Saturday, November 13, 2010

The first week

I put this up for a little bit, but now I've mostly finished editing :) Trying to not publish a novel, but there's just so much to say!

October 13 – bus to JFK, 9:50am

I'm awash in a mix of emotions as we drive to DIA on the morning of the 11th. Saying goodbye to Chuck and T, to my old neighborhood, to my parents. Excited to be going, to feel like I'm finally doing something with my life, to see something I've been talking about for so long beginning to unfold. The flight is long but feels just like any other flight, nothing particularly exciting. It's so nice to see a familiar face when I get to Philly, and Louise and I carry the three bags and pillowcase that hold my life for the next two years to her car. After a lovely dinner with her and Will out in NJ, we drive back into the city and I say goodbye at the hotel, nervous but ready to step into this new adventure.

The next morning my roommate Lindsy and I head downstairs to await registration at noon, watching as more “business casual” trainees arrive with large amounts of luggage. We help with bags, introduce ourselves, and collect a growing group of people sitting and talking. After registering and turning in all of our paperwork, we start our session with an introduction to the Peace Corps and the goals and expectations of being a volunteer. It was useful, but the better part (in my opinion) came after that when we started talking about people's reactions to our decision to serve as a Volunteer. We had all experienced the range of: “you're so brave” “I could never do that” “be safe” “why aren't you doing work here in the US?” “I have a 2nd cousin whose college roommate went” “does that look good on your resume?” “do you get paid?”. The knowledge that everyone here has a reason for being here, that in this room you don't have to explain your reason or your motivation, is surprisingly relieving – I really did feel like I had to justify my service to a lot of people, leaving the potential for a good job or further education in favor of traveling and learning and serving. We talk about our anxieties and anticipations, and it's nice to get the chance to start exploring things that kind of make us question our decision without feeling like people are pressuring us to decide not to go. We do a few skits of different scenarios that called on the core values and Peace Corps policy, and generally hang out and get to know each other.

There are 31 trainees in my group - the majority are recent college grads, the 22-26 year olds, but we also have three older people (50+) and handful in their late 20s/early 30s. We have one young married couple, which is pretty cool. There's a few people leaving behind boy/girlfriends, but it seems like most people are single. We come from all over the US, with two naturalized citizens as well. It's a pretty cool, diverse group and I'm really looking forward to getting to know everyone over the next two months. I get the chance to start that evening, going to dinner and out to drinks with a fairly large group, and we have a really good time exchanging stories of our lives and what brought us here. (If you get the chance, go to Eulogy Belgian Pub in the Historic District – the selection is incredible and our waitress/bartender was amazingly helpful).

The next morning we load up the bus, telling ourselves to enjoy shivering in the cold now since we'll be stuck in the heat for the next two years, but secretly or not-so-secretly wishing that we had brought jackets. We walk a few blocks to a government building with a clinic to get our yellow fever vaccinations, a huge group of loudly chattering trainees that surprisingly don't attract many stares, and then return back to the hotel to get on the bus and drive to JFK. Everyone fell asleep pretty quickly, so I decided to take the time to type this up.

October 13 – Plane to Brussels, 7:59pm (east coast time)

Whew! We arrive at JFK around noon, unload a massive pile of baggage, tag each with our new address in Ouaga, and trudge inside to the American Airlines counter. As we all haul our bags inside I happily notice that I'm not the only one with the backpack-on-the-back-and-front look going on. :p We check in, get through security, then break off into groups and search for food. I finish eating just as my friend Katie calls me and we chat for a while as I walk up and down the terminal. It's really nice to get to talk to her before I leave, and I wish that I had the time to have such good conversations with all of my friends before leaving US cell phone range, although I do get to talk to Robyn and all three of my parents as well. I get on the plane, sad and homesick, but still excited none the less.

Anyway, I should be going to sleep soon since we're going to land in 5 hours in Brussels and I'll need to be somewhat awake for our 3 hour layover before the 5 hour trip to Ouaga. Holy crap – I'm going to Africa! What have I gotten myself into? Am I going to be able to handle this?

