We all came to the training center in Léo today, and I'm moving in to my home for the next three months. I also found out where I'll be living for the two years after that!
Sorry, no pictures yet…
This is going to be a fairly quick, text-only post. I probably couldn't get pictures to upload anyway, given the state of the internet connection here. I really haven't taken many, either. We've been so busy! The first week was taken up with classes on things like how to not get malaria (answer: Use mosquito repellant, keep the screen doors closed, use your mosquito net on your bed, and take the anti-malarial prophylaxis every single day). I've learned a bit of Mooré, visited the US ambassador and some of his staff in the embassy, done some cross-cultural training, done a bunch of translating between English and French, made some friends, and gotten to know a huge number of inspirational fellow Peace Corps Trainees.
The first week had a bit of an air of summer camp. We weren't allowed to leave the compound, except for a dinner at the director's house and the trip to the embassy. That's totally understandable and reasonable, but it did mean that our immersion in Burkinabè culture was controlled and limited. We've also been so busy, and I was in a dorm with six other guys, so we couldn't really arrange our stuff. None of us really listened to the news or anything, for example. I only just heard that Macron wiped the table in the legislative elections in France, for example – one of the Burkinabè staff, J.P. told me when I turned his “Bill Clinton or Bill Gates today?” around by calling him (Alan) Juppé (who is a political leader in the Parti Républicaine, who got their clocks cleaned along with the socialists two days ago). Good for Macron! But apart from random stuff I hear about, it's been more or less a total blackout of connection with the outside world. We were too busy with our formal activities and socializing to be able to do internet stuff or listen to the radio anyway, so that's fine.
Today we all went to Léo, where we education trainees each are staying with a different host family. The community development and health trainees are in two nearby villages. This is our first real exposure to living in Burkina. So far, that consists of an adoption ceremony, then having our host families help us schlep our stuff to our new rooms, chatting with them, then having dinner. We also got our bicycles today. Yay! More to carry!
My host “father,” Yacouba (Jacob) is five years younger than I am. He's a really nice guy. I"m living in my own room, off the courtyard from where he, his wife and five children live. They speak French well, though it was a little hard to hear with the rain pounding off the tin roof. I also took my first “bucket bath,” with really isn't that big a deal - you ladle water over yourself from a bucket, soap up, then ladle water over yourself to rinse off. Works great.
I was actually in a bit of a hurry for that, because we got to talking, and then realized that the sun was about to go down. Because they're fasting for Ramadan, I wanted to get in for dinner the moment the sun went down. I also didn't know where everything was. The Peace Corps had a box full of stuff for me in my room, but I had to sort through it to find the bucket and the ladle :-) Anyway, I got it all sorted out, and I heard the call to grub from the mosque's speakers as I was about ready to towel off, so I didn't make them wait too long.
I'll have more interesting things to say and show in a couple of weeks. It's already 8:30 in the evening, so I'm getting sleepy. When there's no electricity and the sun comes up at 5:30 AM, you shift your day earlier.
Oh - food was great. Rice, and meat and vegetables in peanut sauce.
My future home
I found out where I'll be living after Léo! Um… I think the Peace Corps blogging guidelines say I'm not supposed to say exactly where that is, but it's in the South-West of Burkina Faso, not too far from Diebougou. My main local language will be “Dagara,” with some Mooré thrown in, though of course the language of instruction will be French.
I'm theoretically here as a math teacher – says so on my business card – but the application from the High School (lycée) where I'll be teaching says that they want me to teach science and English, though math would be OK, too. That actually works out fine for me. I never did care much for chemistry, but I loved physics at UCLA, and I had a good time teaching English in Palestine. So, I think I'll teach physics, maybe some math, and definitely English. Should be fun. And, of course, I'll have some kind of secondary project. I more or less get to invent that after I've settled in and taught for a few months.
I'm going to be in a town, it seems, which makes sense. It's a place big enough to have a high school, after all. The previous volunteer went out and did work in surrounding villages, about 10 km away, and I'll surely continue that, so I will be able to get my bicycle on.
That's all the big news for now. I'm really happy to be here, and I can't wait to get started on all this. I'm also thoroughly delighted that I get to live in a francophone country, and one with such wonderful, accomodating people. Indeed, one thing that really comes through is, in the words of the US ambassador, “they want you to be here.” That's not always as true in other PC countries as it is here.
Also, at the risk of repeating myself, I just can't express how deeply impressed I am by my fellow volunteers, and by the Peace Corps staff and organization.