Monday, November 29, 2010

Has it Really Been 5 Months?

Well, I suppose it has. The Sandman's predictions have indeed come true and I'm now settled in a new home South of Peace Corps Burkina Faso's no-travel zone. Getting used to living in a city has had its ups and downs, but overall things have mostly been looking up since the big change. While I'm incredibly grateful for my experience living in a small village, I think I've realized I'm a city boy at heart. I loved being able to read for hours a day without distraction and I don't know that I'll ever read that many books in a year again, but the pace of life (and work) was too slow for my tastes.

My new house:

Now that I'm working with an NGO in a city, I always have things to do, even if I'm still not on a 40-hour week. A quick rundown of things I've done since starting work with Friends of African Village Libraries (FAVL) in September - helped lead a weeklong reading camp for 25 elementary school students in southern Burkina, helped organize and lead the first northern Burkina FAVL librarian meeting, did literacy research in Ghana for a week, helped organize a fundraiser here in Ouaga for FAVL, continued preparations for the new library in Belehede, and co-wrote a grant proposal to introduce LED technology to several villages here in Burkina.

Mask Making at FAVL Reading Camp:

I've also been able to stay in touch with friends and counterparts from Belehede, even though I haven't been able to return except for a rushed trip to collect my belongings and puppies (escorted by Peace Corps for security). I attended a week-and-a-half long training here in Ouaga with two counterparts to learn how to run Coaching 4 Hope camps. Coaching 4 Hope is an organization that teaches kids about HIV/AIDS through soccer games and drills. I haven't played soccer since I was about 10, but I don't think I embarrassed myself too much, and my counterparts had a great time.

The following month (September), I was able to co-lead the Model Girls Camp that I was supposed to run in my village before evacuation scrambled all of my plans. Our Country Director was incredibly supportive and managed to secure funding for me to transport 40 girls and 4 adults from my village out of the no travel zone to Ouahigouya (where I trained for the Peace Corps oh-so-long-ago-now) for a week of camp. We used some of the drills we learned at Coaching 4 Hope to teach the girls about HIV/AIDS in the mornings and we spent the rest of the days talking about family planning, planning for the future, what it means to be a role model, health and nutrition, and playing games and doing arts and crafts activities. It was a full week and I was incredibly thankful to the Peace Corps for helping me to move the camp to a new site so I wouldn't have to disappoint my community.

Learning about Gender Roles and Coaching 4 Hope at Model Girls Camp:

The only sad news of the past few months is that Kit, one of my dogs, died last month. I'm not sure what happened, but my neighbors found her body in their courtyard behind their house last month, after she had disappeared for a couple of days. We'd been told during training that it's highly inappropriate to cry in public here in Burkina Faso, which at the time I didn't foresee ever being a problem, but that was a challenge.... It took Sadie a while to get over it, but she seems to be doing pretty well as of late. According to my roommate, "Sadie's actually acting like a normal dog these days!"

Since this is getting long, I'll break off with one last photo and continue later with an update about my parents' visit and my trip to Paris - it's nice having internet on a daily basis again after having to bike 40km to use a computer.

Sadie, having enjoyed Thanksgiving too much, recovers:

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