Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Visiting Rosalie and the Mill

June 28th

I was drawn out into the dark by the flashes of light I glimpsed through my window, lightning without yet seeing a hint of wind, rain, or even thunder. A cloud, noticeably thicker and darker than the ones around it, seemed to be slowly swallowing the last edges of the moonlight, while a ripple of internal lightning would light up my courtyard instead. The frogs are still croaking outside, so even though I'm inside I still have yet to close up the windows and doors, trying to welcome the cool storm breeze into my little cement and tin oven.

I went to meet with Francois this afternoon about the library (I'd called him yesterday to set up a time to meet). Mariam the secretary for the Mairie and the Prefecture informed me that he had gone to OHG and wouldn't be back until late, so I told her I'd call him tomorrow and re-schedule. I also invited her to my as-of-yet-unplanned neem cream formation, which now that I think of it I should plug with the ASCs on Thursday at the pre-polio campaign meeting. There were some people there from OHG, they didn't offer why and I couldn't figure out a polite way to ask “what the heck are you doing in my village?” so I left it at that. One of their group came out of the mayor's office calling me nasara. I felt peevish so I didn't reply until he actually walked over. He then stated, in Moore, that he wanted me. Some days this is unbearably insulting and I feel the need to snap back, but today it took less energy to just joke back at him and tell him that it's too bad, I'm already married, my husband would be very angry, and no, I do not need another husband here while mine is so far away in America. Writing it out in English makes it sound like I was being rudely sarcastic, but I say it as a joke and everyone takes it as such, at least they seem to respond better than when I've seen volunteers get angry or upset. We all laughed and shook hands and went our separate ways.

Since there was nothing else to do at the Mairie, I was headed home and decided that as I was already on my bike I should go visit Rosalie and maybe see if I could find out more about Simon. She was cleaning dried corn kernels, standing up and pouring them from a calabash into a basin on the ground so the breeze would blow away anything that wasn't heavy enough to fall straight down, bits of husk and cob and broken kernel bits. She was taking it to the mill to be ground into flour. Having never actually seen one of the machines in action since stage, I volunteered to go with her. We got sidetracked for a little while when Koka pulled up and the two of them started to gossip, so I occupied myself by watching Rosalie's kids play in the dirt, making mounds of gravel and forming it into shapes they could sit in the middle of. Her son Isiadore was absolutely petrified of me, which of course made everyone laugh. I normally feel bad for kids who are scared of me, but he was at least 7 or 8, and at the sight of me arriving he had gone and hidden in the storage shed, curled in a ball and sobbing. Rosalie coaxed him out to shake my hand and he did so without too much trouble and had even stopped crying, but continued to regard me with great fear and did whatever he could to stay out of direct sight of me. His little brother, on the other hand, was happily showing off his skills at throwing rocks to chase away pigeons, chickens, and goats who were attracted to the broken corn kernels on the ground.

The machine was under repair when we arrived so we went and stood in the shade to wait and chat. She told me about the drama in the CoGES – she's no longer speaking to Binta because of some petty argument they had at the last meeting, Binta having shown up late and blaming Rosalie in a way that sounded quite excessive. She explained that Simon had taken a job in Ouaga, she thinks as a groundskeeper for a house, but she wasn't totally sure why he'd decided to leave and she did say his family is still around. I asked if anyone had his new phone number and she said she'd ask her husband. Mariam at the Mayor's office had hinted, and Rosalie confirmed, that there still hasn't been enough rain to plant all the crops, most people have planted their millet but are waiting to plant the corn, peanuts, okra, oseille leaves, and pois de terre (kind of taste like a chickpea crossed with a dusty peanut). We stood there for a while commenting on the fact that it might or might not rain tonight – in Moore you do a lot of stating the obvious or narrating out loud what's going on. Oh, and my CoGes president has truly gone off to Cote d'Ivoire, possibly for several years. I really need to hang out with Rosalie more – she's got all the gossip and information!

Interestingly, I think I remember writing a month or so ago that my number of marriage proposals has dropped almost to zero, but today I had not just the one at the mayor's office, but another waiting at the mill! Again, all parties were surprised that I understood what was being proposed, and again I joked that I was already married and he'd have to take it up with my husband in “white-person land”, and no I was not in need of a husband for over there and for over here. All I could do was sigh and laugh along with them.

