8 December – Romongo, 10:44pm
Another long but productive day with my CoGES treasurer. Things I now know about my village:
-it's quite large - there are three primary schools and a middle school (which has English teachers!)
-it also has a mayor and prefet, governmental representatives only found in larger villages
-my house is very close to the CSPS and the market, and my nearest neighbors are my Major and Accoucheuse (head nurse and midwife, respectively)
-my district capital, Segenega, is 11k away
-there are daily buses to Ouaga through Kongoussi, but only twice weekly to Ouahigouya. While there is a post office in Segenega, I might get my mail faster if it goes to a regional capital like Kongoussi and then I can share the post-box with a couple of volunteers, hopefully one of which will be close enough to check the mail regularly for those of us who are further away
-my health district that I will work in has 7 satellite villages, but thankfully they seem to be close by, within 3-12km from Kossouka
-my Major is a woman, who has been there for 3 years so she worked with Lauren, the last volunteer
-my village is a mix of Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, and Animists
-everyone speaks Moore, although there is a population of Puehl's who also speak Fulfulde
-there is a market every 3 days, and tends to have a decent selection of foods and goods, although I can always bike to Segenega or Kalsaka
-my house stands alone, but it sounds like being near the center of town will save me from feeling very isolated
-the best cell reception in the town is Zain, the one I'm already on and can use to call other volunteers for free. Perfect!
-the CSPS has solar panels that I can use to charge my cell phone, and perhaps eventually my computer if I don't get a car-battery set-up
I really think that our Q&A time with our homologues was the most useful part for us, although I'm really glad they got a bit of information on who we are, what we want to do, and how Americans tend to think and act (and what to do about that). For example, Americans expect people to be on time, to be direct, to separate their personal and private lives, and if you tell us to stop crying we will only cry more so it's better to just wait until we're finished. Oh, and we've given up a lot to be here, especially cheese (which was a word my homologue didn't know in French so I presume the village isn't exactly swimming in cheese) so please be nice. We learned that the separation between private and professional lives are significantly less distinct here, and if we start crying they will likely be quite upset and not know what to do, so try to go home before giving in to frustration. They had a medical session without us, where we joked that they were teaching our homologues how to take care of their American, such as watering it twice daily but only with filtered water, and never feed it tô with gumbo sauce. Improper handling of your American might result in severe illness, so take care to let it go ahead and eat the strange foods it will prepare for itself, no matter how disgusting or unhealthy they may appear. Actually, I'm sure Jean-Luc told them to make sure we're taking our malaria meds, and to call him should anything go wrong instead of taking us to the CSPS for treatment unless we're literally about to die before the car can get there from Ouaga.
Got home relatively early and decided to take some photos. Practically caused World War III in my courtyard as the kids fought to be in the photos, or to convince me to take photos of just them in some pose while simultaneously fighting off all the other kids who tried to get in the picture. I did get a good one of my host mom cooking, and of my favorite aunt Fati, and even Nana Alimata was getting into it, asking me to take her photo with a bucket of water on her head! It was kind of exasperating, especially because my battery was dying and I wanted photos of everyone. Then again, the death of the battery did save me from having to take more photos, and the kids scattered pretty quickly when they realized that the fun was over. For some reason two of the girls (maybe around 10-12 years old) wanted most of their photos to include them holding red and blue plastic cups, which puzzled and amused me.
After I got to just sit and talk with Fati while she cleaned the millet by tossing it into the air and allowing the dust and dirt to blow out onto a mat in front of her. The tween girls reappeared and grabbed plastic strands from the grain sack they were sitting on, tying it into a circle and surprising me by making string shapes, the same ones I used to make when I was young! Suddenly I was 5 again, at a sleepover at my best friend Larissa's house, racing her to see who could make Jacob's Ladder (the most complicated shape we knew) first. I showed it to them and they clearly recognized it and knew how to get there. I tried to teach them Cat's Cradle – couldn't get it to work but now I think I know where I went wrong and maybe tomorrow I'll show them again and see if they know it. It was really neat, and I liked getting to interact with some of the kids in a smaller group, rather than in an overwhelming clamoring gaggle.
After showering and eating dinner, I wrote the numbers from 6 to 30 out in English, and then by 10's up to 100 and drew the American flag for my host cousin, the one who seems to have accepted that I will not bring her cookies but will give her lists of English words. The Burkinabe clearly made a good choice with their simple flag if only because it's much easier to draw - yellow star in the center, top half red, bottom half green. After measuring out the 13 stripes so they would be about even, I realized that I don't know how they space the stars to fit 50 properly. I'm pretty sure it's 5 rows of 10, but the way I'd drawn my flag didn't leave room for that, so I did 7 rows of 7 and I'm guessing they won't realize that I left out a state (sorry Hawaii). It took a surprising amount of time since I was trying to make it relatively accurate.