Friday, May 15, 2009

The adventure begins!!!

4th day in Burkina, and already I have lived through a world of experiences. After 18 hours of travel on 6 different modes of transportation we finally arrived. Walking out of the plane on to the tarmak we were greeted by some intense 37 degree weather and it was already 4 in the afternoon!! I was looking forward to the breeze that I saw whistling through the trees but was dissapointed to discover that is was a wave of heat passing over me instead. Upon our arrival we were also immediately surrounded by what are called rastas. Young men trying to sell us things and become friends with us. Warm welcome, but maybe a bit overwhelming. We got to our hotel a couple of hours later. It's a nice transition from Toronto to Burkina because it still has toilets and fans and electricity, so we are getting eased into the way of living here. All of the long term overseas volunteers in Burkina came to meet up with us, and we went out for dinner at Stade de France. It's neat because instead of ordering from the Stade de France we order drinks there and there are stands around where we get food. The food is pretty good so far but lots of people are getting sick from it. Then back to the hotel as we were all completely drenched in sweat as we have been for the past 4 days and very worn out. A nice surprise of 2 cockroaches and 1 lizard was waiting for us at our hotel. It's hilarious because some of the lizards do pushups when they are standing still. I will put a video up once I get to my office. Day 2 was our first real adventure!!! Alanna, our Junior Fellow Support, sent us off by ourselves to tackle the grand marché. She gave us 7 things to buy without telling us the price and we each went our seperate ways to explore!!! I don't think I've ever been ripped off so badly in my life :) I bought fabric for about 6 times the price that it usually is, and somehow got convinced into buying a hideous dress haha. The rastas were very successful that day at the market!! My friend Nushka even managed to be convinced to convert to practicing islam!! 2 hours and a weird shower experience later and she was muslim. Later that night we went to a restaurant that is called TV5 which is an outdoor restaurant with a big TV that is always on channel 5. Day 3 was our sector day. We split up into agriculture group and water and sanitation group. There was so much to learn about the water and sanitation sector and about how we could have long term positive impact on it!! Turns out the NGO I am working with, Helvetas, is a very sustainable organization and when they find a project that they like they stick with it for 40 years! Hopefully I will be able to convince them that working with the communes of Burkina is a worthy project. I also found out that my mentor at work is very excited to meet me, and is already preparing my office :) I will meet him today and tomorrow he will drive me to Fada N'gourma where I will be working. He has temporary housing set up for me and I will sort something permanent out upon arrival. We are also going to try a new project of having a Burkinabè volunteer work with the communes. New and exciting initiative that I will be heading up. Day 4 was our first day off. I talked to my EWB coach about my expectations for my placement and about how I am feeling. We then went to the beach with a bunch of the long term volunteers and found a place that had goat cheese salads mmm.

We went by motorcycle so I got to test out my awesome helmet that I bought in Toronto. I am finally starting to adjust to the heat but it is pretty vicious. Some restless nights, and 5 people were sick last night. Today is our last day together before we all split up over the country. This is where the adventure really starts. A bientot!!!


  1. I would be interested in getting a pushup-lizard of my own. How much do they cost? Are there any restrictions on taking them out of the country? And how many consecutive pushups can they do? If it is any less than one hundred, I'm not interested.

    - gs

  2. Good post, Annelies. I think you really conveyed the whirlwind of experience.

    I'd like to hear about the french. Has that been an issue for you at all? Do the Burkinabe notice your accent, other than just that of a foreigner? Do the other JFs notice/care/react?


  3. Hope you can keep your stomach and intestines in line for the duration! Adjusting to the heat is probably part of that.
    Sounds like a good initiation so far - really curious how it'll be now that the group is splitting up. I hope that you can get online and keep us updated pretty often! thinking of you!!! oxxooxxo Annie

  4. Wow....finally caught up on some of your blog. I admire you so much. Thanks for all the information...sounds absolutley thrilling.
    And now I see how to write you back...didn;t figure this out the last time I blogged you!
    You are missing a rainy Victoria Day Monday...but I suppose you would enjoy our drissle at this point.
    How is the food? Any music?

  5. Wow, sounds great! There's a beach somewhere in Burkina Faso?


  6. Hey Annelies - glad to hear Team Burkina made it to Burkina in one piece! After living with you guys for a week it was definitely weird to not have you all with us on the airplane. I wish you very safe travels to your placement.

    Stay in touch!


  7. haha I love the TV5 reference :)

    tip for beating the heat if you live in a mudhut which usually acts like a clay oven throughout the day and night: see if you can sleep on the roof! i did that once and it was magical. (don't do this if the roof is thatch. you will either fall through or make a lot of new friends with the rats).

    stay healthy and have fun :)

  8. Hey Darling!
    I am living vicariously through your experiences and they sound amazing! Good luck with the heat and I hope you like your office!

