

Christina got in last Friday and spent Saturday training.  Her regular schedule will include a half-day training on Saturdays in Leo, after which the PCVs will likely hang out in Leo, shop, and go to the internet cafe. Sundays are her day off, though today she had an assignment to map out the village in which she's staying.  So far the two LCS (PC staff) have checked in with each volunteer each day to see how they're doing. Most of the other PCVs are having some trouble dealing with village life, but Christina's camping experiences are paying off as she reports sleeping well (though waking up in a pool of sweat each morning).  It has been in the high 90's every day, and she's drinking lots of (filtered) water. One PCV has already headed home, though the other PCVs thought this girl might have trouble when she showed up for her Burkina family "adoption" ceremony in stiletto heels!  Chris is awakened each morning by the roosters and the first call to prayer, and her day ends when the sun sets, though she remains up reading past dark (around 6:30pm).  Her time is four hours ahead of our time.

She has a nice bike, with gears and everything, but she had to get a men's bike because the womens' bikes were all too small.  This makes riding a bike in a dress something of a challenge, which she is still working out. No women in her adoptive family wear pants, so she believes they are pretty conservative, though probably not Muslim, as they don't observe the calls to prayer from the Mosque, which is next to her family's compound.

Her family lives in a compound with several mud and concrete houses with metal roofs, none of which have running water or electricity.  She has her own small hut.  There is a central courtyard in the center of the houses, and a smaller courtyard behind the main house.  Surrounding the other courtyard are the houses of the other wives and their children (some of whom may be the father's grandchildren... she's only been there three days and doesn't fully understand the family dynamics).

The father speaks French, but no one else does, which makes communication a challenge. The rest of the family speaks Millie (sp) which may or may not be the tribal language spoken in her eventual placement. The family is very reserved, and she has found it disconcerting to be treated as an "important guest" and thus not allowed to do chores or otherwise help with family business. The family eats after serving her, and so far (in three days) she's had spaghetti with anchovies, millet porridge, tok (fufu) with okra sauce, and tok with fish sauce and big chunks of fish (fried, bone in, skin on).  The food has been a challenge, and her care package requests include things to help the food taste better. She said the best part of her day is the bucket bath, which is pretty much self-descriptive. 

With the difficulty in communication, Christina feels somewhat isolated within the family compound The children don't speak French, and are either curious about or scared of her, as they've never seen a white person.  Going to the bathroom (a latrine) after sunset can be a challenge, as she has to shoe the goats out first. The compound has chickens, roosters, and donkeys in addition to the goats.

All in all, Christina reports that she is very happy and managing to adjust as well as can be expected, and better than most other PCVs.  She sends her love to all her family and friends!

No comments:

Post a Comment