October 15 – SIA Hotel, Ouagadougou, 11:03am

We land in Ouaga but our flight is continuing on to Abidijan so we get off the plane using steps instead of a jetway and onto buses that drive us to the terminal. It's under construction? Being built? The rough cement floors are covered in a layer of dirt, and I'm pretty sure there aren't any overhead lights to speak of. A woman in glasses walks up to us and introduces herself as Dr. Claude. She smiles and takes our passports and WHO cards, shepherding us through to the luggage pickup. We are in a fairly large room with a raised 6inch wooden platform dividing one side of the room from the other. We watch as men unload giant carts of baggage to the awaiting hordes, condensing the row of bags to make room for the next cart as necessary. With so many people scrambling for their luggage the scene is pretty hectic! We shuttle baggage back and forth to a few guys from PC who are watching our stuff, then get onto vans with some current Volunteers.

Driving through the capital is absolutely not what I expected. We pass vendors in shacks on the side of the street and lots of people on motor bikes and bicycles. Someone is selling inflatable Telly-Tubbies outside of the Prime Minister's house, right next to the “Presidence” where the President used to live. The streets are a mix of paved and not – we use a mix of the two in our journey to the Hotel SIT, where we'll be spending the next few days getting acquainted with Burkina. We arrive around 3:30pm, get our room assignments (I'm with Lindsy again!) and put our stuff away. It's a tiny room, similar to living back in a dorm with a closet and sink in the corner, a desk, two beds, and two chairs. We have A/C, but we've just stuck with the fan which works pretty well, especially at night. Each bed has a mosquito net and the bathroom/shower areas are two doors down.

Random note: The toilets have large tanks that fill up above your head, and when you pull the cord they make an amplified stomach-growling/belching sound that is endlessly amusing.

Dinner is in the cafeteria at the hotel, and we sit with some current Volunteers (our PCVf's) who patiently answer our onslaught of questions. Our country director shows up and says hello, introducing the new regional director for all of Africa who happens to be visiting. They speak for a little bit, we keep eating while Shannon explains her four rules of international living – eat when you can, pee when you can, trust your instincts, and beware of faux tipes, people who don't have your best interests at heart. We all go to bed early – it's been a long day of traveling.

This morning is occupied by completing the list of tasks in our provided folder – getting measured for a bike, taking our language exam, meeting with a PCMO (medical officer), meeting with our project director (my meeting is tomorrow because Dr. Claude is out of town), filling out some medical paperwork, receiving our “walk around” money, and taking a medical knowledge quiz for the Heath Trainees. My language test with Saliou is kind of intimidating and I feel hard-pressed to remember a lot of vocabulary that I know I learned at some point but can't seem to recall. Also, tenses still escape me. He speaks a little fast which leaves me a bit confused at times, but in the end I don't think I did too badly. We'll see.

After lunch I return to my room for a nap to find that Lindsy has the same idea. We briefly discuss going to the market with the other trainees who want cheap flip-flops and potentially cell phones, but we agree that even though it would be the proactive, Peace Corps thing to do, we've been in country less than 24 hours and feel ok passing up this particular opportunity in favor of a nap and calm afternoon. Writing this after that nap, I can say that it was definitely worth it!

16 October – Kudougou, 5:36pm

Arrived today in Kudougou! We'll be here for the next 9 weeks, living with families and going to class every day. Last night (still in Ouaga) we went to Shannon's house for a lovely welcome dinner, with a Senegalese chicken dish over couscous (the chicken was roughly chopped into quarters instead of separated at the joints – I had a drumstick/thigh/hip combo), bissop (iced hibiscus tea with sugar, mint, and ginger), and a yogurt, banana, apple and millet dish for dessert. We met some of the PC staff, got to practice our French, and generally had a lovely evening. We returned home on the PC bus, which is a model of efficiency with seats that fold down into the aisle in order to fit 4 seats across. A group of people went out, but most of us opted for playing cards and going to bed instead.

This morning after breakfast we all file in at 8am for our first health presentation in the conference room at the hotel. Sophie starts by telling us all about the position of PCMO, how it functions in the organization, and what situations warrant calling the after hours line (high fever, seizures, potential HIV exposure, head injury, excessive bleeding, etc). She finishes and we head outside during our break where we find Nescafe and banana muffins waiting for us! Yum! We return to the classroom for Jean-Luc's presentation (our other Medical Officer). As we sit and laugh our way through class, I think to myself that this must be the only man I've ever met who could talk about diarrhea for 2 hours and still make it funny and enjoyable to learn. We also receive our Med Kits, and Jean-Luc walks us through everything so we know what to take and when.

