Thursday, September 22, 2005

finishing the post with the ridiculously long title and starting another one - and this one has dragons!

Alright, where was I?

We're in Banfora after an attempted screwing by our waiter. It soured us a little bit but a good day was coming up. We went to bed that night with the wonderful knowledge that we would be making our first trip to a mcdonalds in more than 5 months.
We arrived there just in time for a late brunch (also known as lunch). The first thing you notice upon entering the banfora mcdonalds is the lack of golden arches, ronald mcdonald, the sign announcing 'quadrillions served', and the odd appearance of donald duck.
Alright, its not a vrai mcdonalds, but its damn close enough. The hamburgers were delicious and the french toast (a volunteer taught them how to make french toast) was excellent as well. You easily get the best bang for your buck here.
(Another) Legal Disclaimer Notice
to any McDonalds corporate executives, please do not sue the burikina mcdonalds.

After lunch, we decided to head out to see one of the very few tourist attractions in Burkina - Banfora Falls (where you can get schistosomiasis if you go in the worry! Yay!). We called up a driver, discuted a price and then took the taxi to the falls.
Once again, i cannot emphasize the lack of quality roads - Banfora Falls is one of the most popular tourist sites in Burkina but that does not mean at all that it is in anyway easily accessible. To add to the horrible road conditions and the 20 year old taxi (I'm not sure if all the cars here are really old or if Burkina just ages things - i already look ten years older, but that could be just the beard) it started raining.
About a mile or so away from the falls, one of the most horrible sounds I've ever heard from an automobile showed up. As I far as I could tell, the car was dead. We got out, and helped push it out of the middle of the road (a certain someone did not help at all, he is the one taking the picture on adam's web site, and also the one towards whom I am directing my hidden obscene gesture). Once the car started moving we saw oil all over the ground along with unidentifiable pieces of metal. The car wasn't going anywhere.
A minute or two later, a couple of burkinabes came along on motos and gave the driver a moto so he could go into town and search out some help while we walked to the falls. The burkinabes are really nice that way.
The falls were beautiful. The water, was not clear, but I choose to blame that on the rainy season. We spent an hour or two hiking up the falls and I ended up getting away from the group because I wanted to go to the very top. When I hiked back down to find the rest of them, i noticed a certain apprehension on their faces. It turns out another medical site visit was being attempted, this time to my site. When they found out I was not there, the acting Country Director called the Bobo house to ask if they knew where I and Risa were, and if they didn't she was going to send out a missing persons alert which would not have been good. The volunteer in Bobo wisely told her that we were in bobo and that she would have us call her later that night. So then our next order of business was to get back to bobo. First we had to hitch a ride from a car of functionnaires that was leaving the falls, then we high-tailed it to the bus station and got a ticket for the next bus to bobo - which of course broke down half way into the trip - things are never easy here. By the time we got back to bobo it was too late to call Rose (the acting CD) so we had to call her early next morning. After the phone call (in which she explained to me that the new CD was coming in that night and it would ultimately be up to her what would happen to us) a peace corps driver took us back to Ouaga (which was nice cause it saved me 6 mille). When we got there, we explained our situation to Rose, and she explained to us that it could be grounds for admin seperation (which means being fired) but that it would be up to the CD. This did not sound like good news to us as the word on the street about the new CD was that she was not exactly in favor of taking vacation and that she was not reluctant to admin sep volunteers.
So then we played the waiting game until next monday when we would get to talk to the CD. There are worse places to play the waiting game than in Ouaga and I took advantage of my time there to watch some baseball and some preseason football at the American Embassy Rec Center.
On monday we met with the CD and explained our situation (Risa actually had good reasons whereas my reason was an extreme longing for pizza - i don't like lying). We had to sign a form acknowledging that we knew that repeated actions in this manner could result it admin seperation and we lost vacation days. Losing vacation days suck, but it could of been worse, I could have been sent to the greatest country on earth (its nice to put admin seperation in perspective that way).

So that was my interdit vacation to bobo and banfora and that was how my site almost became known as tyleroutofafrica. Not too exciting, but it had its moments and i did have the honor of giving the new CD her first chance for disciplinary action. The verdict is still out on her but it is pretty clear that she is strict.
Right now I'm in Ouaga. I've been here for IST (In-Service Training - we go over our first 3 months in village and then prepare ourselves for teaching) which was extended another week for some supplemental language training. Its been nice. I've watched movies, used the internet, and soaked up air-conditioning at the bureau and i've also engulfed an unhealthy amount of pizza.
In addition, on the 16th of Sept. we celebrated our 6 month anniversary in Burkina. Here's the 6 month report card

Health - Overall - B-/C+
Physical Health - C+ - I don't have malaria, I have yet to have a confirmed bowel disease (although I certainly have giardia), I have only thrown up 4 times, and there have even been entire weeks without diarrhea, all in all not bad.
Mental Health - B - Almost certainly a little bit crazy. Being in Africa still seems surreal to me because the experience is so far away from anything I have ever known.

