As a Peace Corps volunteer, a large portion of my day is just spent interacting with people in my village, hanging out and going through life’s motions. In Burkina Faso, as I assume in other places in the world, there is a large social dependence on chatting. I regularly have people come over to my house for no other purpose than to say ‘hello’ and make sure everything is well. It is not foreign to spend hours seated, talking. Sometimes, these hours aren’t even spent talking but rather being alongside others.
This past week I have been working a ton in Ouagadougou, the capital, to put together storybooks for children. In this round of work, myself and a group of volunteers will be producing ten different stories all completed in 6 languages: English, French, Moore, Jula, Fulfulde, and Goumantchema. We collected the stories in our villages, wrote a few, and then adapted a couple out-of-copyright western tales. The artwork came from both volunteers and Burkinabe. This whole project was started out of a need to develop reading materials in local languages for preschool-aged children. Currently, no such resources exist and those kids lose out on a prime time to build a base for a future of learning. Their future of learning also doesn’t always look favorable either, but this is the best place for us to start. A thank you is needed for my Mother, for helping to fund this project in the first round. As it grows we will be searching for additional funding, ideally from larger organizations here in Burkina and abroad.
It has been just over two months since I have posted anything on here. It is not so much that my life has been devoid of adventure and intrigue. Peace Corps is always an adventure, yet not always a glamorous one. In the US, everyone has good days and bad days. That is just a fact of life. Here, however, the swings seem much more drastic but it almost has to be expected. It would be hard for me to have the intense excitement of an impromptu hippo hunt in Indiana. At the same time, heartbreak and work frustrations get super charged when you don’t have the easy ability to call up a friend and meet up for drinks, head to the gym to blow off steam, or just say “today is for me, I’m going to take it easy and relax. Go to a movie alone, order Chinese, then take a walk down town.” For me, a completely nebulous schedule and copious amounts of time for self-introspection can be an opportunity to build myself into a better grounded and skilled person and then just as easily shift to self deprecating destruction and personal dismantling, then back again within the course of an afternoon as I serve in Burkina.
In Burkina, I am helping with an initiative to create resources for kindergartens. Currently, few early childhood learning opportunities exist. As Americans, we likely grew up with picture books, hidden pictures, puzzles, and mazes. These tools introduce the concept of written word, expand critical thinking, and develop fine-motor skills. Burkinabe village children are essentially without such resources and many volunteers and development workers feel this hampers their education throughout the rest of their life.
My main work assignment is the Union de Etuve et Transformation de Riz de Banzon (UDTER-B). I more easily refer to it as the Women’s Rice Association. They process rice from the field into the ready to cook product we know. I will be helping them on the business side first and foremost, since I really had no clue how rice was processed until a few months ago. The women need help with general management, bookkeeping, budgeting, marketing, and computer training.
You want to know how you process rice though? I thought so! First you take dried rice from the field that is still in the chaff and steep the rice in hot water to help separate the kernel from the chaff. You then have to dry the rice again because if you try to fully remove the kernel now you’ll end up with a pulpy mess (no, I don’t know from personal experience). All the water used in this process is drawn hand over hand from a well, hundreds of gallons each day. The rice is raked across a very large concrete pad and dried with the help of the abundant African sun. The concrete pad has to be swept clean to make sure you don’t end up with too many rocks in the final product. Yes, too many rather than no rocks. It’s village-processed rice, what do you expect?
I have finished my first three months at site where my main objective was to learn the needs of Banzon and my primary assignment. Following my period of study (Etude), I went to general In-Service Training and then language In-Service Training with an Information Communication and Technology committee meeting sandwiched in-between. After being out of site for nearly a month, I returned to spend Christmas and New Years in Banzon.
On the whole, Christmas wasn’t all that different. Yes, it wasn’t cold and I was roughly five thousand miles away from my friends and family in the US, but the other essentials were covered. I went to a catholic midnight mass service that was done in both French and Jula. Mass took nearly four hours, and contained the standard readings in two languages with very nonstandard music. Christmas morning, I opened the presents my parents had sent me that included a miniature Christmas tree and my normal stocking of new underwear. The rest of the day was filled with eating and lounging with my new friends of family of Banzon. Christmas evening was probably the most fun, when I went out to the local bar for dancing.
A one minute excerpt of a ten minute song from the four hour christmas eve midnight mass in my village. It’s far from a traditional catholic mass. http://soundcloud.com/tyleredwardlloyd/burkina-midnight-mass
When it comes to the lodging lottery, I think I did well. My house would not be considered a winner by American standards, or maybe even a house, but I think it’s pretty nice. I have a good porch with a great porch chair where I tend to do most of my work planning (as well as reading, day dreaming, sitting, and morning coffee drinking). The first room in my house is actually my bathroom. My Peace Corps friends find that very much out of place and I am sure my other friends will find it odd as well, but for very different reasons.
A movie of the knife I had made, as mentioned in my previous post.