Hello everyone! Sorry for the massive pause in updating - I got busy and lazy, to be honest. "Ca fait deux jours" means "It's been a while" or literally "It's been two days", and no matter how long it's been it's an appropriate way to greet someone you haven't seen for a few days/weeks/months. I'm headed back to site in a few hours, but I wanted to say that I'm still alive and chugging along here in the Faso. What have I been up to? Well...
-The bike tour came through my village at the beginning of September, to resounding success. I got to cook lots of food (lasagna, mac and cheese, cornbread, cookies), my village was very honored to play host, and I used it as a kick-off to generate interest in my meeting the next day.
-The general meeting the next day was to propose a project idea with Emily, the Kalsaka volunteer. We want to get community health agents into primary schools to teach the students about various health topics, and to convince people to go along with it (and to improve nutrition at the school lunches) we want to plant moringa trees, 5 for each student, as a growing competition. In April we'll measure the trees, give out prizes, and hold a party to celebrate the end of the project and to let the students show off some of the things they've learned. Moringa is an amazing tree with leaves that are packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals, and the powdered leaves can be added to just about any dish or sauce, including the daily student meal of beans and rice. We met with the representatives of the PTAs for each school, the health agents, and local VIPs who need to give their ok. It went quite well, and felt like a good start.
-My mom and uncle came to visit in mid September for a week! It was amazing to have them here, to let them see what my life is like, and to take in some of the more touristy things that I otherwise probably wouldn't have seen (like the amazing granite sculpture gardens at Zinare). They came to my village, met my host family in Romongo, and adventured around Ouaga with a good sense of humor and a willingness to go along with my crazy plans. It was a lot of fun, and Shannon has invited them to become Response volunteers. ;)
-Just after they left I had a VAC meeting and then we jumped into swear-in for the newest group of volunteers, plus a 3 day fair to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps. It rained like crazy the morning of the first day (causing chaos and confusion) but we got it together and overall things went really well. We worked hard, but got to go out and celebrate for a night before all heading back to site.
-At site I've been working a lot at the maternity and trying to get this moringa project going. We've had a few setbacks (our funding request getting caught in the end-of-fiscal-year shuffle, so we won't get the money for fencing for another few months, no more moringa seeds available for a few months, every decision requiring several meetings spread over several days or weeks), but we're slowly plugging away and hope to start the health lessons this month and wait to plant the trees until January (which is actually a better time to plant them anyway, it's cooler and won't cook the saplings). We've also done several Polio campaigns in the past few months, and I've enjoyed visiting the smaller villages in my area and meeting new people. Also, on the last campaign I got a bug stuck in my ear, but my CSPS staff drowned it and washed it out with a syringe full of water, and laughed at me for being worried about it.
-Halloween was a blast! Dave came out to my site on the 29th and spent the night in Kossouka, then we biked to Seguenega and hopped on a truck to go to Kalsaka to celebrate with Emily and JK. We carved a little watermelon to look like a jack-o-lantern, made lots of delicious food, baked a Funfetti cake (!), and danced under the stars.
-I've been in Ouaga the past day doing some work, following up on moringa project requests, and researching grad schools! I'm currently looking into programs to become a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner, which would allow me to work in a variety of settings (hospital, clinic, birthing center, private practice, college campus, etc) and do just about everything a doctor does (write prescriptions, order and interpret lab results) but with the nursing focus on holistic and preventative care. The degree is a masters or post-masters, and typically requires a bachelors in Nursing plus being a certified RN, but I've found several schools that have bridge or direct entry programs for people like me who already have a bachelors in something other than nursing. I'd have to take 2 or 3 classes before I can get into the program (Microbiology, Nutrition, Anatomy since I only took Physiology), but I'm really happy about the different possibilities and options that I have. It also looks like I might be back in Massachusetts, in Boston this time! A lot of things need to fall into place, but it's exciting to start looking and making tentative plans.
-And next on the list is back to village (for more moringa meetings!) and then Mid-Service Conference at the end of November, a chance to check in at our 1 year mark, get a health checkup, receive a little more training, and prepare for the coming year. In December I get to teach the first aid session at stage for the newest arrivals here in Burkina, and then I'm going back to the US for 3 weeks for Christmas! So much to look forward to. With that, time to go pack and catch a bus! I hope all of you are doing well in your various endeavors, and finding lots to smile about.