Thursday, January 14, 2010

Life isn't fair, sorry to the other PCV's who don't have electricity.

Well today is an interesting turn of events. My neighbor purchased a USB Modem (that is a device that connects to the internet and uses the same technology of a cell phone to connect any computer to the internet). So now I am one of the more spoiled volunteers in Burkina. I am currently sitting on my duff in my bedroom, on my bed no less, writing to all of you (or any of you who actually read this thing, even though I never post anything worthwhile). But to my amazement I now am able to connect with others. Though the bandwidth only really allows me to connect to e-mail or to this blog. I'm sure that it will still be an item that helps me keep my sanity.

For what you've missed thus far. I recently was in the capital as many of you are aware because of my constantly being on Facebook for 2 weeks. But alas my training finished and I am back in the south, which is nice because of the little temperature drop and the ability to actually breath once in a while. The dust in the north is almost insufferable and the "harmatan winds" are difficult to deal with.
I was in the capital for training. After being at site for a while there are always more questions that volunteers have, and that need to be addressed. All of the information presented was good, and I was able to get some of my own questions answered. But I soon realized that everyone in the Peace Corps has a unique experience. It is hard to think that all of our sites are that much different but it's true.
My site is in the south of the country, in a country that is about the size of Colorado. So you wouldn't think that much would change. Well actually it does; the climate, the culture, the language. It's rather bizarre. It's greener here than in the north by quite a bit, we also have hills. But that isn't the big difference. The big difference is the culture that is here in comparison to the north especially around Ouagadougou.
Here in the south we have many different ethnic groups but one main one in particular, they are called the Lobi. The Lobi speak Lobiri, and are in general, not very nice. Here in "Lobi country" every family is considered in and of itself a separate entity and they take care of themselves. They do not consolidate, and do not really have a figure head (though this is not true, they have a chief of sorts to govern disputes of land and such, but nothing else). So respect here is not inherent, it is earned, and everyone here is rather equal (well the men are). This is both a positive and a negative.
So dealing with students at the school and the people around the town is different than the other volunteers making some of the training utterly useless to me. So much of the time was spent wondering how people are dealing when in fact, they have much different situations and in so being our training worked for them and not me.
Ok that is enough for now. Enjoy.
Friday, December 25, 2009 –

Christmas, or in French “Noel”. Here the holiday is spent with much the same intent as that in the US. It’s for families to get together, gifts are exchanged, and Jesus’ birth is celebrated. But the manner in which it is celebrated, obviously there are some big differences. Especially for me. For example there is no snow here, well ice is hard to find here, but I find it regardless. There are none of the normal foods that I would consider Christmas worthy either. Most of the food here is honestly salty or bland, sugar is easy to find, but hardly used in cooking.
As for the meals I ate. At the first party that I went to. I had rice and beef and a cold Sprite. This was at my “pseudo-mothers” house. She had invited me over the day before. It was nice. She is the elderly woman who owns the restaurant I frequent, and has been very nice to my of late. I did not spend to much time here though. I’ve been sick lately so I wanted to take a nap, and lay down.
The second party I went to was at the house of the secretary of PLAN, her name is Armelle. Her husband and I have become good friends over the past month or two, and his name is Alpha. The food they served was very party-ish, there are many staple party foods here in Burkina. Popcorn is one along with fried cake and these chip like things flavored like shrimp. But more importantly they had fried chicken and fish. Once again I had a Sprite to go along with the grub. It was satisfying. But then again, eating oily greasy food while being sick isn’t a good idea, but it’s Christmas, so I don’t care. So I decided to come back and lay down and type a little. I’m happy, full, and sick at the same time; and it is ok.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009 –

I had a special treat today. The director of Peace Corps Burkina, Doug, and his two sons came down to my region to visit the Loripeni Ruins (which I have already had the pleasure of seeing, so I played guide for their trip). They came to Gaoua yesterday, so they actually took me out to dinner (and not having to pay was nice, especially at one of the most expensive and nice restaurants in the region). Having good beef and French fries, it was almost like being in the capital city, Ouaga. It was also very nice to spend time with American guys my own age. Speaking English and talking about American culture. (by the way it doesn’t sound like I’m missing much when it comes to the movie scene).
It was nice to be able to be in a vehicle that didn’t stop every two minutes. We made it there and back, to Loripeni, in no time flat. With the public transportation system here, it would seem as though the country is much larger than it really is, when in fact if you had your own vehicle making only the stops you actually want. Then really you can go anywhere and do anything in any given day.
My chameleon named “Chamillionaire”, was one of the coolest pets I’ve ever had the experience of having for a 48 hour time (seems as though catching bugs and feeding him would have been easy, yeah not during the dry season here in Africa) so now Chamillionaire is off on his own. Catching bugs for himself. But I found him on the road coming back from Loripeni. He was just trying to cross the road. So I asked Doug to stop of the vehicle. None of us had ever seen a live chameleon in the wild before. So this was a new experience for all parties involved. Anyone knowing me would know that I just walked right up to it and picked it up with no hesitation. Doug was very surprised by this. Everyone then got to pet him. I then also just brought him with me. Just holding him on my hand, well actually he was holding me. And what a grip he had. So cool. So I guess
I’m the new Steve Irwin here in Burkina. Doug was able to also grab a picture for the Monthly Newsletter called the “Zakramba” (which is Moore for family). Doug takes pictures of everyone he visits and puts them into the newsletter. Though this picture was much better than any of the others he had taken because the first one he grabbed was me in my house; and a little background to go along here. My house is nice, but not only that, its almost luxurious compared to others. I now have this unusual reputation for a Peace Corps volunteer that I am a little spoiled, and well now all of Peace Corps Burkina is totally aware. I guess my house and set up is a topic of discussion in some circles. Though my house is not big, I have gone to some lengths to make the things in my house look nice.

