Family Time

Life has changed quite a bit since my last post.  I moved in with my host family on Tuesday night, and I’ve finally have had a chance to experience the reality of living outside of the PC training center. First thing first, not speaking French has been really tough on me.  I’ve had a few days of French class, but I’m still not really able to communicate anything besides the most basic needs. It’s doubly tough, as I already feel like an infant in the Burkinabe society without the language barrier. Everything is new, and nothing can be taken for granted.  Bathing, going to the bathroom, and doing my laundry have all required demonstrations.

The good news is, that despite communication barriers, I am incredibly excited about the opportunity to do good work here in Burkina. Our training sessions have proved very interesting (today we visited a farmer and learned about some of the properties of Marunga trees, the local onion market, and saw grains, such as millet and sorgrum).

Back to my living situation. I have been adopted into a large family of 31. Due to my lack of French most of the details I’m about to describe is from inferences.  The family, like most Burkinabe, live in a family compound, where a number of structures surround a central courtyard. However, my family has two compounds. I seem to live in the auxiliary compound, with most of the action happening across the street. I’m in a decent sized room, its own structure which is made of concrete with a tin roof (approximately 12’ x 10’). There is a poster of the soccer player Sameul Etoo, so I know I’m in a good spot.  I haven’t been able to figure out how everyone in the family is related, but my host mom and dad are pretty young and have two kids.  The head of the family (who I guess to be the father of my host mother), seems to have three wives, though again, I’m not sure on this.  There are 25 kids!  The youngest is 8 months, and the oldest, Richard, is 18.

The family business seems to be in the shipping of livestock to Cote d’Ivoire.  A large shipment of turkeys went out yesterday.  However, there are plenty of other animals running around in the courtyard, including pigs, chickens, and a dog. There’s a rabbit cage as well. Oh, and contrary to popular belief, roosters crow all through the night, not just at dawn.
Since I can’t really communicate very well, my typical evening involves a lot of sign language and me saying “it’s good” (in French obviously) over and over. Thankfully my family has been incredibly patient with me, and are really making an effort to converse. Also, I’m thankfully quite entertaining to most of the kids without saying anything at all. They love to crowd around in my room and look at all of my things, and to take part in random dance parties (ah, the international language of music). And my family LOVED the Obama postcards I brought. People love Obama here – one of my fellow trainees found an Obama belt buckle, and I’ve heard there’s even an Obama cologne.

It’s past 9pm, so getting close to my bedtime as I wake up around 5am. Though the 4:15am call to prayer (which I swear is coming from directly next door) that continues for 15 minutes basically means that I’m already up.  Then it’s a bucket bath, breakfast of a loaf of bread and hot chocolate, then a 15-20 minute bike ride to my 7am individual French tutoring, followed by a full day of regular training activities including more French, business and cultural issues. It’s pretty exhausting, but we finally get our first time off this weekend as we get a half day on Saturdays, and all Sundays off.


5 Responses to “Family Time”

  1. October 23, 2010 at 12:33

    Hey Scott, glad to hear you are getting settled in and off to a good start on your adventure. Let me know if there is any way we can be a useful resource, particularly in regard to any community development questions I might be able to help with. And always remember that the most important element in communication is not the language but the willingness to make the effort!

  2. October 24, 2010 at 22:53

    I’m so glad you’re doing well. From my volunteer experience here stateside language can be incredibly frustrating stick with it I hear pc training is the best out there! :)

  3. 3 Kate
    October 26, 2010 at 22:52

    C’est si bon! I think you’ll be amazed how quickly the language will come now that you are truly immersed in it. It all sounds incredibly stimulating and I love your attitude. As I jump into my hot shower, drink my glass of wine in front of the HD HBO going on this evening I will be grateful and thankful of all I have in life. Just teasing Scott – you’re doing an awesome thing and keep the blogs coming!

  4. 4 Kristin
    October 29, 2010 at 12:24

    Oh the roosters. they are the same in Haiti- earplugs, ambien, etc. nothing makes the roosters less annoying. Good news is eventually you get use to it, just like all the traffic on Pennsylvania. If given the chance to slaughter one of those bad boys I highly recommend it, very cathartic and delicious. Glad you made it safely. Just keep plugging away at the language. I promise, one day it will suddenly occur to you that you are speaking French and not having to think about everything you say beforehand, its a wonderful moment. Lots of love.

  5. 5 Linda
    November 7, 2010 at 12:11

    Keep up with the French and it will come to you. My daughter has been there for 3 years. I was amazed how fluent she was after only a few months. Enjoy your time there. As a mom, try and get your parents to come and see you there. It’s an amazing experience for a parent to see their child living such a different life style. It’s also nice when you talk to your family after a visit, they know what your are talking about and experiencing. Good luck.

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