We split into groups for survival language training. 16 of us are deemed far enough in French and begin on survival Mooré. Our poor LCF (language and culture facilitator) is so patient with us as we try to wrap our American mouths around strings of vowel sounds. We managed to say a few parts of the salutation ritual (the equivalent essentially of “Hello!” “Hello! How are you?” “I'm doing fine, and you?” “I'm fine, thanks.”) Like in English, the answer is always “Laafi bala” or “my health is well” no matter what, until after the initial greeting is over and you can explain what is actually happening in your life. Half of the class leaves to recieve immunizations while we continue on and learn to say “Hello, my name is _____,” and “I am an American,” then we switch and take our place in the vaccination room where we begin or continue series for Hep A and B, Typhoid, and something else I don't remember.

We leave Ouaga after lunch and our interviews with Dr. Claude. John (one of our PCVfs) kindly explains to us what we are seeing as we drive the 100k west, but I also take the chance to jot down some of my impressions as we drive:

5 people on a moto, women balancing everything on their heads, buildings with crooked scaffolding, people selling everything along the side of the street – clothes, fruit, oil, towels, gas in glass bottles, trunks, plastic plates/bowls/buckets, toys, etc., you obviously ride your bike on the road at your own risk, woven and mud walls, beautiful clothing, Coke posters in French, push starting a car, donkeys and motos pulling carts, sudden flashes of green fields between villages, red dirt roads with giant holes, cars flashing turn signals at each other, blue bush taxies covered in chickens or packed so full that people hang onto the back and sit on the roof with the tower of stuff.

We arrive in our compound, called Abbe Pierre, a little before 4pm and are welcomed with drummers, people smiling and clapping, and a drink of “welcome water” from a gourd bowl (a calabash). It's stunning and exciting, and a little overwhelming to know that all of these people are here to welcome and teach us for the next 9 weeks. We are shown to our rooms (girls to the right, boys to the left, 3 to a room), each a cement rectangle with a metal door, metal shutters, and three beds with nets, one without, names of the occupants on the door. We retrieve our checked bags that we haven't seen since JFK a few days ago and gratefully settle in for a few hours of relaxation. I'm inside typing under the fan, but dinner is about to be served!

October 16 – Room at Abbe Pierre, 9:38pm

First impressions of to
We go outside and find that the gazebo has been transformed into a small buffet, catered by a local restaurant. I choose couscous with peanut sauce, a wonderful and filling dish with a perfectly spiced sauce that doesn't actually taste overly of peanuts. Anne next to me has been adventurous and ordered the tô with tomato gumbo. Tô is a sort of dough I think – it's white and looks kind of like a gelatinous slab but when you pick off a piece you can kind of mold it like dough and it feels kind of floury until you squish it and it becomes very sticky. It doesn't have much of a taste as far as I can tell.

After dinner we sit around the gazebo and talk for a while – we can hear the band that welcomed us earlier warming up in the darkness next to us. We eventually start to wander over to the semi-circle of white plastic chairs that have been set up for us, and once we're all seated our Cross Cultural Director welcomes us and explains that the band will be playing, dancing, and singing for us for an hour, and at times we will be welcomed to dance with them. I discover out that my camera has a sound recording function, so while we are sitting and listening I take a couple of short clips. There's a harp/guitar-like instrument of strings strung from a round gourd to a curved stick projecting from it, two types of xylophone that are made of wood slats over different sized dried gourds (it sound like a synthetic steel drum) and many different wooden and skin drums in all shapes and sizes. The rhythms are amazingly intricate and sometimes hard to follow, but the dancers are incredible - feet flying, hips shaking too fast to see, bouncing from feet to knees and back, arms swirling as they move. They make it look so easy! We have a good time dancing with them, learning some more traditional moves as well as incorporating some we already know.

17 October – Abbe Pierre, 1:14pm

After a breakfast of omelet, bread and tea (served at 7:55am instead of 7am) we rush to class at 8am (a fair number of us are still eating as class begins). We are welcomed to training with a lecture about how this is all going to happen, and after break we return for our first training exercises. Our first assignment is to explain our training rules to each other – we choose to use a combination of pictionary/interpretive dance/charades. After that we watch a really helpful and yet terrifying skit about living with a host family and some of the things you should and should not do (should greet everyone, should not walk on the mats with your shoes, etc). We also receive our water filters – essentially a large 5 gallon paint bucket with a smaller reservoir bucket bolted to the lid. A hole from the top chamber to the bottom allows the water to pass through 2 different filters, and even after that we still have to add a few drops of bleach to make sure absolutely everything is dead.