Monday, October 19, 2009

what has been long over due and what has recently happened, plus a "vada"

So it has been ages since I have written anything of interest, not to mention update this foul creation known as a blog which commands your very attention every second of every day to send your ideas and thoughts and general curiosities to the masses that would want to ever read such obscurities.
Having been in the city of Gaoua, Burkina Faso, Africa for now 2 months. I have seen and experienced quite a many things. Gaoua (pronounced "Ga-ow-a")is a city in the hills, and being in a flat country the profiles of these "trying to be mountains" really do add some flare to the otherwise boring countryside. But by some miracle of a most bizarre "fetish de terre" things do grow here, adding the color green to the by contrast brown that covers the rest of this third world country.
But here I am, and here I will stay for the time being. At least until my next training session which sends me to the capital city of Ouagadougou for a week, in which I get to eat things like pizza and hamburgers. Which the burgers are actually decent but the pizza is less than to be desired. But being in a 3rd World country. Who can really complain, the idea of cheese here is a whim. So anytime that it is indeed added to the things that pass for food here, it is a time for great celebration. Also the restaurants actually give you condiments, which again is something that is far and few between unless in the capital city, which, being a capital of a country is not as large as one would think.
But here in Gaoua, I have started to teach. I have 13 working computers, and a schedule that enables me to finally teach and have the students have some practice time with the computers. Which is finally a decent way to run a class, considering I am in Africa. But for most of these students, they have never even touched a computer let alone have taken a course about using them. So I have the privilege of not only creating an interesting course for these spongy minds to soak but also be the first to be able to introduce them to the wonders of technology. Though it is a rather bizarre contrast to have so many students actually know some things about computers, and possibly own them. But these cases are 1 in 100, literally.
Some fun short stories:
1) The Vada and I met the other day. And for those not versed in the french names of West African animals, that would be a monitor lizard. I caught a baby one in my class the other day. It came in through the windows and I put it into a sack. I'll post a photo to facebook later. I then took it around to show some people who were actually scared of the little guy. Which for me to watch a 17 year old boy run in terror of a little lizard which was safely tucked into a clear sack was rather exciting.
2) So the other day my neighbor found and killed a snake in our courtyard, now I have the unusual opportunity to live in an apartment like scenario, unlike any of the other peace corps volunteers here. So this keeps me in contact with the local population and provides me with "friends". But as for the snake, him knowing that I like animals placed it near my door for me to see. Which I saw, it was a small type of viper. Deadly, hence why it was now in its present state, dead. But I have a woman who does my laundry, and for anyone who has even attempted to wash their jeans by hand will know this to be very difficult work. I don't like it. So I have it done for me. She is well compensated. But not well enough to deal with a dead snake at my door. Here there is a hand motion for not doing something, it's like clapping your hands in a brushing motion. Similar to ours. But when she saw the snake, she made the motion and walked away. My neighbor then disposed of the soon to be pig food corpse and only then would she continue her work.

For now in my opinion I feel I have bestowed sufficient information. Later

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A new beginning in Gaoua.

So I'm in a new city now. My permanent site, it is in the south of the country. It is beautiful here. I know that I owe people a lot of photos. They will be coming soon. I have started my job here by fixing all of the computers in the computer lab, and boy is that a chore, those computers are slow.

I've been trying to get out and meet people. The town now realizes that I live here, and that I am not going anywhere. But they still think I'm a German, which I find hilarious.

