Wednesday, April 8, 2009

This is my annotated Packing List for all those out there looking for packing advice. This is also linked to on the side of this blog.

****** I've edited this list with notes about what I brought, how much i appreciated it, what I don't recommend, etc. If you have any more questions, email me. *******

*Definitely the most appreciated items were (in no particular order): shortwave radio, iPod, computer, bug tent, leathernman, nalgene.
* As far as gifts for people, like for your host family, bring something simple, like a postcard from your hometown or a hat from your favorite baseball team or a picture of yourself. It's getting easier to develop digital pictures here, so even a picture of them with you could be possible. I actually sent pics to CVS online and had my parents send them to me here of my host family and the loved it. Also, a deflated soccer ball (your fam will have kids) is really cool. Small things go a long way. Oh, and Jolly Ranchers. You're not expected to bring any gifts at all, and it's probably better to give the gifts at the end of your stay with them anyway. There are plenty of things they would love here that you can get here. Don't sweat it.

The packing list evolves... This was compiled based on the information sent from the Peace Corps and by the opinions of other girls my age who went to West Africa/Burkina Faso, what they loved having, what they regretted bringing, etc.
Items in pink are things I don't own yet, items in yellow are things I own, and items with question marks are things I'm not sure I need to bring or don't know much about. Hurray to all the companies offering discounts to goverment/service individuals like PCVs! I can't even explain how much money I've saved on these things.

