Monday, January 10, 2011

So Many Fêtes!

Safi and Daoda on my porch helping me haul the giant sack of potatoes that my courtyard family gave me. They also gave me 5 delicious watermelons. I went to visit them at their other courtyard en brousse where their cotton fields are. It's actually only like 4 km away, so it's kind of strange that they have two courtyards. The one I live in with them is smaller, I assume because they live in it less often. They actually just moved in on Thursday, but I left Friday for a girl's camp meeting in Bobo, so I don't really know them yet. The mom seems really nice though. And the kids were super respectful of my kittens (more on that later).
Hooker and me at the Domes de Fabédougou, which is near the Cascades. A natural wonder!

That's my laundry, those are my kids: (L to R) Fatu, Safi, Mama.

Mariam in her courtyard where we made liquid soap! This was the first time we made it. She's chastizing me for taking too many pictures of her. Look at the beautiful blue soap! She's gonna be ballin' because of my imparting this soap-making knowledge unto her.
Don't tell Mariam I posted this, she'll hate me. She's on the right. That's Sougué in the middle. He's a nurse in Padéma who hosted a New Year's Eve party. We ate delicious chicken macaroni at midnight and I called Mariam an old lady (muso koroba) the whole time because she was sleeping in a chair. In my defense, Mariam kept saying I was drunk because I was acting silly, which was probably due to being tired and/or being a weird person in general. I'd had one glass of sangria, which would probably get her a little tipsy, but which does presque rien for me. That night I also went over to Minata's house and helped prepare some delicious chicken spaghetti that we ate around 8. Then I biked in the dark over a scary bridge to Djénéba's house for some more spaghetti and tea. I bonded with her sinamusow (co-spouses) and we had a nice low key time trying to stay warm by the fire. Overall, not a crazy New Year's, but a good one.

KITTEN PILE!!!! These babies' mama died and the kids next door brought over the runt (dinosaur baby) to see if I wanted her. I didn't, because I had already acquired a cat-son on Christmas Eve. But then the next morning, after sending off a stool sample to be analyzed in Bobo, I went and collected the kittens from their dried tobacco storage room where they had temporarily found shelter. They were disgusting and whiny! But obviously cute as kittens!

Christmas kitten! That's little Luca Léé Pizzatime Marshall! And that's my Christmas set up with pictures of family/cats and WRAPPED Xmas gifts compliments of Aunt Judy and Uncle Pete. Merci beaucoup! It really made my Christmas seem more festive than I had previously thought it would be. It was great!
Also for Christmas, I partied with the Catholics after going to Mass for a grueling 3 hours. I wore a fancy red complet that my host sister in Koudougou made me. Everyone loved that, because I typically don't wear them. Several of my friends are Catholic, (Blandine, Sabine, Victorine, Rosalie), so I decided to fête with them for Jesus day, which turned out to be the best decision ever! I definitely look forward to Easter. They served me rice with pork and plenty of dolo. Guys with drums started playing and we danced while rotating in a circle, Burkina-style, until sundown. We moved from courtyard to courtyard every 30 minutes or so and free dolo was given everywhere. The drums were passed around so everyone got a chance or several to play them. At one point I had a lady's baby on my back while drunkenly dancing around in the dust. :) I hung out with my friend Blandine and her family/friends most of the time, but I feel like I know all of the Catholics better now from partying with them all day. They loved it. I passed out by 8 pm that night. Very good Christmas.

Les Cascades de Banfora! Pretty huh? The of BF does not look like this... There are also diseases in the water (shistosomeisis)!

This is Habia nd me on Tabaski, the Muslim holiday that passed in November. I wore a complet that day too, as did Habi. Hers is much nicer.

Monday, December 20, 2010

An be Julakan degé!

Aw ni su!

So I'm at Language IST right now in Banfora having a grand ole time learnin me some Jula! i'm with damn cool people and the best LCF ever, Pierre. he puts up with all my shit and attempts to make me act culturally appropriate. I.e. He insists that I say 'N be taa nyigena' (I'm gonna go to the bathroom) en lieu de 'N be taa boo ké' (Im gonna take a shit). Which OF COURSE is culturally appropriate here and in the U.S. and probably most countries in the world, but I just enjoy being silly. Its not like i actually say that at site. except to make kids laugh...

recent highlights:

- attended two two-day back-to-back gardening formations run by André, and awesome and professional and knowledgable and good-humored Burkinabé Peace Corps staffer. i learned a lot and can't wait to get back to site and start a garden! we worked with two 'at-risk' groups: prisoners and HIV positive volunteers at a center in Bobo. Both groups were great but i think the prisoners were actually more fun to work with, probably because there were more of them and i got to keep practicing Jula the whole time and learn gardening terms from them.