So once the mill was put back together and functioning we went inside to watch. The machine consists of a large metal funnel that dispenses the item to be ground into a small horizontal trough suspended below it. The operator, sitting in a chair next to the machine, has one hand in the trough to move the grain through at the correct rate, and he also swings it back and forth a little so that more keeps falling from the funnel into the far end. He pushes the grain in small amounts into the opening at the top of the grinder, two vertical disks with a rather pretty pattern of grooves that are diagonally radiating from the center out to the rim (I got to see them when he was taking everything apart earlier, when the machine is running they're enclosed in a cast iron cover). The resulting flour is spit out of a chute into a waiting metal basin. Each run is put through 4 times, so when the trough is almost empty you grab the basin and dump it back into the funnel while he catches the last bits in an empty can until you put the basin back under the chute. The last pass is deposited directly into your rice sack or bowl that you brought the grain in, and then he grabs the next bag in line and starts again.

The price depends on quantity, measured in boites, the amount that fills an empty 1kg tomato paste tin (it's about a 6in diameter and 4 inches high). An American would fill it level each time, here it's customary to measure one boite as being the amount up to the rim plus as much as you can get to stay in a pyramid on top, plus a little spill-over. Millet is 50cfa per boite all over town, but corn, being harder and more work for the machine, is 75-100cfa depending on which mill you go to, the ones near my house in the market are apparently more expensive than this one only a 1 minute bike ride away. I know it's possible to leave your grain and pick it up later but the process did go smoother when someone was there to help him so he didn't have to get up or turn the machine off to put the flour through for another pass. Most people seem to send their children, although there were a few very old ladies there as well, Rosalie and I were the only people who weren't under 10 or over 60.

At that point it was getting towards 6pm, so I said goodnight and headed over to the CSPS to say hello, where I learned about yet another Polio campaign. I have come to dislike the drudgery of going door to door at any time of the year, but it's particularly frustrating to be sent during the beginning of rainy season when trying to find the kids under 5 is almost impossible - they're all out in the fields with their mothers, fields that are never located near the house. So we end up vaccinating any kids we meet as we go from house to house. We never find all of them, it makes marking the house with how many kids were vaccinated a nightmare, and it results in the numbers for each village being all messed up because we end up getting kids in our sweep for village x who belong to village y, meaning we will be sent back tomorrow to village y to find the “missing” children that got marked by the team who were assigned to village x. But it must be done, so do it we will.

Laundry, Simon Left?

June 25th

Yesterday I finally broke down and bought new basins for washing laundry, tired of using my cramped buckets. They cost more than I really wanted to pay, but it was gratifying to be able to wash more laundry at one go and I'm glad I got them. I was reading under my hangar, waiting for my laundry to dry, when a rainstorm crept up on me. Normally rain is proceeded with thunder, huge gusts of wind, dark ominous clouds, but this was just a slight darkening of the sky and the realization that the tapping sound I was hearing was rain hitting the wooden table next to me that wasn't under the protective cover of the hangar like I was. I got my laundry inside just in time, put the last damp items to hang over chairs, and that was that. The calm drizzle intensified into a thunderstorm so violent and directly overhead that I almost tore a hole in my GRE book when I was circling an answer just as a clap of thunder shook my house. It continued on for another hour or so. I was worried for my garden, which looked to be in peril of drowning, but for the most part the little mounded hills I dug stayed above the waterline. The drizzle following the violent storm continued until I went to bed at 9 – I had been trapped in the house for 5 hours, I was bored, so I went to sleep. Oh rainy season. At least it was good for the fields!

With such a sunny start to my day this morning after sleeping almost 10 hours I felt all bouncy and productive, so I swept the house and started GRE problems. I tried calling Simon to tell him about Aicha's visit on Thursday, but his phone still said it was turned off, adding weight to my suspicion that he doesn't have it anymore or doesn't use it, since it haven't successfully connected in about 6 months. I decided to go visit Rosalie in the afternoon to get directions to his house, and in the meantime I went to the CSPS to get water, say hello, and keep studying with some company. There must not have been many CPNs, because they were finished when I arrived! What a nice change from the usual crowded Monday. I went home when people started leaving at 12:30, still plugging away at GRE math problems, which didn't go perfectly but not nearly as bad as I'd expected. I ate lunch and kept at it, then went back a little before the end of repose to get my computer and another bidon of water. I ended up talking to Belem and Nacoulma for a while, then headed home to put down my stuff and go visit Rosalie.