Backpack (Arcteryx Bora 75, Women's)
- - This is an amazing pack. Daily village life has no place for big packs but for any big traveling and even for bringing stuff from Ouaga to village once and a while . Most of the time it sits in the closet; but you have to get here somehow. You can get big bags here, but they are not sturdy. Not sure you need a pack THIS good, but I got it on eBay cheap.
Messenger bags (Timbuk2 XS and Medium)
- Timbuck2 bags are like the most useful and durable bags ever. I use mine every day - especially the small one for going to school and market every day and they will be still be pretty much intact when I go home.
Sleeping bag ( Tropic Traveler from Cocoon 2.0 lbs), and Travel Sheet (7.8 oz)
- My sleeping bag is very useful. When I sleep outside I use it when it's cooler. The travel sheet is even more recommended because it is so hot here. With a tent and a sheet you can be comfortable all but maybe 2 months of the year. I got a discount on both when I ordered (I asked).
Pack towel (XL and hand towel sizes, here's an MSR one)
- I use these - particularly the small one - but not as often as I thought I would. There is always fabric around here. I use pagne fabric much more if for nothing other than the fact that it's prettier. You really don't need to worry about getting something to dry here so maybe bring a face towel but you can skip this.
Compressible Pillow , (I've heard the pillows there are less than par, thermarest is always nice)
- Very useful. You can buy pillows here but this thermarest pillow is fluffier than they are, and you can travel with it.
Hammock (travel ones are light and cheap) and I got one free - (will have this shipped)
- Ok you totally don't need a hammock but I am so glad I have it. Hang it at the school I live next to when I'm not there and it's one of the ways to keep cool. When you lay on a matress in the heat it is like laying in a pizza oven.
Therm-a-rest Trekker Lounge 25 (turns pad into lounge/chair) (will be shipped)
- Not really that useful. You can get chairs made or you can buy them. I don't recommend it.
Therm-a-rest sleeping pad, ProLite 3, (discount)
- Sleeping pad was very useful, for travelng to see people and stuff like that. Oh and everyone who didn't have one of the lighter, smaller pads was jealous. Mine has a hole now, but that's because Burkina is thorny.
Screen Tent (seem to be really recommended ... like the REI Bug Hut 2)
- Buy this tent. Just do it. Don't buy another one. Buy this tent.
Seal Line 6L Dry Case , Seal Line See Pouch (discount)
- Not that useful. Never really had any water problems here. I use it to keep dust off of my electronics, but could easily have done without it.
3 pair light Cotton Pants (like good ol' Gap pants)
Shirts..... hmmmm
2 long skirts - macabi
4 pair socks, 16 prs cotton underwear, 3 bras/3 sports bras
- This is what I have to say about clothes: I don't regret the 'teaching' clothes i brought and of course a favorite t-shirt or jeans but the truth of the matter is that there is no shortage of clothing here. Even if you bring lots of clothes, you will wear through a lot of them. That's ok. Lots of salvation army clothes end up here and you can buy a new shirt for 50 cents in the market and if you want, you can get as many amazing, excellently fitting clothes made here with tailors which I highly reccomend. Tailors can make western like clothes or african like clothes and there is never any shortage of fabric. Don't bring a lot of white things. I have never, not even once, worn socks. I gave them away. People who run do use them. Bring good bras, they are hard to find here. Same with underwear. You can never bring enough bras and underwear. I would have brought maybe 2 more bras and the underwear was sufficient. I've lost at least a couple of pairs through unfortunate bowl accidents.
PJ pants, Running shorts
- You're going to feel uncomfortable running no matter what. Try to make sure your running shorts aren't so short. PJ pants are great. GREAT.
2 pair Chacos (50% off! to PCVs!) (I like ZX/2 and Zong)
- Chacos are great. I use mine all the time. If you don't think you will or don't think you want them then don't worry, you can get cheap shoes here in any marché. Both the cheap flipflop kind you shower in and nice looking ones to teach in. 50% off discount.
1 pair Merrell Waterpros
- You can get lots of shoes here but nothing as sturdy as this. I used them to run. But my feet get really hot easily and I stopped using them and used open shoes all the time. You can teach in Chacos.
- There is a swiming pool in Ouaga and in the training town, Ouahigouya. Bring it.
2 Bandanas, Canvas Hat
- Never realy used hats or bandanas. Other people do. Just not me. I gave them away. But I did get a really cool hat that had bug repellent built in and it was cool for a while for that at night.
Laundry bag
- Eh, not that useful. If you need to put clothes in something you can just tie them up in a pagne. You can also get things like baskets here and stuff if you want a laundry thing.
- Gave it away. Everytime it rained I just wanted to get wet. If you don't like getting wet then consider bringing one. Like one of those tiny ones they sell at walmart.
thin sweatshirt (the cornell one or lighter?)
- Bring at least one piece of warm clothing like this. It does get uncomfortably chilly in the 'cold' season and even when it's raining sometimes you're going to want something to cover up with.
Small non-stick frying pan, nesting pots, plastic spatula, tupperware (nesting)
- You can get any kitchen supply you might ever need here. It might just be a little expensive if you want America quality or not such good quality if you don't want to spend so much. I use a non-stick frying pan everyday. Bring a good one and take care of it and it'll last you the whole time.
Parmesan cheese, Koolaid packets, Easy Mac sauce packets and the like
- No there is really no shortage of these things ever. Ever.
can opener, sharp kitchen knife (apparently all the knives are dull there)
- You can get everything you need here but bring a can opener if you want. The knives here are not good quality but you can get them sharpened for like a nickel. I'd recommend bringing a good chef's knife.
ziploc plastic bags, small roll of duct tape
- Bring it.
carabineer (1)
- Eh, there are cooler things to use as keychains here.
pocket knife (Gerber Paraframe II), multi-tool (Leatherman Wave yay eBay)
- My gerber knife was so awesome and then it got stolen. I still use my Leatherman all the time. For the prices you can get on eBay, it's worth it. VERY USEFUL.
headlamp (energizer), flashlight (Maglite LED)
- Invest in a good headlamp / flashlight. Assuming you'll have no electricity you'll be using these everyday. EVERYDAY.
frisbee, uno, cards
- Some people's frisbees got a lot of use; mine didn't. UNO cards are great to kill time with friends. Regular playing cards you can get, even in village.
hand sanitizer (small bottle)
- There were volunteers who used this every single day before eating anything. You'll get sick regardless. I never missed it.
small mirror (kinda like this)
- You can get small mirrors here in the marché for cheap. Hard to travel with anyway.
burt's shampoo bar ? (1) + leave in conditioner?
- At the supermarket in Ouaga you can get any kind of American shampoo conditioner stuff you might want. And even though I wasn't expecting it, I did fine using these sorts of things in a bucket bath. The bar was actually kind of frustrating. I did appreciate it during training though because it was convienent when living with a hose family (not having to card 5 bottles to the shower). For my hair, leave-in conditioner wasn't good enough. I missed real conditioner.
soap bar (face and body), st. ives apricot scrub, Loofa
- You can get the equivalent of a loofa here. Um, apricot scrub is the best stuff on earth for getting crap off your face. You can get lots of bars of soap here.
lotion, lip balm, small amount of makeup
- Yah, a little bit of makeup was nice. Now and again you'll go out in Ouaga and want it. Peace Corps will give you lip balm, but if you want gloss to be pretty, bring it. In the dry season bring lotion if you like good lotion. You can get pure shea butter here for cheap, but if you're someone who appreciates your lotion in the States, bring a bottle and later on you can have more sent.
2 cheap watches
- You know, if they hadn't broken, I would have kept wearing them still. But everyone and their mother has a cell phone here so I just started using my phone as my watch. It's always on me. You can get really really cheap watches here too in any marché.
2 pr glasses, 1 pr prescription sunglasses, eyeglass repair kit, clotth/cleaner for glasses
- Peace Corps says to bring 2 pairs of glasses. Do it. I appreciated my prescription sunglasses because the sun is F'ing strong. Repair kit is so small and cheap it's worth it (leatherman tiny screw driver also works). Cleaner is worth it for glasses and for screens of electronics.
- Though they say not to, I, and several others, eventually went back to contacts, like we had in the States. I've had no problems.
1 Nalgene, 1L, Platypus 2L Platy Bottle + Drinking Tube + cover)
- Worth it. If I had to choose between the platy bottle and the nalgene, it'd pick the nalgene as far as being here.
6L Platypus Water Tank, Platypus Shower Adapter
- Don't recommend it. Bucket bath's are fine! Really! Water pressure's not enough in this thing anyway.
Scissors (for things like haircutting)
- I don't regret bringing a pair of haircutting scissors. Useful!
toothbrush, toothpaste, FLOSS
- Can get toothpaste and toothbrushes here. Floss - eh - in Ouaga yes, but bring some.
hairbrush,tweezers, razors/blades
- Bring a good hairbrush. You can get tweezers here. You can get cheap razors here, for really cheap. I gave up on my nice razor finally - it was just easier to buy cheap bic razors, which you can get in village.
accordian style folder
- Can get this here, but Peace Corps starts throwing lots of papers at you and never really stops so bring one, you won't regret it.
1 journals, address book, 18 mo. planner (Moleskin), book of US stamps
- Worth it.
Photo album (personal/public)
- A must. You can't bring too many pictures.
pencil case + pens pencils, crayons?, paperclips or stapler or something
- Bring a few of your favorites, but you can get anything like that here.
some form of Biology text
- Anything you need to know about the curriculae in the school system will be explained to you here and you will be given text books to help you. Beyond that I would say that you don't really need to bring anything - especially because the internet is never really that far away, and the questions I did end up having didn't really have their answers in my freshman bio book. It was a lot of weight that I never really used.
french dictionary / grammar book, french technical dictionary
- Peace Corps will give everyone a decent French/English dictionary and a very good grammar book. Bring a technical dictionary if you think you need it. They will give you vocabulary lists to help but I appreciate my scientific dictionary dictionary.
west african bird guide
- You can say what you want about Burkina not having much 'cool' wildlife but take my word for it, the birds are as good as they were in Kenya. I love birds, so this was really worth it to me, and this is a great guide.
star chart, map of Burkina, map of World
- Unless the budget got really bad, they will give you a great map of Burkina when you get to training. Starchart was great but that's because I'm a star nerd.
surge protector + adapter (US to French)
- You do not need to bring an adaptor. Almost everyone will, but you can get them for like 30 cents here in any market. If you need to bring a voltage adaptor for anything - that you can't find here - that's another story. Read your electronics and they will tell you what voltage it can take.
MyPower All battery thing
- Donated. Worked with my solar panel. Solar panel charged this battery pack and then the battery pack charged things, like my phone, gameboy, and even extended the life of my computer. Pricy if you were gonna buy it, but this was donated.
solar AA batt charger
- Before I had friends who had electricity, this was all I used. I don't use it anymore because I have a plug in my house now, but is very effective and I reccomend it. Will charge AAAs too.
16 AA rechargeables, 4 AAA rechargeables, battery charger (all donated by Sanyo)
- All Eneloop batteries by Sanyo. GREAT BATTERIES. You can get AA and AAA batts here but they are SO bad you'll wish you had rechargeables!
shortwave radio (Kaito KA1102)
- This might make the difference between feeling really alone in your house and feeling kind of connected. VERY GOOD radio. Highly recommend it.
Camera (Cannon S3IS), extra memory cards / CDs
- This is a great camera, but it's not new. Bring a cam with a good zoom is what i'd say. Never used CDs. Bring a USB key with a good capacity.
ipod mini and headphones (+ otterbox case + arm band)
- BRING an iPod. And the otterbox case is by far the best protection out there for your iPod.
Travel Speakers (Altec Lansing IM3C)
- GREAT small speakers. The sound quality is great and the sound fills my house and yard. Music is pretty much the best therapy here for feeling better and relieving stress.
laptop - Powerbook G4 (+ extra battery + case + keyboard cover)
- IF you have a laptop there is NO reason not to. We have internet at the hostel. Everyone who has one and didn't bring it regrets it. Most laptops do not need voltage conversion.
12W Flexible Solar Panel (like the Sunlinq one)
- This panel will do everything except charge a laptop. It extended the battery of my laptop but won't charge it like the wall would. If you want that then buy a higher wattage one. This is a great panel. Got a discount.
Game Boy Micro (am i a bad person?)
- Before I had friends and a life in village, this was what I did while listening to the radio and hiding in my tent because I was afraid of my house. I guess it was not necessary at all but looking back it definitely served it's purpose. Is now unexplicably dead. Cheap on eBay!
calculator (for grades)
- Very useful. Doens't need to be the TI-83 i brought, but having a calculator is a GOOD idea.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hi everyone, it’s been a long time, as usual, since I’ve sat down and written a decent entry. It’s absolutely mind-boggling to me how I’ve managed to get a schedule that leaves basically no free time during the week and only a little on the weekend (if I’m not traveling). I'm putting a lot of pictures up in this entry that really have little to do with what I wrote since I wrote this at home and my pictures are rather random.