- marched in the 50th anniversary of independence parade in Bobo, my regional capital. this entailed a great deal of standing and sitting in the sun and searching breakfast and shade. the day of the parade we were fed water sachets and a box of sugar. so that was ridiculous. my stupid black closed-toe shoes blistered me up, but on the whole it was fun hanging out with other PCVs, aka my friends, getting to know Bobo a lot better, watching some new episodes of Glee and exchanging Jula notes with Keith, my Jula soulmate (pardon me sir if thats going too far, but i know its not).

- visited my friend Sara, who is being replaced this week by a brand fresh new health volunteer from the batch of pcvs who swore-in on thursday. i helped her paint her world map mural and got to see all the cute little babies at the pre-school UNICEF built in her village. so presh. où bien?

- Julakan formation be. here with Banfora-area kids taking a whirlwind tour of the language of Bambara/Jula/Dioula. staying at a nice hotel paid for by peace corps, getting excellent language instruction tailored to our needs and eating SO MUCH DELICIOUS FOOD. i.e. cheese, beef brochettes (i'm a shameless omnivore at this point), chicken, the best riz sauce arachide ever, damn good salads and more!

we had Sunday off to rest our litle brains so Hooker (Emily, thats actually her last name, so what else would i ever call her?), James and I biked out to James and Julie's site by the waterfalls to see their kitten/make sure it wasnt dead and then love it to death and then see two of the main tourist attractions in this country: the cascades (où bien 'Banfora Falls') and the Domes of Fabédougou. google them. they were actually super beautiful! i charmed the tollbooth guy at the cascades with my halting Jula and we got past without paying. unfortunately, we still had to fork over a couple bucks at the domes (literally the equivalent of 2 US Dollars), but we did get in James for free (he wes our guide!) and got the nationals rate for Hooker and me. i was terrified of falling off those domes, but they were really beautiful and overlook a bunch of sugarcane fields and the enormous Sosuco (local giant sugar company) water pipe. thats some impressive technology that pipe. my standards have fallen...

i plan to return home later this week and spend Christmas and New Years at site, which i am really looking forward to. i should be receiving a CHRISTMAS MIRACLE in the form of a kitten from a Catholic policier/functionnaire family!! i will attend midnight Catholic Mass in order to prove my worth as a cadeux recipient. also, i heard midnight mass can get pretty crazy, so im looking forward to it! maybe i'll even stop by my neighbors the Protestants Xmas morning, since they typically have music and dancing and whatnot, and i've never been. should be fun! i can't wait to see my friends at site that i've more or less abandoned for the last 3 weeks doing all this other Peace Corps crap. so i'll be back for 3 weeks or so and then i'll be off again for 2 weeks of IST (In-Service Training) in January. oh boy. then i can finally start projects and like, real work maybe? on va voir (An bina ye).

you're welcome for the update. and thank you for the packages aunt kim and aunt judy!!! i'll be decorating for xmas now and cooking up a storm of varied tasting deliciousness!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

More pictures, plus stories!

Pictures say a thousand words right? So these are actually really long posts. This is a picture of some kids I hang out with. The two on the right are my dogomusos, aka little sisters, Habi (like Abby) and Kadi (not like Katie). They're fun, we goof off. Dramane (pronounce it French style) is the little boy striking a common Burkinabe child pose. The photo posing culture here is bizarre, I must say. The little boy in the red shirt is Amidou and he is such a gentleman. He's my absolute favorite. I love him love him love him! Sherif is on the right, he's the accoucheuse's elder son. He's kind of a brat, but super adorable. The other pic is my water filter with dirty ass water in it. I thought I'd show you all what people here drink as tap water. I believe it is particularly full of dirt because it's rainy season.