While we write our names on our filters (crossing out old names as necessary) we fill out a questionnaire about our preferences on our host family, such as the ages of their children, how far you want to bike or walk to class, etc. I write that I'd be good for anything in terms of family size and ages, but my bike riding skills aren't exactly stellar and it might be better if I don't have to bike from across town or something like that. I expect that it doesn't matter much since they try and put Health Trainees in villages if possible, so I guess I'll just get really good at biking into town! (I later found out that they will drive the Romongo people to Koudougou because it would take over an hour to bike each way).

In our last session of the day we recieve our mountain bikes! Our BMW/Audi/Ford/etc. for the next two years comes with a repair kit and does not have an insurance policy, so we get to fix it ourselves and if it gets stolen we have to pay the 100,000CFA ($200) to replace it. We go over basics like how to take off the wheels for transport on bush taxi, how to put it back together, and how to patch a tire. I think we're going to have a couple of other lessons in the next few weeks, but we also recieve an instruction manual for common problems and fixes. We then grab our helmets, hop on our new chariots, and go on a tour around Koudougou. I don't see very much in terms of landmarks because I'm so focused on not falling off, being hit by a moto, or hitting the person in front of me (which I only did once – sorry Doug).

Once we arrive back at Abbe-Pierre we split up for dinner, and 8 of us venture down the closest main street to a restaurant called Consolatrice, accompanied by our newly arrived PCVf, Aaron. I whimsically decide on couscous with a yoghurt sauce and am pleasantly surprised when it is delicious. The bill seemed high when it arrived, but I had to remind myself that we just had dinner for 9, including beers, for under $25. Then again, $25 is a lot for us now! We walk back, and despite our flashlights the kids who play outside of the compound manage to jump out of the dark and scare us. We hang out for a while in the gazebo as other people start to return, and I watch as more and more people decide to break out the Bug Hut we all dutifully purchased, resulting in a little tent city in the dirt parking lot next to our building. I return inside for bed, but it's still so hot that I think tomorrow I might join them!

18 October – Abbe Pierre, 8:17pm

I wake up early and brave the shower again – it's wonderfully refreshing after the warm night and I'm pleased when nothing falls on my head. We're not sure if breakfast will be avalible since we didn't sign up yesterday like we did the day before, so we adventure out of the compound to the alimentation, kind of like a corner store with things like pasta, writing things, tea, tissues, milk, and bread. I buy a container of apple yogurt – it's very sweet but tasty, and liquid enough to drink without a spoon. I also jump on the bandwagon and buy toilet paper – I may use a latrine, but at least I will have toilet paper.

We head over to class at 8am and start with a lecture on how language training will work. I'm slated as intermediate-high, meaning that I don't have to retest later to prove that I've met the minimum requirement of intermediate-mid. I still feel like I have a lot (a LOT) to learn, but it's nice to have a little less stress over the whole thing. The end of our first period is spent in small groups, learning “survival Moore” with a few other people. Amedée is super sweet and answers all of our questions without being too concerned about following the handout we received in Ouaga. After our break we start another Moore lesson, finishing the sheet and adding a lot of other vocab like “and” and “because”. I'm kind of frustrating, feeling like I know how to pronounce most things on the page but unable to actually remember it – if I don't have the sheet in front of me I won't be able to say anything other than “good morning”. Still, I know it'll get better – I just wish I could learn faster!

Our first afternoon class is our first tech session, explaining what tech sessions are, what the goals of the health program are, and receiving our first TDA (Trainee Directed Activity). We start the session with a good name game – two groups of people stand on each side of a sheet being held up, one person from each group stands on either side facing each other and when the sheet drops the first person to say the name of the other wins and both go to the victor's side. We run out of time but the goal is to have everyone on the same side. A little silly, but a lot of fun! :) Must keep this in mind for later – I'm sure it will come in handy somehow.

Our final session is our first “real” language lesson. I'm in the largest group, with Steve, Emily, and Alicia. Our LCF is Pierre, a very sweet guy who is super patient with us. We speak French for almost 2 hours solid and I'm pleased to discover that it's really fun! We have a set of learning objectives, so we start with the first one and work our way through it, helping each other out. We digress at times, trying to explain to Pierre the many faces of American single motherhood, why being a doctor is hard because for so many people it's only for the money and being afraid of getting sued, and why all the stagieres are always ambivalent about their life plans after PC compared to Burkinabés who always are very concrete in their job ambitions. Challenging to do in French, but pretty satisfying when it worked!