I first called Francois, the mayor, to tell him about the meeting. He told me that Simon left! He's in Ouaga looking for work, he turned in the keys to the library a month ago! I'm so disappointed and sad, I feel like it's my fault he's there instead of here, if he'd actually been getting paid he might not have had to leave. I don't know if his family went with him, I guess I'd be surprised if they did. I wonder what happened – did his fields last year do so badly that they didn't have anything to plant this year, forcing them to find some other source of income in order to eat? So far this year is shaping up to be a good rainy season, I really hope someone is planting his fields. I've only met his wife once over a year ago, I don't know if I'd actually recognize her if I went to go talk to her (if I could find the house) and I don't remember if she spoke French, but I seem to remember that he had a daughter who had made it to 6eme before leaving school, so she might. I really want to talk to him, but I have no idea how to contact him. I should have asked Francois if he had a different phone number, I'll do it when I see him tomorrow.

So instead of going to see Rosalie, who everyone assured me would be in her fields until dinner, I sat with Belem in the shade next to her house and read my Maternal-Neonatal book. She was so excited about it, and kept lamenting that it's wasn't in French. I told her to keep an eye out for the maternity/midwife book I found in the CSPS last year, that I had enjoyed reading it and it was all in French. She asked about me teaching her yoga, so maybe tomorrow I'll take my mat over there and we can start doing some exercises to help her back pain.

Studying for the GRE

June 23rd

I must be ready to go back to academics, I'm studying for hours a day for fun? Wow. I woke up very leisurely around 6 and went back to sleep until around 7, then got up and had my tea and oatmeal. I tried to read but soon abandoned it for my GRE book. I finished up the Verbal practice section, revealing that I am wonderful at sentence completion, pretty good at analogies, need work on reading comprehension, and felt like a pretty big failure on antonyms due to a large number of words I just didn't recognize in the least. Good news is that there's a mini-dictionary in the back with the most commonly used GRE words, and I started writing my own list to study, but it was admittedly disappointing to feel like I read so much and yet have what they would consider to be a limited vocabulary.

I put down the GRE book after finishing the verbal section and picked up my Maternal-Neonatal Health book that I got at a used book store in Half Moon Bay. It's a little outdated and kind of...thin, as though it's a review to accompany a bigger book or a lecture series, the information isn't very detailed, but it's also a lot of fun to be reading about things that I vaguely remember and look forward to re-learning in detail, like embryonic development (this time with humans instead of zebra-fish or sea-urchins) and fetal blood flow (they were kind of confusing on that, somehow oxygenated and deoxygenated blood seemed to be going through the same pathways of the heart but not mixing?).

The frogs are out in full force the past few nights, croaking away at an almost unbelievable level. I wonder what they do in the dry season, where they go? After the first good rain or two they just appear, as if they hibernate in the ground and the rain loosens the soil above them and tells them it's time to get going again.

Working in the maternity

June 22nd

I went to the maternity to work this morning – it was nice to feel helpful even if it does get a little dull by the 20th woman. We did have one women come in and midway through her exam Belem announced that she had a broken foot! Smart, actually, since pregnant women get free medications due to a program with Terre des Hommes, an NGO. Also amazing, the birth early this morning of a baby boy, in perfect health, missing a left calf and foot. It looks like a healed amputation below the knee, just a small spur of bone covered in smooth skin indicating where the rest of his leg would have developed. The body is fascinating! My nurses were talking to the mother, an 18-year old first time mother, telling her the baby would adapt well since he was born this way, but I couldn't really get a read on how she felt about the whole thing, maybe just stunned.

So we worked until a bit past noon, I came home and made lunch and read, and around 3pm opened up my gate to watch people passing by and started studying my GRE book. Juliette came by to sit and chat, and ended up napping for a few hours while I studied. She passed her exam! I'm so proud of her for wanting to continue on to 6eme next year, and I'm just hoping that Rosalie and her husband can come up with the money for her to continue her studies at the CEG.