Ok, the last couple of weeks I have been super busy at site. I've been getting up early for 7 am women's groups meetings where I sit, understand barely any of the Jula spoken, and try to learn names and faces. I'm basically just trying to make connections and figure out who's who in village. The group I've met with the most is a new caisse villaegoise, aka savings and credit club created and maintained through the Caisse Populaire that exists in my village (which is some big time shit that there is one because they're normally only in cities/big towns). So this lady Adjara goes around to all the villaegs around here created these groups so women can take out loans of up to 50 mille for entrepreneurial purposes. The ladies I meet with sell dried fish, which is very popular here, piment aka peppers, and spices. Some of them also sell dolo, aka alcoholic beer type drink popular among mostly the Catholics and Protestants of my village.

Meanwhile, at the CSPS recently we had a stillbirth followed the next day by a woman who died during pregnancy. She bled out. The baby survived. And as it turned out, this woman was the pregnant woman, Bernadette, from the caisse villageoise with whom I'd been meeting. Only I didn't find out until several days later that it was her. My accoucheuses were very shaken up after the death; it's pretty rare apparently. So after the next meeting with them, one of the other ladies took me to her house so I could give my condolescences to the family. I even learned some Jula benedictions of loss for the occasion. Then it turned out she was Mossi and her family speaks Moore, and not Jula. So that was frustrating, but I think her mom and sister got the point.

On a lighter note, I biked to a nearby satellite village twice in the last week. The village has had two Peace Corps volunteers in their time. I met the family they had lived with while they were out cultivating peanuts in their fields. They were super nice and gave me a giant pagne-full of peanuts to take back. I don't know how I'll ever eat them all. I've been giving them away as cadeaux, so I think that's how. The second time I went was to watch a sensibilization by a guy who works for an NGO in Bobo. It was on palu and like 10 dudes showed up because it was at 10 am when all the women and most of the men are in the fields cultivating. Lame. Part of my job is to keep in mind people's seasonal schedules and daily routines when planning my sensibilzations and other projects. This was an excellent example of how not to plan a sensibilization. It was also a good opportunity to causer with some motivated guys in my satellite village who I may/probably will collaborate with in the future. On my way out of the village, I stopped to chat with some Catholics who sell dolo. One guy spoke French, so it was actually pretty informative. I also received a cadeau of some dolo and got a little buzzed in the middle of the afternoon before biking home. :) The dude showed my a different road back to the main one that involved crossing a stream using stepping stones and him carrying my bike across like a crazy-buff old man. Impressive. I saw some damn beautiful baobab and palm trees, as well as some cute pig babies. All in all, I'm jealous of the other two PCV's who have served there, because it's truly gorgeous out there en brousse.
One last anecdote: my cell phone was stolen the evening I came home from Bobo last time. This sixteen year old kid used to come and visit to causer a lot and he was nice and answeerd my questions and was generally polite and soft-spoken. He mentioned a couple times that he wanted a cell phone but his oncle wouldn't pay for it and his parents are in Cote d'Ivoire working, so I knew he was aiming for money from me. He had come over twice before while I was douching (taking a bucket bath) and obviously realized that I don't always lock my door when I do that. So when I got back from Bobo I was disgusting and desperately needed to bathe. He was in my courtyard and I asked him to leave, because I think it's weird when he hangs around while I'm douching. Unfortunately for my dumb ass, I entered the douche before I saw him leave, and didn't lock my door, and he used that opportunity to open the doors, grab the phone from where it lay right next to the door, and bolt. What a dick. I still didn't fully believe it til the next morning when one of the nurses called my phone and it was off. I knew that battery was full. So that's the first time I cried at site. It sucks feeling like you can't trust people. But my homologue was really great about it and helped ameliorate the situation by acting as the liason between me and the boy's uncle. I ended up getting the phone back that afternoon, but the kid had broken the sim card so I still couldn't use it. We had a nice long conversation with the little douchebag and basically he's scared of me now, and probably avoids the CSPS altogether. It's strange because he lives in a courtyard just behind me but I've only seen him once since this happened, and it was near the marche. He knows never to come to my courtyard again, and most people I talk to regularly know what happened and were very supportive of me. The Burkinabe do NOT like thieves. And I learned not to trust teenage faux-types. And to lock my door every time I douche. Which is pretty annoying. I also realize that I forgot how teenage brains are not fully developed and don't often consider repercussions or the utter obviousness of stealing something from a foreigner when you are the ONLY PERSON who was there other than said foreigner, thus inevitably leading to your capture. What an idiot. Anyway, it's over now, but I thought I'd share that just because, ya know, I didn't have a cell phone for a week, and it was during a time when I really could've used some emotional support. So instead I hung out with people in village and got into the musical In the Heights, which I discovered on my ipod. LOVEZ IT!
Time to get moving on out back to village! Let's hope I have the sense to lock my door this evening when I douche! Let's also hope that my bush taxi doesn't get a flat tire and get stuck in the mud like last time.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pictures at Last!

