Village Pottery – Burkina Faso

If you follow world news, you will have seen Burkina Faso’s name come up in the past few weeks. With the most recent president, Blaise Compare, ending his 27 years of reign after protest and revolt, the country is in a very interesting place. I hope the best for them.

I’ve heard from friends and family still in village that day to day life has changed very little given the political upheaval. Life goes on as they must work each day to ensure a tomorrow that provides little more than basic needs.

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I’m Back and I Feel Out of Place

Today marks 1 month since I came back from Burkina Faso. Today is also the second day of classes. I’m back at Indiana University to finish out my last two semesters for my two degrees. I first thought that it was going to be great to have something to come back to, going right back into a routine, for my transition from Peace Corps. I don’t know if I think that anymore.

This morning, I entered the library and sat at the same table that I sat at almost everyday, three years ago. The table was the same, but my friends weren’t going to be joining me. They’ve since then graduated. I’d hear the nearest door creak open and I would look up expecting Kegan, Eric, or maybe Carolyn to come through the door. No one came to join me. I sat there alone and felt even more alone.

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Reflecting on What Should Be A Life Changing Event

“Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed by a situation- when you’re in the darkest of darkness – that’s when your priorities are reordered.” –Phoebe Snow

The past few weeks have been some of the most trying and crazy weeks of my life. I, however, have come out on the other end better, stronger, and wiser after it was all said and done. It all started with the false positive HIV test that I wrote about in my post A New Future Derailed My Current Path. Although after much reflection, I don’t know if writing that blog post was the best idea or rather, maybe it was just the timing of the post. Hours after receiving the good news, high on endorphins and life, with the experience as fresh as it could be, I sat down and pumped out a quick summary of what had transpired over roughly 24 hours. I left out some details and concentrated on the heart thumping fact that I had tested positive for HIV. I think it was a great post. In fact, I think it was the best post I’ve ever written because it came from an organic passion and sense of urgency that’s hard to reproduce sans a trauma.

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"You've been here two years? It doesn't feel like two years, maybe less than one... It's because you're kind. If you're kind you could be here ten years and it would feel like you arrived yesterday and if you left for a few days it feels like a month." -Alu

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The Abandoned Cliff Village of Niansogoni

From the plains of Niansogoni, a monolith juts from the ground. Winding up a path that is quickly disappearing, being reclaimed by nature, you find remains of a culture now gone. Rock lines delineate past walls, fields. Scrapes in the stones, form mortars used to grind grain. Eventually, the regrowth forest gives way as the mountain curls back creating a roof, and you find yourself standing in the middle of an ancient village nestled in the alcove of the cliff. Only granaries and dwellings now remain, providing a glimpse of what once was. This was the village of the Wa, the Panther People.

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My Local Jeweler

A few months ago, I spent the day with my local jeweler. He has made a few rings for me and I’ve always been impressed with the quality, given what most would call a very crude setup. The silver he uses usually comes from either recycled jewelry or old french francs. The gold comes from local gold mines, and the other metals are usually found scrap. The jeweler learned his craft from his father. His family has traditionally worked as metal forgers, making not only jewelry but tools and weapons.

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A New Future Derailed My Current Path

Yesterday, I was told I tested positive for HIV.

I was called into the doctor’s office, after having blood drawn for my Peace Corps end-of-service physical, and was told I tested positive for HIV.

I sat there still, hearing the words be replayed in my head. I was told I tested positive for HIV.

How? The doctor asked if I had taken part in any potentially risky behaviors. Unprotected sex? Sex with high-risk partners? Intravenous drug use?

Then the doctor said, “Maybe it was your cut that was stitched in the local hospital… if sterile material wasn’t used. Its unlikely, but I just don’t know. Tyler, are you ok? You’re not reacting how I thought you would, how I would. What are you thinking? Do you have any questions?”

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My Village Sunday

Last sunday, I spent the whole day walking through village taking pictures. I left my house at 6AM and did not make it back to my house until dark. I discovered new paths, new people, and an entirely new village. For instance, I did not know that my village made pottery and ended up making friends with the pottery making family. They invited me back later in the week to take more pictures, film, and document their art (footage coming soon). The following are some of my favorite images from my village sunday.

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Thoughts From Under A Tree: Far From Buddha-like

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I've spent most of my service under this tree

Currently sitting under a mango tree trying to get some thoughts out onto the screen. As I type this, I realize that typing on a computer really has little of the romantic value associated with good old pen and paper copy. Yet, I don’t know if I would ever share the thoughts I write in pen as I journal. Not that what I’m journaling is a big secret or filled with scandal, but rather my journal musings are extremely raw, unfiltered, and usually a rambling mess. My journaling is a mixture of a mind dump, a brief recap updating my life, to-do lists, and a letter to my future self. This, I don’t know what this is.

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My Food Journey and Eating Meat

Over the past twelve years, eating has been a rather introspective and conscious activity for me. Whether for moral reasons, my personal health, or the health of the environment, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking and rethinking my food choices.

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