Integration - B-
Personal Relationships - B - I have a one solid Burkinabe friend in Salif, and several others who I would trust, although I do not have a village family like other volunteers.
Cultural Knowledge - B- - I have started always giving things to other people with my right hand, even to toubabs (thats whities again) and I have picked up Burkinabe idiosyncracies like 'Ou Bien' or 'En tout cas' or 'Ahhhh Bon.' (i'll explain those on a later post), and I have even, though it pains me to say it, started to become accustomed to the west african pop music, however, there are many things I still do not understand (such as the courting process) and i do not eat toh, nor do I use the tea-pot method (which while helping my intergration grade would certainly have an dramatic inverse effect on my health grade)

Work - B
Teaching - A - I haven't actually done any of this other than practice school but i really do think that I will be a great teacher, and there is nothing wrong with being positive right now.
Secondary work - B - I serve as the Encyclopedia Americana in village which is a clear example of goal two of the the Peace Corps and I also have some ideas for secondary projects in the village.
Language - B- - My french is decent, my moore is non-existent, although I did buy a new book which I hope will help me learn.

Total Experience - A/F
The grade might seem confusing but it is impossible to quantify my experience here. I so want someone to come visit me because if you do not come, you will never be able to understand my experience, and you will never be able to understand me completely again. I was talking to the other volunteers this past couple weeks about how we would never be able to use 'ou bien' or 'en tout cas' with any degree of effectiveness in America. Here, everyone cracks up when we use it because they have all seen how the words show up in every other sentence out of a burkinabes mouth. Its an instant joke, and even with my explanation, you'll never understand it.
In all likelihood, you'll never have a 30 year old man calmly and seriously ask you if there are dragons somewhere in the world. You'll never have to learn how to react to the information that eating too many potatoes will give you malaria, you'll never have a best friend who got married to a 14 year old girl, you'll never stand alone in front of 125 kids and teach them in a language you barely know while they try to understand a language they barely know, you'll never have kids yell out 'Whitey!' at the top of their lungs in five different languages (le blanc, naysaara, toubaboo, ombompinoo, and i forget the fulfulde one) every day while their parents stand by and say nothing, you'll never spend the better part of a week over a hole in the ground, you'll never have to wonder 'i know they're always staring at me but are they always talking about me too?' This list could last forever, and I haven't even talked about the sheer indescribable heat or dust storms that will cover this country from january to march.
But you'll also never have a complete stranger sitting on the bus next to you offer you food even though they are almost certainly starving for it, and you'll never stand in front of 125 kids who come from a completely different culture and have them completely interested in what you say, and you'll never go fishing in africa, and you'll never learn about how lightning punishes robbers, and you'll never wonder if dragons really do exist, and you'll never truly appreciate a cold sachet (water comes in plastic bags in africa) of water, and you'll never chase monkeys on african hilltops or be chased yourself by wild boars, and you'll never have beautiful young children come up to you and bow to you as you walk in the street, and you'll never hear about the gris-gris your friend has that will make him irresistable to any women, and you'll never be able to tell him that it doesn't work on white women, and you'll never eat toh, not even once, and you'll never marvel at a baobab tree, and you'll never know.
Its indescribable. I'm glad I'm able to share something with you on this blog, but it will never bring true comprehension of a stranger in a strange land, of naysaara on the mossi plateau. I've had times where I've been completely at peace with the world and times where I've been ready to reach for the plane ticket home. Who knows, we'll see what the report card looks like after 6 months.

In other news, I got a cell phone - this seems strange but almost every functionnaire in africa has a cell phone. The number is 70-70-83-90 and again, that means to call me you'll have to dial 01122670708390 (at least I think that's right). I don't have reseau (a connection) in my village, but we are supposed to be getting it soon, and even if we don't, I can almost certainly climb a hill and get a connection. So, call me, or text message me.
I should start teaching in the next couple of weeks. I'll be teaching four classes of Biologie, 6e - 3e, which will add up too around 400 kids. I'll probably have around 15 hours of teaching. We'll see, but it shouldn't be too bad. I know I'll be in Fada on the 14th or 15th and I'll post again then if not tomorrow on my layover in fada. That's all for now, later.



Anonymous Dad said...

Good to see your blog post again. I especially liked the last part about your total experience. I hope you will write some more observations about the people and culture around you.


5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your blog doing a Burkina search. I was in the Peace Corps in Burkina from 1997-1999. I taught English and American Lit at the University of Ouagadougou. Do you know if Le Blue House is still open in Ouaga? Great post, by the way. It's overwhelming to think about all the things you experience every day that very few people you know will understand. That's why it's important to write it all down. Good luck with everything, and keep up the writing!


2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tyler, I am Shenandoah's Mom and I just wanted to let you know that I love reading your observations of Burkina Faso. Shenandoah refuses to send letters or emails so I have really enjoyed reading your blogs. I like your sense of humor and I like the fact that you obviously do not follow the Peace Corps Rules ie. Almost Out of Africa! Next time you see Shenandoah tell I have disowned him and have adopted YOU! Looking forward to your next entry. Kathleen Sampson

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