Thursday, June 25, 2009

What do a camel ride, a professional soccer game and a bachelorette party have in common?

Well… these all happen to be activities that we partook in during the EWB Junior Fellow (JF) retreat. The retreat took place in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina, and Dori, a small town up north known for its ridiculously hot temperatures. It was great to be reunited with all of the other JF’s, and the motivation and knowledge that I gained by participating in this retreat was phenomenal. I am now back in Fada and inspired to push myself harder in my work, gulmanché proficiency, and discussions and interactions with other fadalese. I have split my post about the retreat in 2 and will go into detail about the workshops and discussions of the retreat in the other post, but first to the fun stuff…

The retreat started last Wednesday with an unintended adventure around Ouaga in a taxi with 7 people + driver trying to find the right bus station to get to Dori. We had started off with just 4 of us in the taxi but ran into more JFs on our way so we piled them (and their bags) into the taxi with us. After visiting several bus stations we finally found the right one. 4.5 hour bus ride and lots of stories later we arrived in the desert town of Dori.

women selling goodies to the bus passengers

We all stayed in a hotel together, and it was weird to not be the only nasara (well toubaboo in Dori’s language, Peulh) around. The next 2 days were absolutely packed with activities, workshops and snacks!! One of the things we were required to bring to the retreat was a popular snack from our area. There was mango jam, sweet cakes, a million different types of peanuts, sesame snacks, shea nuts, etc etc. I brought gourma honey, and peanut butter that I had made with the family which teamed up nicely with Alanna’s chocolate spread and Luigi’s fancy loaves of bread. We were spoiled, and some of the JFs paid the price of trying too many new foods too quickly…

Our first activity came on Day 2 which was entitled fun day. We got up at 4:45… sounds fun already doesn’t it? Then took an hour long donkey cart ride to get to our desert destination. It was hilarious to have 10 white people on a donkey cart going through the town. For the first time since we’ve been here people were taking pictures of US!!

Here we are on the donkey cart practically on display in a museum.

Once we got to our destination we were greeted by tons of little kids who were continually asking us to take pictures of them and 11 camels waiting eagerly to tour us around the desert. It’s a weird experience getting up on a camel.

Here are our beautiful camels

They have all these weird bends in their legs and almost throw you off while they are getting up.

Here's a video of me on my camel

After an hour I’d just about had it. I had had to get off my camel because it was whining and needed its supports adjusted and as a result my camel had to practically run to catch up to the rest of the group. Being thrown back and forth between 2 pieces of wood supports at 3 meters height in the middle of the desert in 45 degree weather is not really my cup of tea. Soon enough I pulled out my scarf to cover my head, but that wasn’t enough to keep me going. Dehydration and heat in my case led to dismounting my camel in the middle of the desert and throwing up my breakfast.

The group continued on without me, and the guide split off with me and brought me back to the road where I caught a donkey cart ride full of hay back to the hotel. Slept at the hotel for an hour and was woken up just in time to catch a 4.5 hour bumpy bus ride back to Ouaga. Fun day for me was thus not so fun.

The next fun activity came on sector presentation day. We were rushed all throughout the day because we had a deadline to meet… The Burkina Faso Étalons were playing the Côte d’Ivoire Elephants at 18h and WE HAD TICKETS (soccer teams for those of you who don’t know)!!! At 16h we left all valuables behind… including camera :( and headed to the stadium. Once we got there all of the doors were shut and people were angrily banging on them. There were also men peeing everywhere and so we were constantly treading through urine. As Luigi said “WATSAN, what are you guys doing? You’ve got your work cut out for you.” We’ve got a long way to go in terms of sanitation behavior changes that’s for sure. We ran from gate to gate trying to get in and finally got a text that gate 7 was open. We sprinted and slipped (through urine again) to get to the gate and once there pushed violently through. The guards at the gate seeing white people they quickly pulled us through. This is one time where we weren’t going to refuse the white privilege. Funny enough once we got inside we realized we were in the Côte d’Ivoire section. Turns out that they are way more enthusiastic anyways so it was lots of fun. All dressed in orange and dancing and making music with various instruments, you wondered sometimes whether they were even really watching the game. Unfortunately the game ended in a 3-2 win for Côte d’Ivoire but I was grinning from ear to ear none the less. Alanna said that it was probably better this way because otherwise the whole city would be in chaotic celebration.

And now for the last and most unique part of the retreat… a bachelorette party!!! My EWB coach Élizabeth is getting married in July and so the team split off and had a bachelor and bachelorette party. Never would I have expected that my first bachelorette party would be in Burkina Faso... and in the rain!!

Here we are heading off in the rain on our adventure.

We hadn’t planned much because it’s hard to plan something in a city you don’t know, so we kind of just went with the flow. We walked down the main street and every activity or challenge we saw we jumped at it… this included a bakery where Éli had to kiss the waiter on the cheek before eating her cake, nail salon where we chose hideous colors for her nails, a challenge to ask 10 Burkinabè men what they look for in a wife (answers included being a good host, dressing well, not taking decisions without asking their husband, and making good food), then she had to ask 5 Burkinabè women what they thought a man liked in a wife (this was harder because only educated women speak french, but we finally found a group of social women in a salon and got some funny answers), last challenge was to get a taxi for the 7 of us and with her ride being free. We then met up with the boys who had played pool and we had a BBQ at one of the long term volunteer’s houses. It was a great night and included hilarious wigs and lots of fun.


  1. I never wanted to ride a camel, now I know I was right! Hilarious installment, Annlies! I look forward to part two. oxoxox

  2. Camels!? That's just crazy. Hope you're feeling better.

  3. Aw that's too bad about the camel! and your fun day :(

  4. Sweet wigs, you guys look quite a bit like raggedy Anne! The soccer game sounds like a crazy adventure, reminiscent of Argentina!

  5. you guys are ugly it wigs!