  9. Hello Sweetie,

    I have loved reading your blog so far. It's so nice to hear your voice, even though it's only in my head. I guess I will have to get used to this.
    I can certainly empathize with your reaction to the heat. In Kuala Lumpur right now where it has been about 36 degrees with what feels like 4000% humidity. The main primary religion here is Islam as well so I've been very covered up and completely drenched in sweat!
    I second Tessa's post, and would also like to hear about how you're dealing with the language.
    Keep up the amazing posts and good luck with settling into your new home. Tell us all about it!!
    Love you,


  10. Hey guys!!! Thanks so much for all of the comments :) It really made my day when I read all of them. I used them as rewards for reading various documents at work. I have a couple of posts swirling around my head that I will put up asap... one about work, I will be going to one of the communes tomorrow until Saturday so I will have a much better idea of what on the ground work looks like, one on fada n'gourma culture including my adventures finding a family to live with etc, one about training in Toronto, and lastly a unique one called "the view through the glass dashboard" Stay tuned!! To respond to people's comments:

    -Gabe: it depends who you ask how much they cost, as I know from getting royally ripped off at the market... the one says 3000 francs CFA and the other says 22 000... it's quite the bargaining game, but you wouldn't be interested anyways because they only do about 99/min, sorry buddy.

    -Tess: the french has been great!!! My coach/coworker that I collaborate with is super easy to understand which is funny because the first day that I met him I was petrified that I wouldn't understand anything that he was saying, but I guess I adapted my listening ear and got used to his accent. No one has said anything about my french since I've been in Burkina actually. People's accents vary enormously here so mine doesn't really stick out at all... I think people are too preoccupied by the fact that my skin is WHITE haha. At predep in Toronto I was super self conscious about my french, but all of the other JFs reassured me that my french was great and that I shouldn't be so worried about it. It is exciting though because people here don't speak A WORD of english, so it's not like at predep where if I didn't know a word in french I would just throw it out in english and everyone would understand. It's awesome, I'm really forced to speak french 24/7. I have also started picking up a couple of gourmanché phrases and some in mooré as well. sharp learning curve :)

    Annie: my stomach has seemed to handle the shock very well, surprisingly!! I feel pretty awesome and have gotten used to sweating buckets a day!! haha

    Annette: the food is pretty great actually. although the menus are never varied, my coworker/coach Christian and I managed to eat completely different things than we did yesterday. I have fallen in love with the yogurt that they make here, and also the honey. Specialties of the Gourma province. I also ate some awesome fish tonight, couscous for lunch, lots of tô which is the national dish which I am still getting used to :) As per music, I asked Christian if he knew any places that play live music and he asked around with his friends from here. They are gonna find something for me!! I also just bought a cd of popular music from Burkina which is in my bag right now waiting for me to listen to it. I'll keep you posted.

    Len: it's not exactly a beach :) It's a lake that has pebbles around the edge, but close enough :) the water was clean enough that people were swimming in it so that was pretty cool and rare.

  11. Patrick: It definitely was weird to split up after that intensive week. The whole training process has been fantastic though... slowly easing us into it. First leaving all of our packing worries behind and going to TO as a big group, then splitting up groups, then in country training in still nice conditions with the group, then slowing splitting off individually. I felt ready to be by myself by the end of it all. I hope that I keep these same sentiments throughout the summer :)

    Florin: best part about the TV5 thing is that there is one here in Fada as well. Too hilarious. Thanks for the tip about sleeping on the roof... that would be awesome to check out these gorgeous stars. Any advice on how to avoid the torrential downpour while being on the roof?! :)

    Lindsey: The office is great. Christian really put a TON of effort into making me feel comfortable and set up. It is almost tooo comfortable. I feel right at home with all of my sticky notes around me :) haha

    Melanie: How strict Muslim are people in Kuala Lumpur? Here it doesn't seem like the religion is very strict. In Burkina there is Islam and Christianity and animism practiced, but none too strict I've been told. The Muslims pray at the appropriate times, but all of the religions interact very well and share in each others celebrations. I will be asking you guys for advice on my living situation in my upcoming post so stay tuned!!!

    Love you all and thanks for following along with my experience. Keep the questions coming, I've got lots to share. The real development stuff will be coming soon since I've only just started work.

    Take care

  12. Hey Anna,

    I've had limited internet as I am somewhat homeless. Sounds like you are having a "great" time. I looke forward to your next post. We move into our new place next week. Hopefully I have internet soon after that.