Posts Tagged ‘Life


Zombie Film: The Dead

Taking a break from my usual development related posts, the sole reason for this one is to show you the trailer for The Dead – a zombie movie shot in Burkina Faso. I particularly enjoyed the shots of family courtyards, the Domes de Fabedougou, and driving through millet fields.

In the first zombie road movie set against the spectacular vistas of Africa, the Dark Continent becomes a dead zone. A stunningly shot horror fantasy announcing the arrival of the Ford Brothers on the global genre scene, THE DEAD is as much an emotional journey through terror terrain as it is a physically demanding and beautiful-looking one. Shot in life-threatening, never-before-seen locations in Burkina Faso, French-speaking West Africa, and Ghana, including the Sahara Desert, on 35mm film by the award-winning Ford Brothers, THE DEAD is one of the most unique zombie movies of all time.


Peace Corps 50th Anniversary Fair

Photo Credit: Hayley Droppert

The bike tour arrival and new volunteer swear-in were the kick-off events to a three day anniversary fair held in downtown Ouagadougou. The fair had a lot of booths (many of which were PCV partners), information sessions, music/dancing, a fashion show, and even American carnival games (including a dunk tank). Speeches by the Burkinabe First Lady, US Ambassador, and PC Country Director were followed by a concert by Floby, one of Burkina’s biggest music acts to close out the festivities.

Check out this video and some of my photos from the fair.


New Education and Agriculture PCVs Swear-In

After almost three months of training, a new group of 48 education and agriculture PCVs swore in at the Maison du Peuple in Ouagadougou on September 22nd. The Burkinabé Prime Minister and the US Ambassador both spoke at the event, which kicked off a three day Peace Corps 50th anniversary fair. Unfortunately, most of the new group will be heading to the North and Southwest, but we will be adding one new PCV to the East at least.



New Business Cards

Awhile back I showed you some local business cards, so I figured I should show off my own as well. Though many of my fellow PCVs find it amusing that I carry business cards around, they’ve been incredibly handy for me. I give them out to all of the borrowers I meet (100+ so far), potential work contacts, expats, and other people that I meet while traveling. While I liked the design of my old cards, I had ordered them before arriving in Burkina and without knowing my contact information in-country and writing my number on each one was getting annoying. While back in the US on vacation made sure to resupply from VistaPrint – this time adding a bit more information and sprucing up the back (with the GPS coordinates of my house no less). I also picked up matching cards for my Burkinabe colleague and next door neighbor who requested some after seeing me making the design.


Back in Burkina

Sacré-Coeur Basilica, Paris

After an eventful 3+ week tour of the US (plus a 2 day Paris side-trip) I’m safely back in my home in eastern Burkina. The trip was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with friends and family, see two friends be married, the chance to do some reflecting on my experience as a PCV, and make some plans for the future (not to mention a great chance to resupply and bring things for myself and others that I hadn’t thought of or weren’t priorities the first time around).

The whirlwind tour kept me insanely busy, and I think that busyness is what mostly offset any feelings of being overwhelmed with the developed world’s amenities. In fact, I was surprised at my ease in slipping back into my former life. Though, I suppose it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise – I’ve spent 27 of my 28 years in that world after all. This fact didn’t stop me, however, from starting many sentences with, “In Burkina Faso…” or “I’m not used to…”. Sorry about that, everyone I saw.

The most obvious differences were mostly food related, but more subtle cultural differences affected me more profoundly. Leisure time, children’s role in society, waste, and the general ability to have so many options in all facets of life stood out the most in my mind. All of these ideas deserve a lot more space dedicated to them, and if you’ll allow me to wax poetic a bit, will surely be subjects of future posts. Not lost on me was that I hadn’t dedicated much time to thinking about these issues until I saw them in quick succession.

