I’ve been super busy since accepting my invite. I’ve been taking care of some PC paperwork as well as selling/storing all of my old stuff and buying a lot of new stuff. I’ve heard from a lot of you all and you’ve told me that you want to know more about BF and more about what I’ll be doing exactly. While there are a lot of unknowns on my end, let me tell you what I do know:
Facts about Burkina Faso:
- Per capita GDP of $1,200, making it one of the poorest countries in the world (204/227)
- Average life expectancy of 55 years
- Literacy rate of 22%
- Gained its independence from France in 1960 (formerly called Upper Volta)
- It’s about the size of Colorado with a population ~15 million
- It’s landlocked, and sits on the border of six (!) countries: Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Niger
- It’s capital city is Ouagadougou (Wah-Ga-Doo-Goo), which is pretty fun to say
- It’s official language is French, though I’ll also being learning one of the local languages such as Moore or Jula
- 50% Muslim, 40% indigenous beliefs, 10% Christian
- It gets really hot, especially March – May where temps range from 104-119, May – Oct is rainy season, and November – March is decidedly the best time to visit with more “moderate” temps
My official job title is Small Business Advisor. I won’t know any specific duties until after training, but I’m likely to be involved in agricultural business. BF’s key crops are cotton, mangoes, and nuts. I’ve also seen volunteers be active in small side projects like making/selling homemade soap and bug repellent.
In the meantime, I’ve been taking care of other Peace Corps requests such as applying for a visa/passport and providing an updated resume and writing an “aspiration statement” in which I wrote a few pages about how I’ll apply myself and how I’ll handle the working and living situations. While it sounds a little cheesy, it was great to be forced into sitting down and analyze how I’ll approach certain situations, like working with my future counterpart (a local who will help me to integrate into my assignment/community), and what I hope to get out of the experience both personally and professionally.
I also had the good fortune of being put in touch with a friend of a friend who turns out is a RPCV who worked in BF from 2006-2009. He was great to talk to, and among other things, calmed my nerves about my two main concerns; language and the heat. He reassured me that the PC language training is the absolute best and that they transformed even new speakers into fluent speakers in only a matter of months. And while there isn’t anything anyone can do about the heat, he said that one does get used to it eventually, and to be sure to buy some linen-type clothing. I’m on it.