Saturday, November 13, 2010

We Love Abbreviations in PC, etc.

Everything here has an abbreviation! Here's a few that I've used/will use in future posts.
Abbreviations Etc.
Affectation - when we are sent to our site after training
APCD – Associate Peace Corps Director, the person who is in charge of a program (ex:APCD-SED)
ARV's – Anti-RetroVirals, drugs given to slow the progression of HIV replication in a body
Beenga - Moore for beans, or a meal of beans and rice
Bobo – Bobo Dialasso, the economic capital of Burkina, located in the southwest
CD – Country Director, Shannon
Demyst(ification) – a training trip during stage to let trainees live with a current volunteer and get a sense of what it's like/what you do/how to cook American food in Burkina
Enlever - a French verb, useful for describing the process of removing peanuts from the roots of the plant
GEE – Girls Education and Empowerment
HE – Health Extension (APCD is Dr. Claude)
IST – In-Service Training, occurs after 3 months at site
KDG – Koudougou, a regional capital 100k west of Ouaga, our home base for stage
LCF – Language and Culture Facilitator, Burkinabe teachers who help us learn French or a local language as well as explaining the culture and customs of different regions in Burkina
MST – Mid-Service Training, occurs after a year at site
Ouaga – Ouagadougou, the official and political capital of Burkina, located in the Central Region
PCV – Peace Corps Volunteer
PCT – Peace Corps Trainee
PCVf – Peace Corps Volunteer Facilitator, the current volunteers who come to help train PCTs during stage
PCMO – Peace Corps Medical Officer, Jean-Luc and Sylvie
PF – Family Planning in French
Piler - another useful French verb (not sure on the spelling), the process of pounding something in a mortar and pestle to either remove it from the shell (in the case of peanuts and beans) or to make it into a powder.
PSDN – Peer Support Diversity Network, the Volunteers you call when you need help staying sane
SE – Secondary Education
SED – Small Enterprise Development (APCD is Dan)
Stage – the 9-12 weeks of pre-service training for each Volunteer
The Zak Ramba – The name of the monthly Burkina PCV newsletter. A Moore word, literally “courtyard” but meaning “all the members of your extended family who live with you”

Bus – can either be for going from city to city, where you buy a ticket and generally you are sure to get a seat, or around a major city (not sure how that system works)
Bike – our very own BMW for the next two years, our Trek bikes get us where we want to go with minimal effort compared to the 1-speed bikes here.
PC Car – rare, only used after extensive approval, and we probably won't see one often during our service unless we need to get to Ouaga for medical attention right away.
Bush Taxi (Taxi Brousse) – what we will mostly use for transit, these vans are meant to comfortably hold 3 rows of 3 people plus the driver and passenger. Typically then end up holding 4 people per row, plus an extra row of 2-5 people facing the first row on a padded bench, and 2-3 passengers in the front seat next to the driver. You might experience transport with live animals like chickens and sheep. Bikes, motos, and baggage is lashed to the top, and the assistant usually sits up there with his legs hanging off the side. Sometimes more people sit up there or hang on to the ladder on the back when the seats are full. Terrifying and uncomfortable but cheep and get the job done, albeit slowly as people can get on and off whenever they want.