Enjoy, these took forever to load and one other straight up refused to:

This is my mango tree that is the center of my courtyard. I love it. The entrance to my courtyard is on the right. Please note the broken gate which will likely be fixed once the family who lives here moves back from their place en brousse.
This is me, listening to probably Passion Pit, letting a bra dry on my doorknob, in front of my house. My house is diagonal from the front gate. Please note the badass porch, screened windows/door and bring sunlight. Beyond the courtyard wall on the left are gumbo plants, aka okra, aka gwan. There are also corn stalks, aka mais, aka kaba, just to the right.
Hopefully more to come tomorrow morning...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

First 3 Weeks

Hello all. I have officially made it through my first three weeks at site and my first bush-taxi ride to Bobo! The second will occur in a couple of hours. I came in to Bobo for a volunteer appreciation ceremony at which the Governor of the region spoke and thanked us. Some older volunteers gave speeches. It was raining. Then we ate delicious pizza.

The Burkina Faso bike tour ( came through and chilled at the Bobo bureau. I got to meet some new, sweaty people. I took this opportunity to do what I'm calling Affectation Part Deux. Basically I bought a bunch of shit for my house and now I'm going to attempt bringing it all back with me on the bush taxi. I learned I love plastics, such as buckets, shit tea pots (or "bouillards"), and other convenient containers that I lack at site. I got to shop/ward off faux types (aka douchebags who want to sell things to foreigners at crazy expensive prices) with Julie and James, a delightful couple whose site is near Banfora. Overall, this "weekend" trip to Bobo has been all kinds of excellent: eating good food, biking around the city, chilling with other badass Americans.

But enough about Bobo! Padema is where that real shit is at! I love it. I'm using a lot of Jula, which is hard because I speak at the level of a 4 year old. I have a friend, Minata, who lives on the side of the main road through my village and sells gas out of glass bottles to passing moto drivers. She knows maybe 10 words in French, so we chat only in Jula and I write everything down. Her daughter and her daughter's half-sister (I think Minata and the girl's mother are married to the same guy) speak French, so sometimes I'm able to have something translated throught them. I met Minata on my first, what I like to call, "Marche Walk", which is when I walk a circle from my house, past the CSPS, through the main part of the marche, past the gateaux ladies who speak to me in Moore despite that I tell them I'm learning Jula first, saluer most everyone, then go back home the long way, which passes by Minata's house. She's awesome. She has a great sense of humor, feeds me various deliciousness, and understands that my Jula is very limited but that I'm actually trying to learn to speak it. Some people don't understand that last part and just stare at me blankly when I attempt certain phrases or questions. Some then revert to French. This is annoying. I would like to find a proper tutor so I can be at a level where I can hold sensibilizations in Jula by the time I get to IST. Luckly the two village women who work at the CSPS, Mariam and Djeneba, (they are fucking awesome and my other two besties thus far), also help me out with Jula and Bobo sometimes. Mariam also managed to have a table made for me by the carpenter. It has improved my quality of life by 200%. I love table.

Jula is not the only language spoken at my site. There is a significant population of Mossi, who speak Moore, which includes my homologue and the accoucheuse (woman who births babies and does prenatal consultations). her little boys are hella cute. Not to be confused with the city Bobo-Dioulasso, there are also Bobo speakers at my site who are of the ethnicity Bobo. I can do basic saluations in Bobo. There are a few Peulhs as well, who speak Fulfulde. I can only say good morning in that shit... 4 languages is enough.

I live in a family courtyard with a family who is still in the fields cultivating, so I have had significant privacy at home so far. This is often interrupted by my children-neighbors who want to hang out or bother me. Most of the time they're cool though. School starts October 1, so I should have some other kids living with me soon.

I do not cook for myself yet. There is no gas in this country, and as I am a new site, I don't have any left over from a previous volunteer. As a result, I depend on other people to eat, including my homologue, the other 5 employees at the CSPS, who are all awesome btw, and Minata. On Ramadam I ate no fewer than 7 meals, including a sheep heart that was pretty delicious. My homologue and I saluered the mayor and the president of the COGES and I got to have awkward Jula conversations with important men. They fed me though. My village is probably around 90% Muslim and Ramadam was ballin'! The girls were dressed up in their fancy complets, ith their hair done, there was a group of men playing the balafons and other drums around the village, and groups of kids went around saying "sambe sambe", which means "gift gift" and adults can give out small change to them. It's kind of like trick-or-treating. They haven't really stopped with the sambe sambe shit actually, and Ramadan was like two weeks ago now.