Malnutrition campaign, Site development

June 20th

I've been back in village for the better part of a week, but I still feel like I have yet to get back into the swing of my life here. Makes sense, I spent 2 days cleaning, 1 day with visitors, 1 day preparing for more visitors, and today waiting for visitors who eventually showed up. I've got this nice impressive list of stuff I want to accomplish in the next 5 months, so feeling like I'm sitting around doing nothing is making me a little nervous, especially considering I want to leave site again in less than 2 weeks.

The main village event today was the start of a campaign to identify malnourished kids. I didn't go help, ostensibly because I was preparing for my visit by Justin for site development, but he was so late I easily could have gone. I'm admittedly kind of burned out on the door to door campaigns. I feel obligated to go and help the ASCs, particularly after they helped me with the schools for free, but I now truly understand the absolute need for “motivation” money. It's not that they're unwilling to do the work for free, or don't understand how important and necessary the work is. It's that these campaigns are boring, hard, thankless tasks that have to be done. Knowing there's a reward at the end keeps people at least feeling obligated to come and help every time the call goes out for yet another campaign of some type, particularly during the rainy season when all they want is to be in their fields to ensure they can eat next year. I guess I've started shifting myself more into the paperwork and prep-work part of the campaigns so that I'm still helping in some way, but I do feel a bit guilty for avoiding the part that involves getting up early and biking long distances and having children cry when they see me.

In the afternoon we had my site development meeting at the Mayor's office, only starting 2 hours later than planned. I was nervous because I honestly didn't work with (or even know) the majority of the people who showed up, but they seemed to be saying good things about me, which was encouraging. Justin presented his points in Moore about community responsibility, that the PCV is like a flashlight that the village needs to guide to illuminate the path they chose to travel, and we signed some paperwork saying that the house I live in will be available for the next PCV as well. I don't really think they got too much out of it besides a forum to clear up that the next PCV will be health, and after that they can request another sector. But I assured Justin that I have big plans for making the next PCV feel welcome and hit the ground running, and I'm excited to work on that with my staff and CoGes.

Visitors, HP, Garden

June 19th

Bridget and Alicia came to visit Monday and left this morning. We didn't do much, just relaxed and ate and talked. We bought bread and made a bunch of grilled cheese sandwiches for my staff, but they ended up not coming over even when I called people, so we ate all of them ourselves. We made a delicious dinner of taco lentils and barley (with even more of the Velveeta, dear god!) and watched an episode of Glee. I'd set them up outside in my bughut on top of the mattress – the stars were out even though it had threatened to rain all day – but an hour or so later we were dragging everything back inside as it started to rain. And rain. And rain. Still, they managed to get out of the village without too much issue this morning and since I haven't had them back knocking on my door I assume they made it home ok.

I then went on a Harry Potter binge! Did I mention that I finally collected all 7 books, having been trying to do so for the past 18 months? I finished the first book which I'd started before my visitors arrived, and then tore through 2 and 3 by the end of the repose, even taking a break to plant my tiny garden. Clearly not highbrow literature, but they sure are fun to re-read after so long. The rain last night flooded my yard, so I ended up putting everything in the only place it didn't flood, over by the curved wall between the gate and my hangar. I've got a lettuce blend, spinach, swiss chard, basil, cilantro, carrots, onions, tomatoes, wild flowers, and lavender, still trying to decide if I can find a way to grow the green beans, squashes, and melons without them taking over my yard or being drowned (all the other places for a spreading plant are either shaded or low-lying, but maybe I could get the beans to climb the hangar). That and a new moringa and I should be set! Trying to decide if I need to cover them, it probably wouldn't hurt to make a little fence or something to keep the lizards from snapping off the tops of the sprouts again, although I didn't have that problem last rainy season, it was only during the hot dry season this spring. Maybe I'll wait and see if I need it.

Home in Kossouka!

June 16th

Wow it's good to be back! I woke up in the middle of the night for a dust storm that kind of rained but not much, moved indoors into my terribly dirty house, and ignored my alarm and slept until 7am. I then spent all morning listening to podcasts and cleaning the house very very thoroughly. Kerry was right, Savage Lovecasts are perfect for doing chores around the house. I dusted and swept and wiped off almost everything, only the biggest pieces of furniture escaped being moved (but I did move and sweep under the canteens, the mattress leaning against my wall, the litpico, my water filter stand, and the water barrel). I know it won't stay clean for long, but for now I feel very accomplished. It threatened rain all day, even spitting once for a minute. Instead of going out and chancing getting caught in a downpour, I read and ate and chatted on the phone with friends. Bridget and Alicia are coming on Monday, Justin on Wednesday, and maybe Aicha on Monday? A nice busy start to the first week back!

