Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We had quite a party here in Burkina. My training group broke into about 8 or 9 small groups and we ended up making a pretty killer potluck. The icing on the cake is that the PC provided us with two butterball turkeys. I ate a huge drumstick, and I think I consumed more meat in one night than I have since I arrived in country. I was on the drink committee and we made a pretty nice jungle juice out of the pretty terrible whisky, gin and “rhum”. Thankfully we have a lot of good juice and juice mix here, so that made up for it. I was amazed at what everyone was able to make with our limited selection and cooking resources, but it seriously felt like we had everything one would have at a Thanksgiving back in the states, except for the pumpkin pie that was sadly missing. My favorite side dish was probably the homemade tortilla chips with amazing salsa (using the local pimment spice) and guacamole.
As you can see from the above picture, I had a pretty amazing outfit made by my host aunt, who also happens to be a tailor. The way you buy a lot of your clothes here is that you first buy a pagna, which is a piece of fabric that is roughly a meter wide and a maybe three meters long. You then take your pagna to a tailor who uses that fabric to make whatever type of clothing you ask for. My outfit above is a pretty hilarious combination of three different pagnas. I think for someone of my height, two pagnas isn’t quite enough to make a shirt and pants. Many of the women in my stage have made some pretty incredible dresses and skirts already. Many of them remind me of a sort of old Cuba style – I’ll try to get some photos up.
We also did a number of hands on activities in training over the past 10 days. We made both hard and liquid soap, a mud stove, a nutritious baby food called “bouille”, and practiced cooking nutritious food for ourselves with the cooking equipment here. Making the mud stove was an incredibly dirty activity that had us elbow deep in manure and included us dancing on top of the straw/mud/manure mixture to mix it better. My French instructor is only 25 and uses the Backstreet Boys song “I want it that way” as his ring tone, so we made him play that as we danced in the manure pile. Quite hilarious.
I recently took my third French test. I’ll have one more test right at the end of training. I scored Inter/Low on the last exam, and I’ll just need to move up one level to Inter/Mid to fully qualify to be a volunteer. However, as I mentioned last time, I think my earlier score was a bit inflated, so the jury’s out on whether or not I’ll actually be ranked higher this time. Thankfully the questions this time around were easier and I even studied some of the vocab that I needed on accident! For example, I had just decided that I wanted to learn how to talk about my upcoming work, so I learned the verbs “to lend”, “to borrow”, “to repay”, “interest rate” etc. Thankfully a good one-third of the conversation centered around my future work! So while I think I tanked my grammar, the vocab may have saved me. We’ll see…