[Here's Turtle. She's too fast for her own good. Oh and below that's the cat nursing the dog. Yup. You saw it here first.]

So I guess I’ll give some updates by area:

Sad News:
The Peace Corps community got some sad news a couple weeks ago. A second year education volunteer was killed in Benin. She was my age and basically living my life which is why it’s so disconcerting for me to hear the news. She was found dead in front of her house; she'd been sleeping outside. My condolences to the family and friends of Katie – que son âme se repose en paix.

Also the Madagascar program recently got evacuated. The military was no longer supporting the government and shortly after there was a coup d’etat. All the one hundred and something volunteers got evacuated safely and the training group that was literally just about to depart from the States to go to Madagascar got their program cancelled. Katherine was in that training group and they all got reassigned across Africa – she’ll be going to Mauritania to do forestry work instead. Not quite the same gig as in Madagascar but there’s something so beautiful about living where people really have it rough - I don’t mean like war-torn areas – I mean like in the desert. I hope she ends up in a good place and can help save the world from deforestation. I know she’ll do great!

[It's food season! (The no-food season is when it's raining and everything's growing). This is about what I can get for $1! Basically I have become a vegetable eating machine.]

Good News:
The Lycée I live next to and I collaborated to put together a Peace Corps Partnership Proposal for a big reforestation project at the school. Peace Corps itself doesn’t give us money to fund project since the vast majority of our work is meant to not involve funding, and shouldn’t for that matter. But there are certain cases where you can still work within the philosophy of the Peace Corps with funding to help. That’s what Peace Corps Partnership does. It’s a program to match potential projects with donors in America who want to help out a community that’s motivated to get a project going. In order to apply you need a minimum contribution of 25% from the community. The projects get posted on the Peace Corps website and anyone can donate. I was so surprised to find that in less than 2 weeks of my project going on the web it was fully funded! We had asked for almost $2000 and all but $50 dollars given by my parents (thank you!) was given by the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Madison! We learned about this group when we were learning about Peace Corps Partnership. I was convinced that the rainy season would come before the money would, making the project unfeasible for this year – but we have been saved! Now to figure out how to thank them.

To make the project fit in with the philosophy of the Peace Corps, we’re making it as student-run as possible and as low-budget as possible. We’ve chosen native tree species that are not often eaten by animals and found price-cutting strategies to keep costs down (using empty discarded water bags instead of buying seedling bags for example). We’ll also bring in a local expert to train the teachers who will train the students in how to grow seedlings, saplings and how to plant trees and take care of them. Hopefully by July we’ll be able to put over a thousand trees in the ground, which is pretty barren right now. As I said in the project proposal, this particular area of Bagré is in a river valley and should be full of trees, but the tree growth is really very sparse, and I hope that the whole community can learn from the example of the school! I’ll send updates and pictures when I can or when we’ve actually accomplished something.

[Andrea came to visit me! And she's Taiwanese like the Taiwanese members of the NGO in my village who work with the rice fields. Here we are visiting some rice.]

We just finished our second trimester for the year and are enjoying spring break. And unlike breaks in America where even though you’re on vacation you have 354232 things to do or 4434 places to go and don’t actually end up relaxing, I am extremely relaxed. I have basically nothing to do and am enjoying 1.5 weeks off with the dog, cat, Moussa and the fan. For some reason, the trimesters get shorter from the first to the third, so that the third trimester that’s coming up won’t even be 2 months. Nothing really drastic to report at school, other than, like last year at this time, there’s no more money. The teachers’ base salary still comes from the state but all the hours they work on top of that is for free for now. I’ve gotten really good at all that by-hand grade tabulation stuff now. It really works out for the best if you grab a couple of your best students and make them help you out with some of the busy work (i.e. someone writes rank on the board while you call out averages).

I’m still teaching life skills to the ninth grade. But to tell you the truth, I have not figured out how to manage the boys. I also do extra-help math class with them, but at least in math I clearly have the upper hand and they are struggling to keep their heads above water which limits the amount of cocky, annoying, disruptive behavior they give me in class. So, being as fed up as I am, I’ve just started asking the boys to leave and working with the girls. There’s enough girl-focused material anyway that it can’t hurt. It’s too bad I can’t manage the boys but I attribute it to two things: 1) the class size is 75 students and 2) the boys ages range from 16-22 which is hard to work with even if there were 3 of them. Anyway, the girls don’t mind getting extra attention (there’s only about 20 of them).

[Here's Moussa relaxing in my yard with one of Barak Obama's books (thank you Addie!).]