Visiting Koukouldi, World Map

June 15th

So much can change so quickly when I don't update my journal! Left Dave's and hopped on transport and made it to Ouaga on the 10th. Went to the bureau to escape the House and ended up talking to Shannon for a while while she did some work, then went upstairs to work on the computer and skype.

The next morning, very early, I was off to Koukouldi to visit Kerry! It took a while to get going (had to stop for gas, then to inflate the tires, then for some unknown reason), but off we went, arriving around 10 or 11am. We dropped off my stuff and made some lunch, then went out to start the process of greeting everyone. We greeted her family, the teachers at the primary school where Stephanie (the last PCV there) had done her world map, the gardener who works with a lot of the PCVs in the area, the people at the boutique, the people at the bouvette, the neighbors, some people around village, and Tantie, her counterpart. Kerry had made soap that morning, and that afternoon was planning on helping with an HIV/AIDS sensibilization by a group of villagers that had been formed through the Protestant Church. We followed them around for a while, waiting in vain for someone to show up who we just had to wait for. We were about to leave (it was almost 6pm and I was exhausted) when they decided to move to the next courtyard over. But suddenly the people decided they didn't remember how to present it, so they just started passing out their posters and Tantie gave a lecture on courtyard hygiene and the importance of schooling and literacy. The guy we had been waiting for did eventually show up.

Kerry and I headed home after the presentation was over. We hung out, talked, ate blueberry pancakes, and watched Glee, the phenomenon that I have thus far resisted but, due to it's PCV popularity, have never quite escaped.

The next day we slept in until 7:30 (it rained in the night so it was still fairly cool even in her house with her hogging the fan in the next room), then biked to the CSPS to see Tantie, meet the staff, and then headed out to the neighboring village to draw the world. It took us a while to draw the rectangle to our satisfaction, but after that we gridded it (modified to reflect our crunched time frame, a 5 by 6 instead of 28 by 56 or something), drew the continents, and even painted the oceans. We got sunburned despite the overcast day, but got so much done, we felt very American with our 6 hour work day with only 30 minutes for lunch (benga we'd brought with us). I was hesitant to use the petrol to clean my hands, but it really is the only thing that gets off oil-based paint, I still have some on my foot from 2 days ago. Still, I won't be surprised if we all get some weird cancer from washing our hands with gas and laundry detergent.

The second day of the map we were up and waiting for Margaret, who came to use the electricity to do her COS paperwork and bring us paint that we didn't end up needing. We found out from Kerry's host brother (who's in the 6th grade, top of the class) that there are only 5 continents according to the 20-year old text book all students use: Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, and America. We pointed to Antarctica on our map, but he didn't recognize it. We called a teacher PCV who was sitting with a university student, a geography major, who informed us that since no one lives there they don't count it. Oh. Also, all of Russia is considered Europe, suddenly tripling the amount of paint we needed to budget for Europe. Our map didn't have quite as nicely detailed coast lines as Stephanie's map, and any island smaller than Hawaii was completely left off, but it really is beautiful and very colorful and quite impressively visible, 6x12feet on the side of a school. We mixed up very lovely shades of green, orange, and purple, as well as the light blue of the water, and Kerry did a Peace Corps logo in the corner using q-tips since we didn't have any brushes smaller than 1in (hence the bad coastlines).

We went home, ate a very late lunch, said goodbye to Margaret, talked about her best-friend's boyfriend issues, and watched a binge of Glee. Woke up late, made pancakes, said goodbye, and came into Ouaga yet again. The day started sunny, but as I was packing to finally go back to village it downpoured like crazy! Still, nothing got too wet, and it stopped by the time we all wanted to go to sleep. I woke up the next morning to get on skype, and used the fast internet to do some research about community college courses I want to take when I get home – exciting stuff!

Emily, her friend Brida, and I caught a ride with Saidou to Marina Market to stock up on groceries, then went to our respective bus stations. I caught a ride with WPK this time, a massively better experience than STAF. I got my bike and 2 large bags on with no issue, the bus was maybe ¼ full, comparatively clean and intact with all the windows still present if not totally secure, and we made it to village before dark even after taking an hour to leave Ouaga. Amazing. Ignored the dust in my house, took a shower, did a little yoga (my right knee seems to be bothering me a little), and now here I am!

