19 June 2008

Ouahigouya and living with a host family

Ok, I ponied up for an hour-long connection this time, so hopefully I'll have time to hit the main points, at least. For efficiency' sake, I've also already made a reminder list in my journal. And I ate lunch early, like 10 in the morning, just so I'd have this time online. What I'm getting at is that you'd better not complain about anything in this post :p And leave comments, you jerks! I want to hear from you!

After a couple days in Oauagadougou, we drove for 3 or 4 hours to Ouahigouya. I had the good luck to be the last one on the bus, which means I had an unparalleled view of the countryside we passed. Unfortunately, my camera was packed underneath the bus. Which reminds me, a note on pictures: some people here are extremely sensitive about having their picture taken (a couple of years ago, there was a riot in Bobo, and a Volunteer taking a picture was cited as one of the causal influences. No one was hurt, just so you know), so as a rule I won't be taking pictures out on the street unless I have the person's permission. In other words, there wont't be any candid shots. I do hope to take pictures of my host family later.

Anyway, the drive had scenery of breath-taking beauty and breath-taking poverty, often side by side. I attempted to converse with the driver and luggage handler a bit, but my French was (and still is) crap. I was able to ask a few questions that one of the other trainees had, and understand the answers...eventually, anyway (a bit of irony there - that trainee, Kate [see links on the right], has excellent French). I also got a cheer from everyone when I asked the driver to pull over for those who needed to use the bathroom (read: bushes).

Upon arrival in Ouahigouya, we danced to traditional local music. As a rule, I don't dance, but there wasn't really any other option, so it's entirely possible that by now there are pictures somewhere on the internet of me making a complete fool of myself - more of them, I mean. We spent the first two nights staying at the ECLA (where our training is based). The second night I tried out my hammock with built in mosquito net, and it was GREAT. Unfortunately, that's not an option at my host family's house.

Our pay here is pretty low during training. It's enough to get lunch every day and occasionally get online or call home, but not enough to buy clothes, which is what I'd really like to do. Speaking of calling home, my mom has the number of the telecenter right outside my host family's home, but I'd rather not give that out since any time I take a call there, that's time my host family isn't making money from someone else using the phone. Once I have a cell phone (probably in a couple months - some of the volunteers are getting them this weekend, but I'm waiting until I know if my site has coverage), I'll make that number available. Incoming calls are free here, so you'll be able to call that as much as you can afford. Just remember the time difference! During daylight savings, I'm 4 hours ahead of EDT.

The food is awesome! Riz gras (very similar to Jollof rice, Pat), pétits poids, tô...trés bon gôut! Lots of oil in the food. I'm lucky, I haven't been sick yet. That may be due to the particular malaria medication I'm on. It's also an antiobiotic against E. coli. Unfortunately, it also increases sensitivity to the sun, so I have to wear lots of sunscreen. At least it doesn't cause lucid and strange/bad dreams, like the medication most of the others are on.

My host family is really awesome. They're very progressive, so I don't really have to worry about offending them - that's not true for all the trainees. My host-dad gives talks on HIV/AIDS (here, VIH/SIDA), and my host-mom is a cashier. They have a 5yo son who I think only speaks a little French. He just stopped calling Me Nasara, Mooré for Foreigner, and started calling me Emily, the name of the trainee the family hosted last year. They also have a 14yo daughter who helps me study my French, then I help her study her English. They also occasionally try to teach me Mooré, but I really only know the ritual greetings. Which are kind of long, by the way. You NEVER just say "What's up?" It's "Good morning! How's your morning? How's the family? How's work? How's the neighborhood?" People here like it when I go through all that with them, although once we're past it all I can say is "Goodbye". By the way, our Mooré class was all in French. That was a special kind of hell.

My journal is doubling as an IOU book. Change is hard to come by here, so PCVs and PCTs are constantly paying for each other and owing people.

We're still waiting for the rainy season to truly start, so it' still wickedly hot here mostly. But on the evenings when storms come near, if not over, the wind picks up and it fells glorious. Wind, that's another reason my host family is awesome - I get a fan in my room at night. Oh, and they LOVE MTV.

Bucket baths are pretty straightforward, but I mostly take showers. Like I said, my family is pretty progressive.

Running out of time. Thankyou to those who sent emails! Please send more, and comment here!

Oh! And send pictures!!! By post I mean - you have the address. I want pictures and postcards to show people. And American stamps and powdered Gatorade would also be appreciated.

'Til later!


eileen said...

All here are really happy about your
"luck of the draw" with your host family. I, however, happen to know that my hot-line-to-the-Lord made it all work together for the good. Love you bunches !

Patrick said...

Hey bro,

Glad to hear you lucked out with your host family. Watch out though, they sound pretty smart and may soon start to hate you like I do. Granted, they will never hate you as much :-P
It's weird not having you around anymore, but it's so awesome that you are in Africa now. Be safe and enjoy your hot weather, haha.

Margaret said...

The fact that the kid is calling you "Emily" is hilarious, and I like the reasoning behind it, too. So glad you're having such fun!!!

Carson Chittom said...

So...I'm stupid and can't figure it out: what good do American stamps do you?

solotoro said...

C, if you ever read this, the answer is I can send letters back with volunteers who are visiting or returning to the States.