Actually I made a really funny French mistake for the first time in a while (not that I don’t make plenty of mistakes but they’re not usually that funny) when I was asking the boys to leave the other day. A few were hanging back and told me that they wanted to stay and even though they were the good students I had to make them leave anyway which I kind of felt bad about. One of them gave me the reason “But teacher, you’re forgetting that there are two sexes, not just one.” What I wanted to say to him was that “No I haven’t forgotten, it’s just that there’s a problem with the male sex” but what I said instead would be best translated as “No I haven’t forgotten, but there’s a problem with your penis!” (sexe means gender and genitals and I didn’t use the you plural I used the you singular so it was like I was telling him personally that there was a problem with his penis). Ooops. The class loved it.

One of the reasons I’ve been asked to do this extra-help math class is because the math teacher we have is, by anyone’s standards of teaching, horrible. He’s new this year. Last year two of our teachers were (only partially their fault) victim to one of the state’s harsh lashing-outs against corruption. I’ll explain: at the end of each school year, there are the national exams that the 5th, 9th, and 12th grades have to take. They are written and taken at the school that the kids attend. To avoid problems, they assign teachers to grade the tests at a different school. Some of our teachers were sent down to Bittou, half way between here and the Togo boarder, and that’s where the problems started. Before the grading started, they were approached by a superior and asked to take money (10,000 F cfa ~ $20) to change the grades of some students’ tests. The woman refused. The man fought but finally took the money to get the person off his back but said he wouldn’t change the grades. Later it was discovered (someone else ratted the guy out) that this had been going on and the two colleagues from my school got punished for not ratting the corrupter out themselves. That’s right: even the woman, who refused, got punished. The man, I can understand him needing to get a slap on the wrist, but what they did instead was just way to harsh in the opinion of even the people here. They were both stripped of their jobs and their teaching licenses. That means that not only are they unemployed but they are no longer able to ever work again as teachers which is really serious since it is what they have been spending all of their education on up until that point. It’s not so easy to switch jobs here as it is in America because of the specialized training needed to apply for so many jobs. The man also had to serve a month in prison, and I assure you that the prisons here are not like the prisons where I’m from.

[Here's me and my 7th grade class!]

So we got replacements, be it over a month after the new school year started, but we got them. We were a little surprised at how easily we got a replacement for the former math/physical science teacher because they are by all accounts the most rare kind of teacher. But no, the state sent a math/PS teacher from Garango on the double and we thought we were saved. We were wrong. The new teacher was one of those people that from the first minute you met him, you knew he was probably going to be problems. Coffee, tea, beer, cigarettes, anything stimulating/mind-altering he could get his hands on he took, even if it was between classes. And he is a very small person – small in build and skinny – with a huge inferiority complex, making even relationships with other colleagues challenging. We thought he had been sent here by choice, since rumor has it that he knocked up one of the 7th graders here last year and maybe he wanted to be a father, but no, it seems that Garango was trying to get rid of him.

Teaching math and physical sciences is not a small thing. I means that you’re holding two of the most important and difficult classes in the exam year, 9th grade, and based on how well you do your job and how well the students do theirs, you either have a high success rate or a low one at the end of the year. So when we learned that the new teacher was not just not teaching well but verbally abusing the students, we didn’t know what to do. His general teaching style is to rush through lessons, giving too difficult and abstract examples and not EVER allowing a student to ask a question. Ok I guess he would allow a student to ask a question, but the consequences that the student would suffer because of the question, no matter what the question, would make him not ask it in the first place. What would he do, you ask? Anything, well first of course he would insult the student for being so dumb to ask such a question, and then either send the student outside or take points off of his next grade or something equally ridiculous. This turns his classes into silent lecture halls, where even the misbehaved boys I can’t handle don’t speak. He calls them dogs (very insulting here), tells them they’re dirty, tells them they’re idiots and that there are students in this country who deserve him but he’s stuck here wasting his time on students that vaut rien (are worthless). Sometimes he’ll come to class and just sit there for 2 hours and stare at them, not saying a word. Sometimes he’ll come to class, drunk, and set up some sort of evaluation for the class where everyone is doomed to fail and most people will be humiliated. All in all we realized that almost no one was passing his classes and that if his grades were an accurate reflection of how well they master the material then no one would pass the national exam either.

Why doesn’t my headmaster fire him? He can’t – teachers are assigned by the state and the headmaster has no more ability to fire him or tell him how to teach than I do. So lacking any other solution, and not being able to confront the teacher, I was told to start doing extra-help classes 2 hours a week. What a mess. Really.

CSPS (Health Clinic):
I started volunteering with the village clinic and I’m finally getting along with my boss. At first, she was really cold and strange and I just thought maybe this was because everyone says she’s kind of cold and strange in general but then it became very clear that she was not very comfortable with my being there. Some days she would barely greet me (which almost a slap in the face here – I take that back – to purposely not greet someone IS a slap in the face). I don’t know, maybe she though I was there to judge her or criticize her or be some sort of undercover inspector or something or maybe she just has really low self-confidence. Anyway I tried my best to play a little bit dumb, like I didn’t have 5 more years of schooling than her, and it worked out for the best. I feel accepted there now. Anyway she’s getting married in a week so she’s in a good mood.

Basically we weigh babies and give them vaccines. Babies from 1-3 years should come in once a month and get put in these sacks and hung like meat from a standing scale and we weigh and record their weights. If mothers do this regularly then they can see if their baby is putting on weight properly or, as happens here sometimes, is losing weight and how much. Getting mothers to come in regularly is practically impossible even if everyone involved wants it to happen. The babies hate it – that feeling of being suspended and often cry so much and flail around so much that getting an accurate weighing is practically impossible too. We try. The maternity part of the clinic is one room with benches along the sides of the room and on Tuesdays and Thursdays when the weighing happens the room gets stuffed so full of women that there’s a crowd standing outside the door and women lining all the walls with their breasts all hanging out and babies everywhere. African women often talk very loudly when they are in a heated conversation, even if it is just about the price of tomatoes, and between the heat and the volume, it’s all a lot to get used to.

[This is one of the life skills activities I did with the ninth grade. You're not going to get that much out of the picture unless you can read French or have a lot of time and a dictionary. We talked about gender roles how they vary by culture. I asked them to put each of the words on the cards into one of three columns on the board according to the values of their culture: Man, Woman, or both. They cards ranged from things like power, asking for sex, sweeping, digging graves, cooking etc. Then we did the whole activity again but this time according to who could physically do what (logically everything except giving birth ends up in the both column). Then for their amusement I did the activity myself, showing them my culture. If you can actually read French or want to try, click on the image and have a look at what these kids see as their culture's gender roles.]