Zogare, Ferris Bueller

June 9th

Very calm and lazy day, almost annoyingly so, how strange is that? I kept feeling this need to be doing something productive, something actively engaging either myself or both of us, I felt guilty for taking a Saturday and just doing laundry and reading like I would have in site. Weird.

I had a really hard time falling asleep last night after we moved inside because it started raining again. Woke up when Dave went to go run but stayed in bed until he came back. I got his mat and did the start of my yoga routine, and oh it has been a while! My hamstrings were so tight I couldn't even touch my toes at first, a far cry from 2 months ago. Something I'd definitely like to pick back up, I just really need a new way of having it in my routine now that the rain has started and it might be too wet to do it outside and I've started spending my evenings with my nurses instead of going home at 5pm.

Anyway. Did some yoga, did a little laundry, talked a lot about relationships, divorce, college classes, pranks and dares. We ate good food (more peanut butter and honey sandwiches, yum!), waited in vain for Maurice to call about getting beers, made dinner (spaghetti with tons of veggies and tuna), and watched Ferris Bueller's Day Off. How have I never seen this movie?! I swear it would have changed my life in high school. I loved the 80's clothing and hairdo's, the analog voice machines, his brilliant maneuvers to keep people off his tail, the car (the car!), the cheesy background music for dramatic moments, the “everything is all right now” ending that completely ignored the loose ends, the overly obvious foreshadowing (even I knew what was coming!) - it was epic.

Visiting Zogare

June 8th

We had to move inside in the middle of the night because of a huge rainstorm that sprang up, so we woke up pretty tired for Dave's meeting this morning with the responsables of the village. Maurice went with him to MAP (Men As Partners, a Peace Corps training) and is now really excited to try and teach more people about gender equality! (awesome, right?) His first goal is to reduce pregnancies in the middle schools. Everyone was late because of the rain (including us, we made scrambled eggs with veggies) and half of the people didn't show up since they had gone out into their fields to plant while the ground was soft enough to dig in (a day under the sun and it's hard as a rock again). The whole thing was in Moore so I wasn't exactly sure what was going on, but they did seem to be having a lively discussion that ended favorably, with people at least agreeing to be on board with trying to reduce pregnancies among school-aged girls. And the best part was that Dave and I didn't have to do a thing, just sit there! That's how this is supposed to work, someone in the community taking initiative and the volunteer just helping and supporting (or showing up to a meeting so that people will want to come and stare at us).

Our duty done, we went to the marche and bought a wedding pagne to send to his friend who's getting married in the US next month, and went home and watched a movie, Waiting. We showered, read, talked, and napped for the afternoon, then Maurice invited us over to eat porc au feu (roasted pork) so we biked across the village to visit his family (and marvel at the goat that had somehow made it up to the roof of his house). We went home and made dinner while fending off the flying termites that we had watched hatch out of the ground this afternoon (they were so pretty and poetic then, now they're just annoying and try to fly into your headlamp), watched another movie (St. Tritian's 2 or something like that, very funny with Colin Firth and Rupert Evert), and now it's time for bed.


June 7th

I stayed in Ouaga for several days for our VAC meeting. We had dinner with Shannon to say goodbye as she gets ready to leave on her next adventure and we get ready to welcome a new Country Director in July. It was busy and hectic as usual, and I was glad to get out of Ouaga today, especially because I was going up north to visit Dave! Originally my VAC meeting had been planned for the 8th-10th, meaning I would have gone home after vacation for a few days and then had to turn around and leave again, so instead I proposed visiting OHG. Well, then the dates got changed and happened to be right when I was getting back to the country, but since I'd also promised Kerry I'd come help her with her world map on the 11th, I decided to go ahead and visit anyway and go back to village as planned on the 15th.