I need to pack up all this shit I bought for my taxi ride home. On the way here everyone in the van had to get out and walk for a short stretch due to all the potopoto (mud). A truck had gotten stuck, but our driver managed to get through with his lighter load. Shitty road = excellent stretch break. Until next time, friends! Call me - I have excellent reseau (cell phone reception).

Sunday, August 29, 2010


My new address is:
Erika Marshall
BP 1065
Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, West Africa

Hit me up! The old one works too, but this is better now because I will not be going to Ouaga very often henceforth. Pas de probleme if you already sent something. LOVEZ U!

Swear-In was badass. The first lady of the Faso was present and gave a very lovely speech. We had wine and quiches/appetizers at the Embassy. Quite the swanky affair. Then we signed our oaths and partied hardy at the Ouaga clubs! Ridiculous/fabulous. Time for my last pizza dinner for a while! <3

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Moving For Real

I have two nights left at my host family and Stage is nearing an end. I have a meeting with my Country Director tomorrow morning and Swear-In is on Friday in Ouaga. Also, site announcements were almost two weeks ago I think. My site is located near a hippopotamus marsh north of Bobo-Dioulasso, kind of near Mali. I will be the first Health Volunteer at site, but there was an Secondary Education Volunteer several years ago and from what it sounds like a SED Volunteer before that who worked a lot with women's groups. Apparently hese women convinced their all-male CoGES (organzation that oversees community health initiatives and funding) to request a female Volunteer. The primary languages spoken are Jula, Mooré, Bobo and French. I will be living in a family courtyard in a two room house, with my own private outdoor douche and latrine. The family I'll be living with is out en brousse (cultivating and living in the fields) right now and will be back in October. My courtyard is also 100 meters from the CSPS and the houses of several of the CSPS employees and a water pump. The CSPS has solar panels which I will be able to use to charge my cell phone.

I met the Major (head nurse/dude in charge) of my CSPS this week during our Counterpart Workshop. He's young and speaks excellent French and a little bit of English. I'm very happy to have someone I already know before I get to site and he seems to be a very nice guy. Because I'll be the first Volunteer at site, I will be purchasing all the essentials for my place, like a gas range and gas tank, a mattress, buckets, goblets, kitchen stuff and food and I guess I will order furniture from a carpenter in village or something. Thankfully, the Peace Corps will be giving me a 200,000 CFA move-in allowance for this endeavor. I will be traveling from Ouaga to Bobo and staying in Bobo a couple of nights while I buy the big stuff, then a Peace Corps Landcruiser will be dropping me off in Padéma and the driver will help me set up my range and gas tank and make sure I don't break down. ;) Should be fun!

I am glad Stage is done, because this being back in school thing is way old by this point. I can't wait to start saluer-ing people in Jula and hanging out at the CSPS not knowing what to do with myself! After I get to site, I may not update for a while because I'll be busy integrating into the community and doing my étude de milieu (aka figuring out what the community actually needs from me). Also, navigating public transport from site to Bobo will probably be terrifying for me the first time, so I may procrastinate on doing it until I can actually function in Jula on a basic level. I'm super excited and nervous!

I feel like integrating with my host famly wasn't that difficult, but I think that's because I lucked out and got a hilarious family full of teenage girls and a very jolly old man father. I'm going to miss them mucho! I'm definitely going to return to Koudougou/Palogo to tease my sisters and joke around with Yvette about couper-ing la tête! She has quite the sick sense of humor and I love it! Also, now I'm pretty sure she's 16 and that people here say they're a couple of years younger than they actually are. I still don't understand why that is, but I've heard this from other stagiaires as well.

Anyway, I'm super glad Stage is almost done, but I will definitely miss my crazyass friends. Shout out to my Palogo crew, Casey, Halley, ZZ and my sis Marina, with whom I will be dining in an hour at the invitation of my host father! Living in village has been excellent and also annoying, but mostly fabulous because of these hilarious freaks. :D

Btw, I have successfully brought the game of Monopoly Deal to Burkina Faso.