I found a little cafe near my house and have become friends with the little old lady who owns the place, she has been feeding me well. It's good food. Like chicken soup with a tomato broth and bread, yum!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Journal 1

Thursday, August 6th 2009 -

To present information to young minds is quite a task. It takes work; preparing the lesson and developing an overreaching strategy for how you are going to convey the knowledge to the young, but keeping in mind that you not only for to transfer the information but facilitate the understanding of the material. This alone is one of the hardest and most challenging tasks I have come to face here. But I was able to develop a test that was challenging for the students, though maybe it was too challenging for them. This system here is all wrote memorization. I really dislike this approach. I wish that the LCF's would just let me try to teach, other than coddle the students, and tell me that they can't do it. I know they can.

Friday, August 7th 2009 -

Feeling great. The way that modern medicine can drastically improve ones health is astounding. “Take these pills for 5 days”, and “bam” it is as if I am a new person. I am now really able to wake up in the morning and appreciate the rooster crowing and the donkeys braying. But then I realize it is actually 4am so I then go back to bed for 2 hours. But it is alright, cause I'm not drenched in sweat as normal and I've been keeping busy learning and teaching and adapting.

I gave my first test the other day, and I now have a new found respect for any educator I have ever had in the past. It was a surreal experience to say the least. Watching as 42 students struggled over the questions I had written on the board. Though the questions were repeats of what I had done in class, the way I presented the problems required some amount of critical thinking, which is something that students here have absolutely none of. In Burkina and much of West Africa, the students hold to the rule of wrote memorization and regurgitation. Which I find to be sad.

Today I handed back to them what they had done. I wasn't very happy with the results, but then I remembered that I had promised the students a bonus of +2 points on the next test, which made the results more favorable. Here in this country there is a strange custom that has grown from the culture and the french system here. It's called “reclamation”, and it's annoying. It's where the students have the opportunity to check over there tests and check to see if the teacher has graded their tests fairly and added up all of the points that are due. Well since I gave them a gift of adding the 2 points to there overall score. I decided to skip out on this little practice, and being here in West Africa and being a teacher (where I am basically the law in my classroom) it's up to me. The students on the other hand where quite perplexed. Like dear in headlights, their eyes all grew wide in surprise and as the realization struck them that they could not argue, lie or cheat their way to a better grade, many of the hands in the classroom struck up. I heard the snapping of fingers and the calling of “monsieur”. But I just told them that my grade was final, and that I was more than fair with their answers. And that was that.

This may seem to anyone not here in my shoes to be a harsh reality. You may be asking yourself “why would Kyle be so mean?” But I tell you that it is the students here who were being mean and got everything they deserved. I did give them the answers to the test beforehand, and even told them so. If they didn't believe me or take it seriously enough, then that is actually not my fault. Because here in Africa, it is not on the teachers head if a student passes or fails, it's on the students.

Saturday, August 8th 2009 -

Actually went well today, my LPI language test. I had french in the morning. But not with my normal LCF. But then I took the language test with the same guy. I was calm and slow, and tried to be as precise as I could with my conversation. I'm hoping that this time that I receive a level that I actually feel that I am at. But I have grown above this silly ranking system (even though a certain level is required before being allowed to teach). I know that I have the ability to communicate at a higher level on paper, but my pronunciation is just not good enough. Even with all of the practice I get daily, I seem to have a hard time with certain sounds and word combinations. I know I will eventually be able to get it. But until then I will just keep trying to do my best, studying and talking with people in french. Maybe someday I will be able to converse with people and have them understand what exactly I am saying.

With the guys in the afternoon, we decided to play poker (there was money involved but only 500 cfa = $1, the equivalent of a pop). This was one of the most entertaining experiences we've had so far. There was a lot of bonding going on, and I realization that I actually knew a little about poker. I say that because I tied for first (well we just split the winnings because everyone else had left for the restaurant and we we're hungry). Needless to say, I won a little money and later had a couple of “brushettes” on the boys (brochettes are basically kabobs of some cheap meat, and they are very tasty). After the restaurant we decided to go dancing at a local night-club. And dancing at a night club with other foreigners in a third world country is quite the experience to be had. The repetitive rhythms of the African music does get under your skin, and the dancing customs are strange, large circles in which people take turns dancing in the center... odd. But here they stay out all night, “yay” for no governmental regulations on the clubs here. Needless to say that was a late night (considering I am usually in bed by around 8:30 or 9:00 oclock.

Sunday, August 9th 2009 -

My sister did my laundry. Now it's on to discover how someone can teach computer skills to older Burkinabé, that's right I get to teach the adult class. Where they like to hold keys for no apparent reason and the logic of technology does not come easy. But maybe they will be more well behaved then the 5eme (7th grade) kids that I have had recently. Hopefully they will be less chatty, I would really hate to have to kick an adult out of a basic computer class for chatting with a friend while I am talking.

