Friday, February 15, 2008

Elephants, Hippos in Burkina. Oh My!

Hello everyone,
Right now we are in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (Lizzy,Tara and Taras friend Jen) . We just got back from Banfora (south western Burkina) where we spent 2 nights. On the 7 hour bus ride to Banfora we made a friend who decided to hang out with us the whole next day and take us to the amazing waterfalls and the lake where we went hippo watching. We also had lunch at a McDonalds. Funny enough they were out of ketchup. Tomorrow we will get back on a bus to take us north to the Dogon region of Mali where we will go on a four day trek.

p.s. On the road to Ouaga from Benin we saw an elephant on the side of the road and got to stop and take pictures. pretty cool.

more as it develops.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Return to the North – New and Improved with Monkeys!

The title pretty much sums it up. Today I took the 8.5 hour bus ride back up to Natitingou in the Atacora/Donga region (read: home). It seems that the heat from the south followed me; however I did manage to lose the humidity in transit. The VAC meeting went well and now I just need to check up on the gardening groups and try to hurry along the construction of a well for the school, since a garden with no water, well won’t produce much of anything. On the 11th Feb. begins my second vacation in as many months. Four of us are traveling via Burkina Faso as a means to get to Mali (and to get visas) where we will take a four day trek in the Dogon region. We will then travel via Niamey (Niger) to get back to Benin on the 26th of February. So that’s pretty much it. Oh yeah the title; four monkeys ran in front of the bus on the way up here. It was a real Africa moment; they come less and less frequently. So there you go.

N’kua sosi


p.s. For those of you that are keeping score out there my weight it at 152 lbs. (69kg for our European fans)

also... I think it should be noted that i just posted this email from a field in Natitangou. Yes a field. There is a NGO that has a unsecured wireless connection. I wonder what the guard was thinking.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Janvier/Février 2008

January 30th 8:00 I get a phone call from my homologue telling me that he got a call from the director of my NGO and that I need to write up the invitations for the importants. Being half asleep I agree and wait for him to pick me up. The absurdity of this occurs to me as my brain boots up. The invitations are for a ceremony in an hour. The ceremony is for la remise or presentation of materials for the women’s groups and high school group. Not only this but I have the lowest level of French among the members of my NGO, so why I need to write the invitations is beyond my comprehension. In any case the invitations get written after hunting around the French keyboard for the correct characters (to get to a period you have to shift). The invitations were delivered sometime after 9:30. This however was not a problem because no one had arrived yet. This gave me time to set up the materials (machetes, wheelbarrows, treatment tools, boots, hoes, rakes, watering cans, seeds, shovels, and chicken wire) in some kind of order. At around 10:30 the women’s and importants showed up and the ceremony could begin. This involved everyone thanking everyone one by one and saying a few kind words. Each respective president from each group came up and signed a document of the received materials. Then came the fun part where we got the groups to stand in front of their newly acquired swag and pose for some pictures. We then told them that they were free to take the stuff back with them, this is when they started singing and dancing. I posted some pictures from this event on my flickr account.
So the good news is that most of the needed materials are finally in the hands of the groups and this will require me to help and check up on them regularly (i.e. keep my busy).
My NGO – PELCA had a soirée for the members of the NGO. This event which I was told would involve dancing, food and drink did not start until 12:30pm. The food was not brought out till at least 1am. After which the dancing started. This continued till the call to prayer at 5am. I have to say I still have not found a great appreciation for the Beninese style fête or party. I think it is worth noting the picture of the DJ booth.

Currently I am in Cotonou for the National VAC meeting. (We bring complaints from our region to the attention of the Peace Corps administration) I will be using my time here to get a visa for Niger. Mid February we have a trip planned to go to Mali traveling through Burkina Faso and returning through Niger. I am excited for the trip and especially for our trek through the Dogon country part of Mali.
On a sadder note Benin preformed terribly in the Africa Cup losing to Mali, Ivory Coast and Nigeria; scoring only 1 goal total. It is pretty fun to watch the games on random television sets throughout Kouandé though. With Benin being out I will be looking forward watching the Ivory Coast play the host country Ghana in a thrilling final ending with an Ivorian victory 3-1 to take the Cup.