Sunday, April 29, 2012

my bed is a pool and the walls are on fire

 Today, I would like to complain about the heat.

I recognize that I am a third year volunteer. Thus, firstly, I should be used to this by now. But Bagre was much farther south and next to a huge lake, which kept things pretty cool. And secondly, it's not like I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I thought I was signing up for terribleness with my eyes wide open, ready to tackle another hot season. I thought.

Tema is a whole different story. It's much farther north, in sort of triangular valley that doesn't get rain. We have a pretty severe drought issue right now, and even though some early rains have been falling to the south, west, and east of us, we've only gotten a few drops. And a huge part of the problem is that with adding the 10 hours of english classes a week, I teach three afternoons in a row. I cannot express how dreadful that is in hot season.

And now, terrible examples of how hot it is. I don't know what the actual temperature is- maybe 110 degrees? 120? But I can express my extreme suffering. (Okay, it's not that extreme. But I can still hate it.)

  •  My cat looks like he's about to die. He wheezes as he pants, his tongue sticking out and his sides moving so fast I can't even count. Needless to say, it is highly discouraging.
  • When I get back from class, I burn my hand on my metal front door. I have to use a rag as a potholder, but for my door handle.
  • You know how in movies, you see heat waves over the desert? I see them when I look out my schoolroom window, and it's maybe even a little worse because they are visibly blowing across the plain.
  • My bucket bath in the evening feels like I've heated water. It would qualify as a hot bath, which would be delightful if I started out cold. What is worse is that my drinking water is the same temperature.
  • It doesn't matter if I sleep inside with a fan ten inches from me or outside in the night air- either way I wake up in a pool of sweat.
  • Two words: Heat rash. Three more words: On my scalp. Too bad I'm a hundred percent sure I can't pull off the shaved head look. (Actually, that's probably a good thing. I would be far too tempted otherwise.)
  • The most frequent phrase I have been using lately in Moore is windg zabdame: the sun is burning.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

oh hey

Evidently I no longer blog. There are a few reasons: I went home for a month over Christmas, I lost my digital camera charger and got a manual film camera over vacation (thus no pictures to post), and I've been generally pretty boring lately. Teaching, coming to Ouaga, teaching some more... not too much to write about. ALTHOUGH, there was one incredible thing I went to a couple of weeks ago: the Dedougou mask festival. It takes place every two years and is almost definitely the coolest thing I've seen in Burkina.

This is me, standing in front of a bush taxi being loaded with masks. And by mask, I mean full-body costume made of crazy materials and inhabited by a spirit. Sweet, right?

Again, I've been using film (not very successfully thus far - operator error, with tragic consequences) so I have no pictures of my own to share, but you should absolutely look at my friend's pictures. Seriously. Coolest experience ever; amazing pictures.

In other news, I've started teaching english classes at my school. Our english teacher is moving to another school for the rest of the year, so my principal asked me if I could add ten hours a week. It's pretty fun so far, but completely different from math and requiring all new classroom management strategies. We'll see how having 20 hours of teaching a week goes, especially during hot season.

Lastly, some of my friends have been linking to this article. It's a pretty good overview of all the chaos that happened last spring and the current situation in Burkina, if you're interested.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Oh, and...

Also, this. Kitten needs a name. Gender neutral if possible, as I do not know his or her sex.


(Warning: if you're a vegetarian, or very concerned about the welfare of goats, or have never been to a butcher shop, you might not want to look too far in this post. Just saying.)

I have said this before, but Tabaski is my favorite holiday here. (Although there's apparently a fete in December for the king of this region that is held here in Tema. I'm told it's the best party of all. I'm stoked.) Goat sacrifices, bags of popcorn, and the fabulous fonctionnaire tradition of going from house to house, eating chicken and drinking at each stop.
The fete this year was very fun and... authentic. I saw my village pray together outdoors (too many people to fit in the mosque), I watched my host dad sacrifice a goat, and then I was gifted an entire leg of this goat, with miscellaneous organs, to somehow cook and eat.

Village prayer time.

My awesome host mom (my dad's First wife) running the family boutique.