Coming back to Burkina was stranger than it ever was being back in America. Though now that it has been a few days I’m back to my usual routines and am comfortable again. Proof that I’ve become pretty adaptable, I suppose. However, coming to Burkina this time was much different this time around. While the plane was on it’s final descent into Ouaga I had this feeling come over me where I realized I was coming back to a place I could navigate. I already knew what to expect in regards to what I would see, and most importantly could communicate with people once I got off the plane. And of course this time I have clear goals and a plan for the future rather than a hazy idea of what my service would be like.

One anecdote happened at home with my family in San Francisco as we watched the 2006 movie Outsourced, which I had somehow missed earlier. The film depicts an American who goes to India to establish a phone center there. It’s a great movie, and I could empathize with the main character as he expressed surprise in many scenes that depict poverty, cultural differences, and other underdeveloped world clichés. However, throughout the film I couldn’t help but thinking how even in the scenes that were supposed to depict poverty, India looks really developed compared to Burkina Faso.

Overall, the trip achieved what a good vacation is supposed to – I had fun and have come back to work and life with a new perspective with more motivation than ever before. The key will be to hold onto it as long as I can.

Check out a few photos below from what I encountered along the way: Paris, “beaches”, hibachi, weddings, baseball, golf, food festivals, and butchery shops:


Burkinabé Business Cards

Not everyone has them, but a growing number of Burkinabés have business cards these days. Some are just like those one would have in the states, but others have a more interesting design. I made a collage of a few of the cards I’ve received so far:

Statistical Analysis

Number of cards:                  9.00
Phone numbers/card:           3.00
Email addresses/card:          0.67
Images (non-logos)/card:     1.56
Fonts/card:                           2.78
Font color/card:                    3.22

Bonus: See if you can find the two cards that used the same template.


The Transit House

Almost anytime I say I traveled to Ouaga, it also means I was staying at the Transit House, a Peace Corps owned house available to PCVs while in staying in the capital. The 5 bedroom/4 bath home’s capacity is around 28, a little more than half of which are inside bunk-beds, while the rest are just mattresses out on the screened-in porch. The bathrooms, which wouldn’t be anything spectacular if not for our dearth of amenities at site, are amazing to us as they are hot running water showers, sinks and actual toilettes. The interior also features a large common room with couches and two large dining tables, a decent-sized kitchen with a stove and fridge, and a small storage locker area. We don’t have a TV, but there is Wi-Fi with a DSL connection (which is nice, but still not that speedy when 28 people are using it).

So why do PCVs come into Ouaga? Typical reasons include; work, PCV group meetings (we have a number of committees), buying personal or work supplies only found in Ouaga, using a computer/internet, or of course simply just getting out of village and taking a break. Peace Corps emphasizes the importance of our integration within our communities, so staff does its best to discourage PCVs coming into town (thus leaving site) too often.

Lately I haven’t spent too much time in Ouaga, but overall have spent quite a bit of time there due to my work at the FAIJ headquarters office, various work for Peace Corps, military unrest at or near my site, and a cultural event or two. For a time, I even earned the apt nickname of ‘Scouaga’ as I always seemed to be in town, though I haven’t heard it for a few months now.

I’ve learned to enjoy my time at the transit house, but spending time in town without much on the to-do list and/or with too many others can be a bit of a drag.

Here are a couple of photos of the wrap-around porch (on a low occupancy day):


Burkina Bike Tour

Biking is big here for PCVs here in Burkina. Our Trek bikes are our constant companions, and one just has to look for the required helmet to identify whether another foreigner is a PCV (we’re the only ones wearing them). I’d be lost without my bike as I use it for every trip outside my house – to the office, market, etc. My site is pretty spread out, so walking isn’t really an option. I even bring it with me when I travel and cram it under or on top of whatever mode of transportation I happen to be taking.

For one week in September however, I’ll be using it as my sole mode of transportation, as I’ll be participating in the final week of the 2nd Edition of Le Tour de Burkina! I’ll be biking from Fada N’gourma in the east to Ouagadougou (through an indirect southern route) and staying with other PCVs along the way.