One day I came into the clinic to tell the women I weigh babies with that I wouldn’t be there the following week and I found the room practically empty with only 3 women sitting there. I knew one and sat beside her. I saw no signs of the nurse but I was picking up strange words in the Mooré conversation I was trying to eavesdrop on next to me. They were talking like someone was giving birth but I saw no evidence of that at all. Then after a few minutes a very old woman came out and said it was a boy. Everyone cheered. WHAT?!? I thought – how could someone have just given birth in the room over with the door open and I didn’t even know? The old woman reappeared with the baby and took him to the next room. Less than 15 minutes later the mother appeared – a Fulani girl who couldn’t be older than 16. She walked alone to the room where her baby was and I pretended not to be as shocked as I was inside. What does the birthing room look like, you ask? It’s actually just a metal and plastic cot that’s on the far side of the nurse’s office with a curtain that you can draw between her desk and the cot. One window. No running water (in the whole clinic actually).

I got electricity! I was so sad a couple months ago when I heard that the lycée was going to get partial electricity after all before I left but that my house was no longer being made a priority so I wouldn’t get to enjoy any light, Priority was given to the headmaster, of course, followed by my other direct neighbors to the left and behind. Not all the houses would be electrified because of money, of course, what else. The cost to put in the wires and light bulbs for each house runs about $300 so the school budget could only afford three houses this year. They also managed to electrify 3 classrooms and the administration building. One step at a time I guess. Anyway, after a couple weeks I had pretty much dealt with not having electricity, since I had made it over a year and a half without it and was happy it wasn’t a big deal to finish out my service in the dark. I at least could be sure that it would probably be the only time in my life that I would have to live without light. It did look a little ridiculous though when you looked at the school housing because there were three houses electrified and then mine in the middle of them, in the dark. Raised a lot of questions.

[This is the bandit cat. Could his ears be any bigger?]

Then one night Danny caught me as I was walking Turtle behind the Proviseur’s house one night. He said he had a secret, and that I couldn’t tell anyone. I thought he was just going to ask me for something so I kind of blew him off but he seemed excited so I let him talk. “If God is great, then you will have electricity tomorrow,” he said, grinning from ear to ear. I grabbed his wrist and dragged him 25 feet more away from the house. “What do you mean if God is great, what does God have to do with my getting electricity; what are you talking about?” I asked. He explained that the Proviseur had just gone to market and gotten one big light bulb, one socket, and the other related materials needed to install partial electricity in my house. “But they said there was no money!” I told him, convinced Danny had no idea what he was talking about. Actually he did. They were not going to give me fuil electricity with my own meter. They were just going to connect a wire from the headmaster’s house to mine, as if they were taking electricity from a house to a shed, and do enough work so that I could have one light bulb and one socket.

Well it is Burkina Faso, after all, and what with finding the electrician, making an appointment, having him blow off the appointment, and then finally show up, it took more like 2 weeks than 1 day, but who’s counting. Moussa saw the sunset approaching the day of the appointment, and saw that no work had been done to prepare the ground for the line that would have to cross the lawn between our houses, so he took a pick axe and started digging. Danny immediately relieved him but with in 10 minutes Danny showed us his bleeding palms and admitted it was his first time using a pickaxe and he didn’t know how to do it without hurting himself. Moussa took back the axe and finished the work just in time for it to get pitch dark and for the electricians to finish their work inside. The light is long, about 4ft. and provides enough light to work anywhere in the living room. I bought a surge protector and so now I can plug in as much as I want! I still forget often that I have light, especially when I get home after dark. The reflex to turn on the flashlight on my cellphone wins out and I stumble around my house for a few minutes before realizing that if the neighbors could see me they would be laughing because I’d forgotten about the light switch. Unfortunately though light allows me to work later, I don’t get that much more time because little did I know it but by about 10 pm the mosquitoes in the house are actually so bad that even if you’re wearing bug repellant and long pants you won’t be able to think straight. Best to go to bed at 9 like I always did, safe under my mosquito net.

All of this work should have already been done, I should add. Total electrification was in the building plans and everything. But like with the courtyard walls that are actually just chicken wire fences or the indoor showers that are actually outdoors or the equipped laboratory that is bare and unfinished, there is often a difference between what is promised and what is done. The difference of course ends up as spare change in the pocket of the builder.

[This is a bad picture of what I think is a Great Blue Heron in our resevoir. Am I wrong?]

The best consequence of electricity at a school is without a doubt the fact that students now have a lighted place to study in the evenings. For some their houses have light, for most they don’t, but either way it’s nice to see that students are able to come and have a quiet, focused place to work at night. I ask myself when my school out in the sticks will ever get electricity; maybe in 30 years. It was relatively easy to get electricity to the lycée because the electricity that is produced by the hydroelectric dam that goes towards Ouaga travels down the main road of Bagré for a while, directly passing the lycée. That electricity gets diverted and cuts across the country side away from the road before my school, and of course, before the actual village of Bagré. It’s amazing that a village whose river produces a good chunk of electricity for this country doesn’t even get electrified itself. The fact that a school 1 km away from the source of the electricity, directly next to where the electricity passes, took over 2 years to get partial electricity is just ridiculous.

Mice pretty much took over my house. I’d buy tomatoes and wake up and find half of them gone. Not like 3 out of 6 gone but like one half of each of the 6 tomatoes gone. They started running around the house as if I didn’t really live there, sure that nothing was going to get them. I’d find about a nest a week, in a box, under my stove, in a hole dug in the wall, and have to fish out the screaming babies and throw them outside. The ands of course do the same thing since Africa ants and America ants are not the same thing. There’s this species that is pretty large, I’d say each ant is about 1 centimeter long, their head is black but the rest of their body is amber and they are incredibly organized. When they find out that I’ve left some tea in a cup on the counter over night I wake up to find about 300 ants inside the cup drinking. They’re strong enough that they can carry away baby mice and they do so regularly. Being mice and not cats, killing the baby is another thing. They do the only thing they can do which is bite the baby so much that it bleeds to death and then carry it away to the nest.