I typically get served by myself in my room. This initially bothered me but now I love the ability to eat what I want, to examine the meat chunks to determine where it came from, to add my own spices instead of the offered sauce.
Rice – usually a safe bet, I like being served rice because I can just eat it with salt and pepper instead of sauce
Couscous – see above
Spaghetti – they break it into small pieces in the package before boiling since people eat with their hands. Sadly usually comes already doused in a sauce.
Sauce – really hit or miss, but typically not something I eat a lot of. There's the sauce with leaves that smells good but has a weird texture, the green sauce with a lot of okra, a tomato sauce with oil, dried fish, and okra, and another tomato sauce with chunks of fish in it. Sauces at restaurants are usually a bit better – I had a delicious yogurt sauce with couscous one night. My family hasn't made it for me, but my experiences with peanut sauce have been pretty good as well.
Tô – a staple food here, made by cooking any kind of flour with water, then scooping it into individual portions with a dried gourd scoop dipped in water. Very hard work physically to make, and pretty tasteless. Gets sticky when smooshed, eaten with the hands by dipping it in sauce.
Beenga – beans, specifically black eyed peas, but also a mixture of beans cooked with rice into a bland reddish dish typically eaten with a sauce or oil and salt.
Bread (local and city) – local is hit or miss, but often tasty and moist, kind of like a sourdough. Beware of rocks and grit that might crack a tooth. City bread is your typical baguette, although usually a bit stale by the time I get it for breakfast. Not as tasty, but a known quantity.
Fruit – very seasonal. Currently we're eating delicious small bananas, watermelons, and oranges (which are green-skinned and taste a little like a grapefruit).
Drinks – Beer, Nescafe, Lipton, Nido, Filtered Water, Sodas. Beers here are served in 66ml (about 26oz) bottles and are a bit stronger than most beers in the US . There are about 4-5 brands you can find nationally. Nescafe instant coffee and Lipton yellow label tea are my staples for breakfast, although I don't actually like either all that much. Nido is name-brand powdered milk and gets added to my coffee and tea, although self-stable milk is available in some places. Filtered water would be what comes out of my giant two-tiered bucket system. I'm sure it tastes fine, but after adding the drops of bleach to kill the viruses it tastes pretty nasty, even if you cut back to half of the recommended amount. Improved with flavor packets – Bridget has blueberry pomegranate, which is pretty tasty. Sodas available are full-sugar Coke, Sprite, and Orange Fanta, served in glass bottles that come in two sizes (large and larger).

My Typical Day
Since we've been moving around a fair bit since we got in country, my typical day has changed a fair bit. When we arrived in Ouaga we stayed in a hotel/dorm type place with a roommate and communal bathrooms, eating in the cafeteria without paying for our meals and spending our days in welcome and basic orientation sessions. We got some vaccinations, did some administrative stuff like getting fitted for our bikes and receiving our per diem for the next two weeks, and generally hung out and got to know one another.

After a few days in Ouaga we moved to Koudougou, to a compound that is now our home base for training. We stayed in the dorms/hotel in the compound, 3 to a room with communal bathrooms at the end of each hallway, and spent our days in classes from 8am-5pm, with an hour and a half for lunch and a morning break and afternoon break. We had internet access intermittently, but after the second day it was broken and we've just had to go without.

They gave us the bare minimum that they felt we needed to survive, then kicked us out into host families, which is the situation and thus the day-to-day that I currently find myself in. As mentioned in another section, I live in a very large, wonderful family that I have yet to fully comprehend but it's been quite the fun and interesting adventure so far. My typical day here really consists of two patterns – one when we go to KDG, one when we stay in village. Regardless of the day, I generally wake up between 5:30am and 6am. If I'm up early I might shower (bucket bath, actually), pack up my bags for the day, eat my breakfast of Nescafe with Nido, Lipton with Nido, and bread, sometimes with the addition of eggs, tô, spaghetti, beenga, or whatever else is around. Usually just bread – I bought some knock-off Nutella to put on it but it tastes more like chocolate donut frosting than Nutella. I greet the entire family in Moore, resorting to French when they go past my limited repertoire of questions I know and can answer.

I bike to the CSPS by 7am, and if we're there for class I have an hour to read and study. If we're going to KDG we load up the car after parking our bikes in the empty ambulance hanger and drive to the compound where we have class. We have class M-F from 8:00-10:00am, 10:30-12:30pm, 2:00pm-3:30pm, and 3:45-5:15pm, and a half day on Saturday with only our first two classes, followed by lunch and a nap under the tree at the CSPS before going home to do laundry and help out around the house. Sunday is our day off, and the Village People have started making it a habit to bike into KDG to use the internet cafe and meet up with other trainees. It takes a little over an hour each way, but is mostly flat so it's not that hard. This might be changing in the near future as we've discussed making Saturday afternoon “fun day” so that Romongo has a chance to hang out and party with the rest of the group, ferried into town by PC car after our morning classes at the CSPS. I imagine that Sunday will become family day instead – that's a lot of family time, but they'll be in the fields for most of the day and we'll either be out there with them or left to our own devices.

That's pretty much it. Any free time I have, I tend to spend sitting with my family, tidying up my room, reading, journaling, and trying to study, or talking with friends if we're in Koudougou. It's pretty predictable, but there's nothing wrong with that for the moment.

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