Friday, August 10, 2007

Burkina Faso

Hey, no new pictures to put up, but I thought I'd tell you a bit about Burkina Faso. Here we go.

Size & Geography: It's about the size of Colorado and, although landlocked, has a pretty interesting range of geographical features. The extreme north of the country is the Sahel. There it is mostly sand speckled with fake lakes called barrages (sp?), where people garden and grow maize and millet. The people up there are generally known as cattle herders and some families have thousands of cows. Where I am right now for training is Ouahigouya. It is a little south of the Sahel, and here you can find a good amount of small hills, red dirt, sand, and low shrubs and trees. It is actually a lot like some of Texas or New Mexico. And there is a huge difference between the dry and rainy seasons here. When I got here I couldn't find the trail home because of all the sand, and now it's all I can do to see over the corn. In the center of the country, near Ouagadougou, it's a little greener than here but mostly the same. Further south, in Bobo Dioullaso and Gaoua, it is a lot greener. There are large rolling hills, tall forests, and waterfalls. Bobo is the tourist capital of the country, and it is supposed to be gorgeous (I haven't seen it yet). Kampti, my town, is pretty much the same. It receives more rainfall than any other place, and it is cooler but humid.

Animals: So far I haven't seen anything really "African". There are gorgeous birds though that I've never seen before. They are long and slender and have bright orange and yellow and blue feathers. Also, there are lots of lizards and frogs. At night after a rain the frogs get pretty loud in the village. Around Kampti there is an elephant sanctuary and a couple national parks that have monkeys, rhinos, hippos, and lots of other stuff, so hopefully I'll be able to see some of those soon (How cool would that be?!). Also there are lots of butterflies.

Seasons: There are four seasons here. I learned about them all but I've actually forgotten, sorry. It also depends a lot on the region you're in. For example, there is something called the Harmattan (sp?) that amounts to a long season of sandstorms. I won't see any of that in Kampti, but I'll see a few more months of rain. I saw a few sandstorms here in Ouahigouya before the rainy season started, and man are they crazy. It is like a wave coming right at you. One time, I was eating chicken at this place about a mile away from where we were staying, and I saw the sand coming in. I jumped on my bike, but the sand caught up with me; I could hardly see. I pedaled faster though and actually made my way out of it and to the hotel. There, I waited for a minute or so and the sand caught up to me again and just swept over everything. It is pretty powerful.

Languages: Burkina Faso is a pretty interesting place. Imagine Colorado, but with over 60 languages spoken. I am learning Lobiri (or Lobi), and when I get stuff right in class my teacher says "ahhh Lobikuhn," which translates to "Lobi Man." Haha. I don't often get things right though. Lobi is really interesting though, especially because it is spoken in Burkina, the Ivory Coast, and Ghana. Because of the English influence in Ghana, you can find lots of words in Lobiri that are English. If I want to buy a bucket, for example, all I have to do is ask for a bucketi. Pretty funny.I was also learning Mooré, which is the national language. Everyone is kind of unified I guess by the French language, but it is hard to know who speaks French and how much they speak. And then there is my French level. I can get by, but it all depends on the context. Today I tried to do a short seminar on AIDS, and I got up there and realized I know nothing. I've never used those verbs or nouns before. I guess it's just what you're comfortable with. Every day I get better and better, but it's a process that comes with a lot of mistakes.

Roads: It's pretty different than the United States. I'm very lucky in that Kampti is one of the few villages in the country to be located right on a paved road. Most of the roads are dirt roads, and an SUV is a must. They are supposedly building a lot of paved roads, but I haven't been here long enough to see. For instance, if I want to go to Ghana, sometimes (depending on the rain) it's better for me to go all the way back to Ouaga, and then go straight down into Ghana on a paved road, rather than risk the 40 miles or so on a dirt road.

Location in West Africa: Burkina Faso is centrally located, which is great for travel. I can go to the beaches and jungles of Ghana, Benin, and Togo. I can also go to the Dogon country in Mali, which has these unbelievable cave dwellings. I think they might be pretty famous. I also want to check out Gabon while I'm in Africa. I've heard they have the best animal parks in the world there, and it is practically untouched. Also, because of Burkina's central location, the annual film festival is held every February in Ouaga. And in the mountains of Benin and Togo, apparently there are these areas where huge numbers of butterflies live and migrate (do they even migrate?). I think that would be cool to check out.

Food: Honestly I don't know a lot. I can tell you what I eat though. Today I found this bakery that sells good bread with chocolate, and right down the street is a place that sells fresh milk. They pasteurize it every day. And I like the one place in town that sells cheeseburgers, although they are too expensive to eat more than once a week. I also like chicken and onions, very good stuff. But for the most part I'm in village and it is just rice or noodles with some type of sauce made out of oil and a peanut sauce.

Communication: Most people in the cities have cell phones, and reception is pretty good. In my village right now reception is spotty, but in Kampti it's pretty clear. It reminds me of early car trips in Colorado, when you wouldn't have reception while at the bottom of the mountain, but once you cleared it you'd have it again. Calling is really expensive though. It's about 300 francs to call someone here in Burkina for less than 5 minutes. And to call the United States for a couple minutes would be around 2000. A text to the US, however, is only 70 francs, and to someone here only 30. I send a lot of texts. To put it in perspective though, I think it's about 465 francs to 1 dollar, so it's not all that much.

What I've been doing: Training is winding down and most of our stuff is finishing up. Today we did a radio program and I asked my "Dad" here, who is the village delegate for Bogoya, some questions about building a school in town. It went pretty well. And every week we have soccer games and meetings with the girls in the village. We'll also have a theater performance early next week, and I've done a couple of practice teaching sessions to summer school students to practice French and group work. It is hard, teachers should have all the respect in the world. Oh, and I'll officially swear in on August 24th, and it will actually be nationally televised throughout Burkina! They asked me to give a speech in Lobiri for a few minutes, so I'll try to find a way to tape it so that I can send it back home or put it on the internet for yall.

I think that's about it for right now, but if anyone has any specific questions please just ask, I'd love to share. Okay, I hope you're doing well and enjoying the end of summer. Love you and see you soon.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Love the info Clay! Look forward to reading another entry just like this one when you get to site! I'm glad to know you have milk....something to stir the nestle quik I sent you into! Ciao!