I woke up this morning nice and early and caught the 8am bus up so I could have lunch with Dave, Ebben, Bridget, James and Julie. Oh how I had missed a simple plate of riz-sauce. Everyone had places to go and work to do, so we said goodbye after lunch and biked to the big marche where we bought lettuce, tomatoes, eggplants, garlic, onions, and green peppers. Despite all of this vegetable variety being a little over 30km away from his village, Dave's marche currently only has onions and mangoes, meaning mine will also only have onions and mangoes. I guess it is that season again. We caught the camion to his village, went around and said hi to people, met Maurice (his counterpart in the village) for a beer, and then headed home to talk and make dinner. I love hanging out with Dave because we sometimes have a lot to say to each other and feel free to do so, and other times we just sit and it's ok if we're doing our own thing like reading or doing Sudoku puzzles.


May 12-June 2

Well, it's again been quite a while since I've put anything up here. In my defense, I was on vacation, and a lovely one it was! Since I didn't actually write any journal entries while I was traveling, here's the condensed version.

I left Burkina on May 12th and flew to France, spending several days with my parents eating amazing food (and cheese!), walking around Paris, shopping, touring the countryside, learning about making champagne, and just relaxing and enjoying amenities like clean toilets and washing machines. I wasn't able to indulge in as much of the wine tasting as I would have liked, due to being on antibiotics for a staph infection I picked up just days before leaving Burkina, but what I did try I really enjoyed. It was actually a little chilly, compounded by my complete lack of appropriate clothing for any weather below 70 degrees, but we managed alright.

On the 17th I hopped on another plane, this one bound for Washington D.C. I ended up sharing the flight with Puja, another Burkina PCV from my stage, so we blocked the aisle for a while standing and catching up. We were on the new A380, a truly jumbo jet that seats over 500 people and was surprisingly spacious and comfortable even in coach. I was met at the airport with great enthusiasm by Katie Brown! We spent the day catching up, shopping (the mall is so overwhelmingly large!), and touring her new apartment that she shares with her awesome boyfriend Christopher and her cat-who-thinks-he's-a-dog, Loki. They brought me up to speed on popular internet and pop culture phenomena like the newest songs by the “I'm On A Boat” guys, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Symphony of Science.

The 18th we hopped in the car and drove up to South Hadley, MA to our 2-year college reunion! I know a 2-year reunion is rather unusual, but we both loved getting to see our friends from the class of 2012 graduate, as well as knowing a handful of people who were there at their 5 year reunion (the seniors our freshman year). I spent several amazing days just cocooned in love and smiles. It was overwhelming in the best way to see and catch up with so many wonderful classmates who are all doing such impressive things with their lives. Plus it was just fun to see Katie and Christopher nerding out at Neil deGrasse Tyson being the commencement speaker.

The 20th I was picked up by my cousin Melissa in her speedy, shiny Mini Cooper and off we went to Albany. She asked me to be James' godmother ages ago, and the time had finally come to do the baptism while I was conveniently close by. It was a small ceremony but very touching, and we related it to Aunt Sue the next day in great detail, complete with iPhone photos. I got to spend a few days relaxing and eating well with Melissa and Eric, always a welcoming place to stay, and then it was time for yet another change of location!

Very early the 23rd I flew across the country to San Francisco to see Sunyata. It was so much fun to be back in the Bay Area, particularly because this time it wasn't quite as cold as it was in December! Not to say that it wasn't cold, I did end up borrowing a coat and wearing it over my jacket most of the time, but there were at least a few times when it wasn't totally necessary. We took the dogs to the dog park and watched them swim, played with the kitties, visited museums and parks, toured UCSF's nursing school, drove up to Elk and made an ice cream cake for Sunyata's birthday, spent an afternoon at a hot spring, drove back on the beautiful Highway 1 and saw seals, watched the fireworks for the anniversary of the Golden Gate bridge from a tour boat, rode her new scooter (beep!beep!), and walked all over San Francisco. It was so hard to leave, but I'm really grateful I got the chance to visit one more time before coming back to Burkina for my last 6 months.

On the 1st we woke up at a ridiculous hour to get to the airport and put me on a plane to Boston, where I caught my return flight to Burkina via Paris. Lo and behold, another familiar face in Paris! This time I got to hang out with Anna, another PCV from my stage who was returning from visiting her family. We got into Ouaga and into the airport building just in time for a huge dust storm to hit, a red swirling cloud that blocked out the sun and the airplanes parked next to the building. I thought my bag had been lost but it finally appeared several nerve-wracking minutes after the rest of the bags had been claimed by their owners, and Saidou took us home to the Transit House.