Left: A host aunt. She speaks a little french, so we hang out. Right: My host dad's second wife. After I took this picture she ran around showing it to all the other women to show how pretty she looked.
Anndddd... here's the goat. This is the after picture. I did not take a "before" picture, nor did I take a "during" picture. I don't know if this is gruesome or not- after seeing it every day at the market, I'm pretty well desensitized to, well, most things. And yes, I ate one of those legs. In a stew. It was delicious.

mam kenga weoogo

(Translation: I went en brousse- uh, into the bush.)

A couple of weeks ago, I took advantage of my no-teaching-on-fridays situation (which I created for myself when I set up all the teacher schedules for my school) to hang out with my host moms! And by hang out, I mean go into the bush and help them harvest crops. Because that's how they roll.

I was initially going to just go with them, check it out, then bike back home for lunch, but there was a complication.

Turns out it was a little further and a little more challenging to get there than I had anticipated. So instead of trying to head back alone (they wouldn't have let me anyways- they'd have accompanied me home then would have had to go back again) I just decided to hang out there. Fortunately it was a cloudy day, so my lack of sunscreen only caught up with me mid-afternoon, when I covered myself with a cloth and hid under a tree.

My host... aunt? leading us to the field with her super new baby.

My host dad's second wife holding up what we were harvesting. They're called chouma in moore, pois de terre in french and who knows what in english. Possibly chickpeas? They're pretty delicious. We harvested all day, breaking only for lunch. I could show you a picture of what we ate, but it's not much to look at. Leftover To (millet flour pounded and cooked into a gelatinous solid), put into a bowl of well water and mushed by hand, then eaten/slurped. Delish.

Sleeping baby.

The super fun neighbor lady who came over at the end of the day and helped sort the chouma. This is one basket of many. Side note: I'm a pretty awesome harvester.

We biked home at sunset, and I got to feel awesome when I was greeted with a hero's welcome by all of my family and neighbors. "What? The nassara* went en brousse?" "Yeah, OUR nassara's name is Balguissa**. She went with us and harvested all day. She's a mossi***."

*Nassara = whitey
**Balguissa is my village name. Unfortunately, it's really caught on with my village. It's pronounced bahl-gee-zuh. Soo pretty. (My full name is Balguissa Sankara. Half my village are Ouedraogos, half are Sawadogos, and a couple of people are Sankaras. A really famous revolutionary/president, Thomas Sankara, came from my village. You can look him up.)
***Mossi is the ethnicity in my village. I'm so legit.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

before and after: one month later

First, let's start with a photo update. Remember all those beautiful pictures of Tema I put up last time? (Hint: they're in the post below this.) This is what my village has become, one month later.

I suspect this is going to be a long dry season.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


 the hill.

New site, new site!  So exciting.  After getting back from Turkey (amazing, ask me later) I spent a week and a half in Tema, furnishing my house, sewing my fashion show dress (that's another story) and generally hanging the heck out with my host family.  My courtyard is private, but it's surrounded by the courtyards of one big family, and I've been getting to know them one awkward/delightful interaction at a time.

Sylvie, my cherie. She gets me water.

It's pretty much everything I've been wanting.  My ladies speak only moore, so I've been trying really hard to work on mine.  They're so excited with everything I say, and we actually manage to communicate pretty well (hand motions are the most useful things ever invented.)  I've tried my hand at pounding millet (they laughed at me and took away my pounding stick) and grinding flour with a stone (I'm kind of awesome.  They were all very impressed.  Then a six year old girl took my stone and showed me up.)  I get offered red To with green sauce for breakfast, then the kids give me ears of feed corn all morning long that they've grilled themselves. 

 Mural a Spanish dude painted on my school last year.  Quite nice, no?

A group of french people came last week to visit Tema because their town in France has partnered with our village to build school buildings and teacher housing.  They're really nice, and when they came the village threw them a little fete with chicken, goat, spaghetti, and drinks to which I was invited!  So much eating.
 Waiting for the frenchies.

Baobab trees GALORE!

Pretty much all I've done so far has been to greet everyone (Everyone) in my quartier, hang out with my family, explore on my bike, and furnish my house.  It's really chill and fun and I like my neighbors and my principal a lot.  And tomorrow, I go back to get ready for the school year!  It's gonna be good.