They also ate into pretty much everything else – some things I’d never expect mice to bite into: my clothes, my sponge, my books, my bed frame, my mats, and my chairs. I decided it was time to get a cat – and so came Jack – the cat I put up a picture of a couple weeks ago. He’s pretty useless with mice right now at his age but nonetheless they all moved out as soon as they smelled cat in the house. He’s starting to catch lizards though so I hope that pretty soon if I go away for the weekend he’ll be able to feed himself alright.

One thing that’s pretty strange about him is that he nurses the dog. I mean the dog has no milk or anything, but I guess he likes the feeling, that’s all. The dog and he didn’t get along at all in the beginning but now they think they are mother and son. They play together and eat together and sleep together even though Turtle’s a giant next to him.

COS conference:

[This is me and one of my bestest buddies Caleb (though we never see each other because he practically lives in Niger) at our COS party! Go us!]

Just a couple weeks ago we had our COS (Close of Service) Conference. COS conference doesn’t mark the end of service, but is rather the final training you receive during your service about 5-6 months before the actual close of service. We were taught all sorts of things about what it’s like going back to America, reintegration, perks of being in the Peace Corps, all the endless administrative forms to file, how to find a job, how to interview, how to be normal again etc. There were 16 of us there (we started as 29). All in all we all found it to be a pretty traumatic experience. We were told that while most people manage to reintegrate (yes they actually said most not all), basically everyone has difficulty doing so and that the readjustment period usually lasts from 3 months to a year. Most people actually report that going back is harder than coming ever was. But they told us coping strategies – you know – like don’t go into Big Y the first week you’re home. The CD (Country Director) said about half of us ended up in his office in tears during the week. But actually looking back on it, I thought it was by far the best training conference we’ve had as far as how informative and how useful that information is.

[This is me and Danny's mom (my left), dad (my right) and his dad's other wife (left of the dad).]

One thing I worry about quite honestly is my English. While I’m probably justified in saying that I’m fluent in French now, my English has certainly taken a hit. Let’s hope that once I’m back I can keep the French fluency and get my English back too and that every time I see a black person in America I don’t start speaking French.

As far my post-Peace Corps plan goes, I guess it’s not that bad. I mean some people really have no idea at all what they’re going to do – or what they want to do for that matter – when they get back. It’s really true that the freedom you have after being a Peace Corps volunteer is really unmatched. You can apply the skills you learned during service here to pretty much any job – kind of like being a physics major but much more so.

[This is me and my neighbors' younger kids. Irene (e-ren) and Anicet (ah-nee-say) in my living room. Daniel's camera skills are unparalleled I must say.]

As for me, I’ve spent lots of long hours reading and listening and researching, trying to understand the difference between the aspects of training/a career in advanced practice nursing and training/a career as a doctor and which one I want to pursue. As much as financially I didn’t want it to be the answer, I’ve come to the conclusion that I really do want to pursue becoming a doctor. Eh, Peace Corps has really shown me that there’s always a solution – and I’m sure it’ll work out one way or another. And I’m not even saying that with a knot in my stomach like an American would – I really believe it now. Either way: 1 year of getting ready for med school + 1 year of applying and getting rejected + 1 year of applying and getting accepted will probably mean 3 years till I go which means that in the mean time I’ll be working doing who knows what. Ça va aller! For the time being, I’ve submitted an application to the UConn Post-Bac Program, which is for people like me looking to get ready to apply to med school.

My official COS (again, that’s Close of Service) date is July 29. I’ll be COSing with Marty and Caleb and Julia. My COS date is not the day I’m leaving the country – it’s just the day that I end my service. I’ll be coming home mid or late August or the beginning of September – depending on what happens with this Uconn Program and what not.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sorry I don't have time for a real post but I just wanted to show you a picture of my new kitten! I got him about a month ago and he's here to kill the mice that are taking over my house. Oh, and that's a guinea hen head, his pacifier. His name is Jack (jakuma means cat in Dioula).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Christmas in Bagré / New Year's in Toussiana

Happy (late) holidays everyone. Last holiday season I spent on the coast of Ghana but this year I did it up village style. Christmas was chez moi in Bagré and then after a stop over in Ouaga we continued on south to Toussiana to celebrate New Year's and see the family there.

For Christmas I decided to get a sheep. Usually functionnaires flee the village to go to the cities during school breaks but once I started talking about a sheep, I noticed that people's travel plans started after Christmas instead of before. Buying a sheep, while a fairly common thing in village, is not that easy to do as a white person. Naturally the thing to do was to delegate the task to someone else. So first we tried to get one through a Peul (the ethnicity that raises livestock) high school student at the lycée. They kept saying that the sheep was coming, the sheep was coming, but no sheep. Finally, one day late and at night, the students showed up on a moto with a sheep in their arms. I'd saved up 60 dollars for the sheep, so it should have been a real big one. The sheep they'd brought was more like a 35 dollar sheep, but they were asking 50. After much questioning we found out that the students had told the sheep's owner that it was professors who wanted to buy a sheep, which explains why the price was so high. We told them to take their sheep and go. And they did.

The next strategy was to ask the old man who is the watchman for the school to do it for me. A real villageois, the man doesn't speak any French and wears a long boubou and muslim cap everyday. He rides a bike around and often puts his youngest baby in the basket in front of the bike. I told him in broken Mooré that I wanted to buy a sheep, how much money I had, and the day we needed it by. I asked if he could got to market the following day and he said that he couldn't - that he needed to travel. I felt silly because it hadn't occurred to me that the old man did things like travel. Anyway, the following market day, which was Christmas Eve, he went to market with a colleague and i wished them good luck (may god let them find a good sheep). I didn't see them for over 2 hours. I was convinced no one had brought sheep to market that day and that Christmas would be sheep-less but just as I was giving up hope they came barreling into the school yard on Oued's moto with the guardian holding the sheep on the back. He was beautiful! Cost: $55. He's pictured there below with me and Moussa's brother Brama who was visiting from the Cote d'Ivoire, which is the other big news. Brama, and all of Moussa's direct family, lives on the Coast of the Ivory Coast and while all the kids are Burkinabé, they've never been to their own country. So Brama, at the age of 24, took a tour of his country and got to see where his people come from.

He's the only one of us who actually says his 5 daily prayers, so he was the one to slaughter the sheep. I thought that coming to a place where one day animals are alive and the next they are on your plate would make me either like playing with animals less or like eating them less.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Holidays everyone. Here are pics from Tabaski and the forced vacation in Beguedo. An and Moussa and I played lots of scrabble, ate lots of sheep and had a good week of relaxation.