I received a present today from my host mom. It is a really cool looking dress shirt that's blue with a predominantly yellow floral design with some red accents (but still the shirt is mostly blue), and it's also accented with white thread patterns in the form of stripes which add another neat dynamic to the shirt, this is something I think I'll wear a lot, it is that cool. Clothes here are quite different than compared to those in the US. There are no colors that are gender oriented. They basically will wear whatever. But seeing men wear hot pink that is mixed with orange and a lime green is still rather odd to see as you walk around the market.

Monday, August 10th 2009 -

I taught my first computer class today. What to say about this. I really do not know the vocab and there is absolutely no direction to the courses whatsoever. Teaching the adult class was a little different than the 7th graders I had. Here in the adult class, if you mispronounced their names, they would then proceed to correct you. What a different dynamic, to go from a teacher of a young group, where I am in all intents and purposes the judge, jury, and prosecutor (aka the respected LAW), but here with the adults. They think that I am here to help them, not to really instruct them. It's weird to experience the difference. So what did we do today. Well review of typing of course. Meaning I used this simple practice typing program, but the typing program does this annoying buzzing sound when someone holds a key for too long, and since I have the lowest level adult class. I then get to deal with the constant sound of buzzing throughout the day. It wasn't all bad though. I showed a lot of them proper hand position, and some of them even improved a little, which made me happy. After an hour or so of this, I then decided to introduce them to Word (yes there is Microsoft Office here in Africa (though I don't know if any of these computers have legal copies)). They all typed a short sentence. Then we made it bold, italic, and underlined them. This was all done with me struggling through the class because I was figuring out the vocab as we were going. Which was a little difficult, but as I said, I got through it.

Wednesday, August 12th 2009 -

I taught in the morning, but then I received a package (thank you so much mom and dad, it was amazing). It contained some of the most awesome ingredients. Beef jerky, Skittles, cheese sauces and spices.... yum. It was just amazing. I put myself into a sugar coma in around 30 minutes, it was wonderful.

Thursday, August 13th 2009 -

This was an amazing day. Today after I taught, my group (all of the trainees were split into groups) cooked a delicious meal with an american twist. We made tuna melt sandwiches, and they were to die for. Using the tools here, which was difficult, we were able to make some fantastic food.For a side we made cheesy garlic mashed potatoes. And for dessert, one of the girls in my group made a mango tarte (which again was to die for). This was seriously an awesome meal.

Not to mention from my package (again thank you so much mom and dad for this, I'm so happy about it, I am not even able to tell you how much I love it), the kool-aid.... ahhh the kool-aid. And the beef-jerky and turkey-jerky (man this stuff didn't really last long... yeah it's all gone already (the candy and the food not the kool-aid)).

I have also been happy about all of the PCVF (which are Peace Corps Volunteer Facilitators), who have helping us throughout our training. I haven't really been talking about them through my blog or in my journal, but they have definatley played a large part in my growth here. I would definatley want to one day be one of them. I feel as though it would be a cool job, teaching the next generation of teachers, here in Burkina Faso.

I have been hanging out with the PCVF's lately, because well, I am going to be a PCV soon, and be one of them. So I am hanging out with my future peers. They are all pretty cool in their own sense. Quirky or cool, they are all nice and so happy about us (the new PCVs) being here. I can't wait to be labled a PCV.

Friday, August 14th 2009 -

Today I am so thankful for “Kool-aid”. But beyond that I am thankful for technology. As I was looking through my folders I found some music that I had forgot about and thanks to modern technology I am able to acquire a whole bunch of music (new for me) from all my friends. Trading files has definatley become a hobby, whether it be movie files, TV shows, or music. These files get passed around a lot.

We've been taking a lot of exit tests lately. Only one more week of model school. This is rediculous to think that this is almost over. I'm about to go from constant contact with people who have become my friends to complete isolation. That is going to be hard and I'm not really looking forward to it. But I am able to handle isolation. Heck I was that way in high school. So I think I can handle it until I make some new friends.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bacterial Entinitis. It's fun!

So as anyone would surely notice. I have not made any recent posts. Well there are some reasons for that. The first one being; I haven't really done anything lately other than curl up into a little ball and pray to God that this was all a bad dream. I don't know why I became sick. But alas. I did. This is africa, and so being, there is sickness everywhere, bad hygiene with every child who wants to come shake your hand, and I can not forget about the massive amounts of flies that as you know spread disease. So that being said, I feel a little better now. I know that this must worry some of you. But I'm actually doing alright. It's been quite the experience so far. The things I've seen and the things I've done (or have eaten) is quite a list. The second reason is because I have to pay to come use the internet at one of the cyber cafes around Ouahigoya. Which isn't awful, but it means that you have to then walk or bike somewhere. And I don't want to lie, I've been kind of lazy lately. Just wanting nothing more than to sleep (prolly cause I was sick). But regardless. I'll try to be more vigilent in the future about making new posts. And I'll try for pictures sometime this week.