After our lesson I head out to dinner with Aaron, John, and Gwen, three of our PCVf's. We walk over to El Dorado, a local place with good beer and brochets (tiny shish-kabobs of meat and onions). It's a nice evening – you can't beat the company, the brochets are spicy, the beer is cold, and the frites are piping hot and tasty. When we get back to Abbe-Pierre I pack up quickly, then return outside where Al helps me set up my very own Bug Hut to join the tent city! I wake up a few times when cars pull into the parking lot, but in general sleep much better than inside. I hope I can sleep outside sometimes when I'm with my host family!

19 October – Ramongo, 10:04pm

I seem to start a lot of my journal entries with a comment about how much happened that day, but every day here seems packed to the brim with new experiences. It's exciting and fun, but kind of overwhelming – how long can I keep up such a high level of novelty? Whew.

We wake up and have our bags packed and waiting under the sign for our host location by 8am. There are 6 of us going to la village – Steve, Alicia, Anna, Emily, Britney, and me. Well, our language trainers are here too – Pierre and Amadée. I'm not sure how big Romongo is, but I'm hoping that we're all pretty close together.

After breakfast we start French class in the shade behind the conference room building. I'm embarrassed when I can't remember how to conjugate in the different tenses, but Pierre is super patient and walks me through it until I remember. Before break he gives us each a French review book, a workbook, a dictionary, and 501 verbs. Such a stack of books! I really should have brought a backpack for carrying all the new things they give us during the day. For our second lesson we play a question game – roll the dice, move to the new spot, and answer the prompt (un bon ami, votre animal familial, etc). With Pierre's encouragement we keep asking follow up questions and most result in an off-topic discussion on something or another. My brain hurts, but it's a lot of fun trying to explain regional accents, the size and cost of pets in the US, the cost of medical school, what T.V. shows we like to watch, etc. to Pierre and each other, and I leave class proud of how much I can talk about in my “bad” French if I really want to explain something.

Our next class is our second health tech training and starts with a few skits about the way health care ran prior to and during colonization. We discuss the Bamako Initiative, how the health system in Burkina runs, and we're given (another) packet with information about both to help us with our homework. Basically, there was a huge need for local preventative and routine health care that wasn't impossible to get to and could be affordable to most people. The goal is to get a CSPS (like a local health clinic) within 20k of every person in the country. The CSPS is built by the state, but it pays for its own upkeep by selling generic essential medications and charging nominal fees for services. A lot of things are free – some services and some medications are covered by charities, NGOs, and the government, such as ARVs for people living with HIV/AIDS. The people who work in the CSPS are paid by the government, so all revenue is (in theory) for buying more medicine, upkeep of the facilities, and for outreach efforts. This is where we'll be working as Health Volunteers, in one of the ~1400 CSPSs across the country.

A bit about health care in Burkina:
The CSPS is run by a group of elected community leaders (the CoGES) and the Head Nurse (the Major, a government appointed employee, often not from that village). They are responsible for handling the money that the CSPS generates and for directing outreach activities. Above the CSPS there are district-level facilities in most of the Health Districts (43 facilities in 63 districts). These are where cases that can't be handled by the CSPS are sent – it has more people, better resources, and the ability to perform surgeries beyond the scope of the CSPS. Above that there are regional hospitals, with 9 of the 13 Health Regions having a hospital at this level. They receive cases from the District health centers. At the top are the University Hospitals, the most advanced care you can receive here. Currently there are 3 – 2 in the capital Ouaga, 1 in Bobo, the second largest city, and another one is about to open in Ouaga. We didn't get into how the higher levels are funded or run, mostly because we won't be operating past the local or district level.

After class we have to hurry and change because we need to get to Ramongo for our Adoption Ceremony! All 6 of us plus Aaron and a few PC staff I haven't met pile into a Land-Rover (complete with our bikes stacked and tied to the roof) and off we go. We pull up next to the CSPS and all burst out laughing. The first building has a tiny faded sign that used to say “CSPS de Romongo”, but the second has DON DU CANADA painted into grooves in the concrete in huge red letters. Guess they were proud of their donation! Merci, Canada.

