|Home sweet home as seen from the gate.|
Until the end of March I am in my "etude de milieu" period. For the first 3 months we are living in our new communities, we are not really doing "work" per say, but just trying to integrate into our new communities. I have 2 counterparts in the association who are kind of like aunts "tanti" who are showing me the ropes. So far I have had meetings of introduction with the mayor, secretary general, president of the action the social action, the the national police chief, the commandant of the gendarmes, the priests, grand imam, and of course, the chief of the village. So far my most nerve racking but productive meeting has been with the chief of the village. I was nervous about making some giant mistake in front of him and creating a cultural discord my very first week, but it went very well and since then I have visited a couple of times and he has been explaining to me that he is the member of a group of chiefs country-wide who work together on various health initiatives like HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. He is very well educated, and even has a laptop, on which we watched some videos from the mask festival that happens every 2 years. Overall I am feeling better integrated in my community every day.
Once my etude period is complete, I will be working full time with an association of 30 women. Their association requested a volunteer to work with them on 2 separate projects. My groupment has a large field about 12 kilometers from my city. They cultivate and sell various crops throughout the course of the year. Currently, we are transplanting our pepinieres of onions into the larger plots of land. I rode my bike out with a few women from the association last week and helped them plant the onions. It have had some practice, but its still hard work for me, but with women who do the same work as me with a child attached to their back, it puts me in my place pretty quickly. Their fields are right next to the river and from what I can gather so far, they received grant money from an NGO to build a solar irrigation system. Through my basic understanding of solar technology, I the panels create the energy they need to operate a pump, which provides water to the fields. Its pretty amazing to see it at work, and although its exhausting work to bike 24k a day and spend a full day in the sun planting, I am really excited to spend time outside and work with them to improve their agriculture techniques and marketing so they can have be more productive.
When I finish the etude, I will be splitting my time between heading to the fields to work with some members in my association and working in the office they have in town. The office specializes in health related outreach and sensibilizations (seminars on educating people about these issues). At this time my association is working hard on projects related to HIV/AIDS, family planning, and malaria prevention. One project that they have expressed interested in working on is a combination of their two separate sectors targeting the malnutrition. In the fields in our neighboring village, my association has started growing moringa trees. The leaves have tons of vitamins and minerals and have been used for centuries worldwide for treatment of various ailments and diseases. Once the baby moringa trees are a little bigger and produce more leaves, we can begin harvesting and using them to create powder or sell the leaves themselves so they can be added to sauces and foods to increase the nutritional value of meals here. Since fruits and many vegetables are seasonal and the prices fluctuate based on the seasons it is difficult to introduce balanced diets. Hopefully, this will help. I have taken the time to list some of the benefits of morgina below for your own benefit, because it is delicious and its very, very good for you too.
Gram for gram, Moringa leaves contain:
- 7 times the vitamin C in oranges
- 4 times the calcium in milk
- 4 times the vitamin A in carrots
- 2 times the protein in milk
- 3 times the potassium in bananas
|My baby moringa tree|
|my kid neighbors helping me do my laundry|
|my new puppy|
|jump rope club|
|neighbors who come by to jump rope daily|
|my family gave me this dress as a gift before i moved out, this is my and my little brother marguid|
|planting onions in tenado|
|me and my friend kailey with the ambassador|
|the ambassador addresses us at our swearing in ceremony|
Christmas here was quite a production. I went to Christmas eve mass at the cathedral with my counterparts son, and his wife and baby daughter. The mass was 4 hours, (we left early) but very interesting and entertaining. There is so much singing, clapping and drumming that at times, the mass seems more like a party than a service. The people here really wear their faith "on their sleeve". This actually happens to be true since many of the fabrics sold here which people buy have the baby jesus, virgin mary or religious messages on them. Ill try and get some picture examples for you. On Christmas day I went and had breakfast with my sitemate Daniel who lives less than a kilometer from me. We made eggs, and since he had a coffee pot, we had REAL coffee, which to me was the best Christmas present I could have recieved.
That evening I went with my other counterpart to dinner with her pastor at his home. On large holidays, it is customary for you to go and saluer/greet your neighbors who are celebrating that particular holiday. So, my counterpart and I went around to the various Catholic/Protestant neighbors and wished them a happy Christmas, staying anywhere from 10mins to and hour with each family, and of course, eating along the way. It was a great first Christmas season in Burkina, and I can't wait for more holidays coming up!