Sorry it’s been so long guys – being on the internet just doesn’t come easily here and when I do get online, there seem to be other things that need to get done.

Wow the election was exciting, wasn’t it? I don’t know how it was at home (everyone said it was a true drama) but here people followed along with anticipation and hope. I voted via an Absentee Ballot and the help of the diplomatic pouch, for yes, Barack Obama, like there was any question. As the days got closer, everyone seemed to be counting down – even BBC wouldn’t stop talking about it – hell, even my 7th graders wouldn’t stop talking about it. BBC World Service focus on Africa has become somewhat like listening to CNN without the flash of the TV. They talk about America about half the time and about the rest of the world mixed with random stories and amusement for the rest of the time. The amount of emphasis placed on America and what our government’s doing is really remarkable. Really takes getting out of the country to see just how much the rest of the world follows what’s going on chez nous. Not like they have a choice.

The day before the election I took a 2 hr. break from math with my 7th graders and gave them election info 101. Unlike how little American students learn about Africa in middle school, 7th graders here spend their whole year in Geography studying America. Some of them have televisions but 95% of them are living in mud huts without TV so while they all seemed to know about Barack (how couldn’t you even with a short wave radio) – they were a little mixed up about who stood for what and why. So I taught them about Democrats and Republicans, some generalities of both parties, taught them which party Bush was from, which party Clinton was from and then opened up the floor for questions. Got ALL SORTS of questions like:

Who is Bill Clinton?
Who is his wife?
Can a woman be president?
Who is Osama Bin Laden?
Does Osama Bin Laden exist?
Is he dead?
Why does the US want to find him?
Why did the US start a war in Iraq?
Why won’t you leave Iraq?
Who attacked the US in 2001?
Why does America like war so much?
What are you doing in Afganistan?
How much money does the president have?
How much does a functionnaire (someone who works for the state like a teacher) make in the US?
How much does someone who washes dishes make in America?
How much does a sheep cost in America?
Does it snow a lot there?
How much do tapettes (flipflops) cost there?
How much does benga (beans and rice) cost there?
Do you have mangoes there?
What is the economic crisis?
Why do people say it’s the US’s fault?
Is Barack really black? (Here they would say no, he’s not, actually – he’s a mélange).
Is his wife black?
How many black people are there in America?
How much does it cost to fly there?

And then election night: I followed BBC until I couldn’t stand to even look at another test I had to correct and it became clear that we wouldn’t even have the East Coast’s results until after midnight. BBC cuts out for me after a certain hour and I’d made arrangements with my parents to call me every hourish after midnight with any results they might have. At about 2, Addie called me and said that we don’t know anything really and that she’d call me back at 4. At 3 I started getting text messages from people asking if anything was for sure and at 4 I started getting phone calls with people trying to tell me that Barack had won. Some were not so effective, like Tiana’s:
“Elizabeth,” said as if to a kindergartener since I was half asleep, “I just wanted to tell you – click” The network cut out. But that was enough. I reached around the bed for the radio and found BBC and started replying to the messages and calls. McCain was giving his concession speech. Then Obama spoke and because the cell phone’s so cheap in the middle of the night and the early morning, I spent the rest of the time before school talking about what had happened.

Got to school and told my 7th graders and they CHEERED like he was a celebrity and their president. Amazing. All the day people shook my hand and congratulated me. Many congratulated me in they way one would if I had had a baby or passed a really important test, a long handshake with touching of the foreheads 4 times, side to side. My director took me out for a coke and a chicken to celebrate. Doesn’t beat that.

In other news the Harmattan has arrived! Not my favorite time of year, but sure beats the hot season. The Harmattan is the hot dry wind that blows off the Sahara and dries out EVERYTHING. I don’t mean like a breeze, I mean like a constant wind all day. I bike to school and (if only candid camera were there) the head on wind and the sandy roads slow me down so much sometimes that I just stop. Stop and then laugh at myself.

The Taiwanese, in preparation for the Ambassador’s visit, scraped the main roads in the village with their big machines so that there wouldn’t be so many holes and giant rocks as you see after the rainy season and it would make the visit nicer for the Ambassador but unfortunately it destroyed the roads. They just turned to dust. No not sand – DUST. Now a moto makes a dust cloud that a car would have made before and my dog makes a dust cloud like a moto used to make. A car or a big truck lifts so much dust into the air that it settles over the surrounding fields like morning fog. They promised to fix the roads and lay down new dirt but it’s slow going. Meanwhile I have the first sinus infection of my life and am on antibiotics thanks to the dust. Turtle coughs and so do the chickens.

Turtle followed me to school every day and then one day she just stopped. She follows me to this invisible line just before market and then just stops. Maybe she realized she doesn’t have to follow me or something. Strange. Just one day up and stopped. She’s overall well. Energetic as a 6 month old puppy and runs like the wind. Her pregnancy was in fact a fake. Her stomach shrank and her breasts got tiny again. But now there’s a new problem. I’m not a doctor but it seems like her uterus is prolapsed. Her cervix is visible from the outside. I don’t know how much worse it will get and there’s nothing to do but wait and see because there’s really nothing to do. She doesn’t seem to notice. She terrorizes the neighborhood dogs and runs circles around them.

Today I saw a strange African thing. Once in a while someone like this comes through town: a man with about 15 dogs following him. They say that some people have the power to get dogs to do this. They find someone who wants to get rid of their dog or just a stray dog, give them this certain food and then the dog will follow them. A man came through town like that today. Strange.

We also had a féticheur (not sure how to translate that – like someone who practices traditional medicine / fetish / magic stuff) come through town and he gathered a crowd all day long. Little bags filled with different powders, parts of animals (heads, bones, tails, furs, teeth) and all sorts of rings with different powers, mostly protective, all presented in a very alluring/entertaining way. I think part of the reason non-africans have such a hard time believing the traditional medicine type stuff is because it always seems to be next to black magic or other things that really don’t have to have anything to do with traditional healing. I’m determined to see some magic before I leave.

You all following the mess in the DRC?

Two Burkina Peace Corps were very lucky the other day when their bus slammed into a tree, replacing the driver’s seat with the tree trunk. They were evacuated to South Africa (not exactly right around the corner is it?) for medical care and are fine. We had a horrible accident on Saturday that made it onto BBC actually. I heard “In Burkina Faso …” and I knew that if Burkina had made it on the news it couldn’t be anything good. A bus carrying 75 people heading south of Ouaga en route to the Côte d’Ivoire slammed into a sugar truck and burst into flames killing 59. No there’s no ICU here.