We get out of the car and are ushered onto some metal benches, roughly forming a circle with the side of the building and more chairs and benches. We wait for the mayor to arrive (we passed her office on the way), then listen to a number of speeches in Moore and French welcoming us as family. Lucky for us Aaron translates. We are matched with our families, take a group picture, and then we're sent off into the unknown. I wasn't introduced to them, but I walk home with two women, wives of the father who greeted me earlier but has now dissappeared? We walk to the main road, then bike to their house which is only a minute away. There are tons of kids to greet me! The women help me to carry my books and my bike into what will be my new home for the next 2 months.

I don't know what my expectations were, but I really like my room. It's a cement walled and floored rectangle, with a tiny window and two doors, both internal to the house. I have a tall, raised bed with very tall posts for my mosquito net, and room for a small table, a plastic chair, a metal chair with my water filter on it, my bike, and all my bags. The PC provided us with a lamp, but no batteries (go figure), so mon pere sends one of the kids to the market to buy some, which I think is really sweet of him. I'll buy more when I go to Koudougou, so that I don't feel like I'm imposing. I get a quick tour around the courtyard (the extended family that lives here adds up to 36 people!), with emphasis on the shower area and the new latrine that they built with PC help in anticipation of my arrival.

My language lesson starts immediately – nice to meet you too! I am told how to greet people at the end of the day, ne y zaabre or just zaabre, and how to respond appropriately – laafi. I'm glad we had seen all that before on our “Survival Moore” sheet, because otherwise I would have had no idea whatsoever. They continue to name things for me in French and Moore, but even though I repeat them all, some of them multiple times, I can't actually remember anything that we haven't already learned in class. I really hope I get Moore training! Otherwise I can only interact with my family when they choose to speak French to me, and most of the time they talk to each other in Moore. I'm pleased to realize that most all of the children go/have been to school so most everyone speaks at least a little French except some of the wives (I'm not yet sure how many are wives, how many are other female relatives, and how many are older daughters).

After all the build up over communal eating, I'm served my own pot of rice with some kind of meat (I was asked if I eat fish before dinner, but if this is fish it must have been cooked very well or maybe dried). It's a bit different than anything I've ever had at home, and isn't bad, but I'm not too hungry and don't eat very much. My father comes in as I'm deciding if I'm finished or not and hands me a banana for dessert. I ask what I should do with my dishes and he utters my least favorite phrase in the French language: ne te deplace pas, which essentially means “don't get up/don't bother/don't worry” and saus that a woman (which one?) will take care of it. All of a sudden, there she is, taking my uncomfortably hot-bottomed serving dish in one hand and my plate with the giant serving spoon in the other. Who knows what I'll do tomorrow, but for now it works. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get to eat with the family, but I'm sure I can ask about that once I feel more like a part of the family. Overall, I really like my family and my living situation seems so comfy, as I tell Pierre when he visits to make sure everything is ok. They've clearly gone to a lot of trouble to host me and make things nice, and I really do appreciate it.

I sit outside as the sun goes down after dinner, talking with the kids. I get all their names but the only one I remember is Mamou, the youngest child who is shy but seems to take a shine to me – she keeps insisting on sitting next to me wherever we go, bullying out all of the older kids, boys and girls alike. My host dad joins me from time to time, and one of the mothers falls asleep in the chair across from me. I ascertain that the oldest child is 17, that their mom is sooo not ok with them smoking (a child who stubs out a cigarette near her chair gets a very loud scolding), and that the ring-shaped peanut butter cookie they offered me is hard, but tasty, and is for some reason eaten with baguette. They ask me what kind of things are farmed in the US – I'll have to look that up! I can only remember wheat, corn, potatoes, rice, and cows. :p The family grows enough food to feed themselves – maize, millet, some kind of gourd, chickens, guinea fowl, sheep, and goats from what I could see. I'm pretty sure I'm staying with a decently well-off family, since he can afford to have so many wives and children, and still feed them all and send the kids to school, but their clothes are clearly second hand and passed down many many times. He also reassures me that they don't eat donkey, dog, or pig, because he's Muslim. I'm relieved, having never considered the possibility of eating a donkey and not wanting to experience eating a dog if possible.

Around 8:30ish I retreat from the cool outdoor air into my warm room to study a little. I can't seem to find my Moore sheet, but I don't exactly look hard. It's funny, I feel like I should be scared or nervous, but I'm not. Not like I expected, anyway. I feel comfortable here already, like I was supposed to come here. I still wonder if this whole Africa thing is right for me right now, but at least I'm not having to worry about being afraid of my host family! It makes me almost feel like this is possible.

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