The Route (click to enlarge, image credit: Rob Hartwig)

As you can see on the route map, the tour itself will be starting all the way in the southwestern corner of the country two weeks before getting to me out east. Most riders are just doing a few days worth, but a dedicated group is planning on doing the whole thing (sadly my vacation plans prevent me from doing the rest). The tour will traverse approximately 1,740 kilometers (that’s the distance from New York to Orlando) and pass by 32 volunteer sites. We’re hoping each stop can also tie in community events/awareness campaigns as well as promoting Peace Corps in our 50th anniversary year. At the same time, we’ll be fundraising for our volunteer-run Gender and Development (GAD) Committee. GAD gives grants (up to $120) to PCVs who want to start their own projects that promote gender and equality. For example, some past projects have included:

  • Maternal and Child Health
  • Family Planning
  • Girls Camps
  • Marketing Techniques
  • Small Business Management

This year we’re aiming to top $6,000 in total donations. All 100% tax-deductible donations will be through the Peace Corps Country Fund and will go directly to funding volunteer projects. And in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world, even a small donation can go a long way. As we get closer to the start of the tour I’ll  put up more information as to how you can help out.

The tour will end in Ouagadougou and coincide with a huge PCV-run fair and the swearing in of 50 new PCVs (who arrived in country a few weeks back). The fair will feature many of the people we work with, who will be selling their various products, giving trainings, and enjoying themselves. Floby, perhaps Burkina’s most famous musician, will be performing and even introducing a new song written just for Peace Corps.

So there you have it – Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary and 50 new volunteers, all in the 50thanniversary year of Burkina Faso’s independence – pretty amazing, huh?


Coming to America*

The Route (the actual route has a few layovers, but you get the idea)

I’m hoping on a plane tomorrow and coming back to the states for a three-week whirlwind tour! Though initially against my travel philosophy (I’m in Africa, I should see Africa), I couldn’t pass up the the trifecta of two weddings and a pregnant sister with identical twin girls. And while it won’t be the most relaxing trip (Paris, 2 days -> Boston, 3 days -> DC, 3 days -> Seattle, 3 days -> San Francisco, 10 days), I am excited to see everyone back at home, plus a few sites on the way. I’m curious to see how this “reverse culture shock” thing will be.
While packing I realized that I don’t really have good clothes for America, so apologies in advance to those I will see (yes I’ll have a suit for the weddings, don’t worry brides). I don’t plan on blogging while I’m away, but I’ve set up an impressive number of automated posts to keep you all entertained, plus my colleague has even promised a guest post (in English no less).
* This great 80’s film starring Eddy Murphy is quite popular here in Burkina (Un prince à New York).

Top 10: Material Goods I Miss

Disclaimer – I live in a regional capital with electricity, water (kind of), and a population over 100,000, so I’m not living the “small village in a mud hut” life.

Adjusting to life in Burkina Faso has been a lot easier than I was expecting. The first couple of months were the toughest – especially getting up to speed on language and having my stomach get adjusted to the cuisine. But now that I’m passed that, I realize that life feels pretty normal to me. However, I miss a few material things (though I do have access to a few of these via thoughtful care packages). The list is in rough order of importance, but I think deciding the true order would be a fun conversation with a group of other PCVs.

  1. Being cold.
  2. Fast internet.
  3. A good bed.
  4. Deli meats.
  5. Dairy (cheese/milk).
  6. Spices.
  7. Good  liquor/beer/wine.
  8. More fruits & vegetables.
  9. Baked goods.
  10. Inside bathrooms.
This list actually took me a while to create, which I think is telling of how little I actually miss. And admittedly, many items are more of the “nice to have” variety. Also, most of this list would be crossed off if I lived in Ouaga and/or had an actual salary, though sadly there’s nothing I would ever be able to do about the temperature. Also, if this were a list of non-material goods, my true item #1 would be “being understood”.
And on the flip side, what I don’t miss – television, cars, and consumerism.


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The opinions on this blog are only those of the author, and and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.