I got in an accident with a moto a few weeks back as I was biking home from school. I really don’t know how, but I was fine. Just skin injuries. With the speed the man was going I should have been really hurt. It was his fault. There were like 30 students and 15 peasants who gathered around to watch. My director came to my rescue and lectured the man and took me and my battered bike back home.

School’s carrying on pretty well. I’m kept really busy – teaching my 6th graders about flowering plants and math and my 7th graders about non flowering plants and math. I look forward to teaching now which is a nice change. Only downside this year is that I’m the only woman secondary teacher in the village – so at staff gatherings I’m really the odd one out. Oh and a colleague told me today that the statistics say that the average number of children that a woman in Burkina has is 6. SIX.

We finished out our first trimester of school. Despite various administrative problems including a week of canceled school because of the government's wanting to avoid protests/demonstrations by the people against their unacknowledged assassination of a journalist Norbert Zongo 10 years ago.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

pictures! (explanations to come!)

Where the electricity will one day be in my house. This is my shelf of last minute things i need before leaving the house. Bug spray, sun block, emergency phone numbers, dust masks and Tiana reminding me to take my phone.

Summer rain in Toussiana.

Mmmm sautéed bat.

Burkinabe car. Mom and fam coming home from fields.

One of the two buildings of my school. Four classrooms in that building.

Peanut harvest chez moi. The kids in the pictures are from two ethnicities (Mossi and Peul) can you see it? Boy in the yellow shirt is Danny.

Beautiful bird, forgot the species name. Actually a very small bird.

Me very very tired in a car going to visit An with the Taiwanese in their truck.

Turtle hates cameras. This is my living room, by the way.

Moussa's mom and I in her courtyard in the Ivory Coast.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Kids in Bagre Village. This is that so-familiar 'what are you?' look. They stood there for 5 minutes like that.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ca fait deux jours! (It's been a while...)

Hi everyone, it's been about two months since I wrote last, and in that time I've been doing mostly non-Peace Corps typical things.

There was of course the mad dash to get school finished, including a mind-splitting amount of by-hand or by-calculator grade and rank calculations for both the third trimester and for the end of the year. I worked ahead without hardly any procrastination (amazing I know) and it took me almost three whole days at school to do the calculations. Oh if we only had our grades on computers...

Then there was the scandal about money. My director had told the teachers to continue doing their work and report their year end grades because there was no need to go on strike because the money they deserved was coming, it was only a matter of time. Nope: it was a lie. Money didn't come, wasn't coming in time for school to end, the director told the teachers as they showed up for their last obligation of the year: the end of school meeting. The director had won - instead of the teachers' withholding their grades in order to force their salaries to come - the teachers had already done their work, and telling them on the morning of the end of school meeting meant there was nothing anyone could do about it. The teachers were livid and we went around the back of the school for a meeting before the end of year meeting. After lots of yelling and anger, the teachers struck a deal and went to sit down to get the meeting started.

Directly after, I was taken to the intersection about 20 km from the village to wait for a car going in the right direction. After I found one, I made my way to the capital and made myself at home there for a few weeks. First was (Peace Corps loves acronyms!) TDE (training design and evaluation), a week of closely analyzing and revising the pre-service training program to improve the whole thing for the new guys coming in at the beginning of June. Pete and I went to represent the teachers side of things. After TDE was a week of TOT (training of the trainers) where everyone who was scheduled to be a facillitator in the next pre-service training came to learn about what we had talked about in TDE, what we changed, and some basic information everyone should know.

Then i went back to village and just RELAXED for not even a week before being called go to up to the capital again to meet the new people at the airport! Babette, Chrissy, Kevin and I met them their first night and were there to support them during their first four days in the country before they moved up to the north where they would train. Boy my first impression of them was that these American people, they sure are white, fat and clean! It was a very memorable experience to get a glimpse of what I and my stage-mates looked like and how far we've come (not just on the fat, white and clean side of things, obviously). After their first few days we went up to Ouahigouya with them and I stayed with them for their first two weeks of training, helping be a role model, support system, and teacher. They're all really cool and I hope they all stay. One thing that was weird was that they pretty much had all read this blog before coming and so they knew who I was before I knew them ... they also knew strange details about me and my digestive system, dog, and village.

After my work in pre-service training, I went back to the captial to meet with VAC (the volunteer student counsel, basically). Meetings went well, and are a great deal more organized now than I remember their being when I first joined VAC.

After VAC came AMERICA! Very clearly, indisputably the BEST vacation of my life. So good in fact that it made me want to quit my job. Amazing food, amazing people, and ballroom dance everyday! Also... comfortable couches, microwaves, glass windows, grocery stores, cold wine, junk food, big TVs, fast internet, starches other than rice, vegetables as big as your head, dogs that are treated better than any single person in this village, flowers, driving, exercise bikes possessing none of the negative characteristics of actual biking, showers with strong water pressure, clean hair, clean feet, hot dogs, seemingly unlimited ice cream, and a bed that doesn't form and stay formed to your body. Also, I never knew that the transatlantic flights which seemed so horrendous on my way over to BF could seem so luxurious and roomy after the horrors of transport here. I was carrement a l'aise! Did you know that Royal Air Maroc actually served me bread and lox???

My mother turned 71 while I was home. It's ok, parents, if you get as old as dirt, but at least stay healthy!

Came back to Burkina the night of the 23rd, I guess actually the morning of the 24th. The 24th was ok since I was just sleeping off the travel, but the 25th made me just want to go back home. I'm back in village now... trying to cheer up about the whole thing, but it's hard to do since everyone has fled village during the school vacation. Either they've left the village for the summer or they're out in the fields. SO that leaves me and the dog, and books, and that bed that forms to my body and stays that way, the mosquitoes, and silence.

Katherine's coming to visit next week, and I'm super excited to have a guest! Especially one who is of the joining-the-peace-corps-is-a-good-idea mentality rather than a I-don't-like-bugs-and-nature-and-dirt mentality.

Anyway, I'm alive, everything's fine, AmericaLand is paradise (you should go see this place if you haven't already), and I'll write more when there's something to write.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Nothing about me this time. I'm sad to report that a Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana was killed this past Friday. She died in an automobile accident. I certainly never knew her but as PCVs we're all in this together and share in this tragedy together. Be safe everyone.