I'll start this post out with a shout-out to Carson, since he's first on my list of notes. I really appreciate the steady stream of mail, man, especially considering how lousy I am at writing back.
Chemistry in Burkina
I recently got the chance to read two real-for-true chemistry articles. The first came compliments of Carson, who read a non-technical review of an article which interested him and decided to send me the actual 30-page article! It was a treat to geek out for a half hour. I don't know what journal it came from, the printout didn't say. Think of how shocked I was to receive a letter that thick!
Soon after, I spent some time with the other chemist from my stage, and as it turned out she had brought back from her recent trip to the states an article her boyfriend had published. So I got to geek out AGAIN. I miss reading research. I do NOT miss performing it.
I read that term recently to refer to what I'd always heard previously described as a push start: the process of pushing a vehicle (I've mostly done it with motorcycles), preferably down an incline, until you get enough speed to drop the clutch and turn the engine over to get it started. Well, on a trip to Ouaga recently I got to help - with all of the other passengers - push a BUS to start it this way. I don't think they actually expected me to help, but come on, was I really going to miss being able to tell that story? Fortunately, at the intermediate stops on the several-hour route, the bus stayed running and we didn't need to repeat the process.
Who would win in tug-of-war, a donkey or a cow?
You might think the cow, it's certainly got the weight...but there's a reason you see donkeys pulling plows and not cows. A couple weeks ago I saw a donkey pulling a cart that had a cow tied to it...and wheresoever the donkey was taking it, it was a place the cow did NOT want to go. That cow was pulling just as hard as it could against its lead rope trying to stop the cart, feet dug into the ground...and that donkey just kept plodding along as if it weren't tied to anything at all. The cow's feet left furrows in the road until it gave up. Winner: donkey.
You know they have a whole line of them. One of them is named Cluzzle. I argue that the "u" should be pronounced as in the word "puzzle," so that the "Cl" could be interpreted to come both from "clue" and from "clay" (the idea is to give people a clue about the word or phrase you want to represent using clay), But I was in a minority of one - everyone else pronounced it "clue-zzle." Anyway, it's a reasonably fun game.
Lost in translation
While working at stage again, we had a session at which all trainees and staff were present. At one point, I asked a question of the sesson leader (a Burkinabe), and after responding he asked me to translate for him. I thought this was weird both because most of the staff speak English anyway AND his French is of course better than mine, but I started - only to be stopped by the stagiares who patiently explained to me that the leader had already SAID it in French, and it would be much more helpful if I could translate it to English, please. Oops.
When your t-shirt says something in a language you don't know, find someone who speaks that language and ask them to translate it. Or you might end up looking to someone who speaks that language like the buff 30-year old Burkinabe man wearing an "Active girl" t-shirt did to me.
Apologies to stagiare S, who should in fact be commended for getting hair extensions braided in a very popular Burkinabe fashion. I'm sorry that my first response was just to say your name and laugh for several minutes.
The new me
Not as in I'm changing anything dramatically; as in there is a person in this stage, M, who reminds me of me - he's kind of a smartass cynic. Here is a rough representation of a dialogue he had with the aforementioned S (before her transformational hair decision that I in all honesty really do think is cool, it was just SUCH a change) after she had performed a needs assessment with her class...
S: Wow, that was so great! When we split off the girls from the boys, all of the boys listed as needs these material things, like books and desks and bicycles. The girls, on the other hand, seemed to really recognize some deep issues, like that they need equal rights, and to be respected as much as boys, and -
M: So basically the boys asked for real things and the girls spouted cliches.
S: I am going to kill you while you sleep.
Technically, that last line wasn't spoken, it's an interpretation of the look she gave him. Don't worry, it was all in good fun, and the odds of one stagiare killing another are low (if non-zero).
Why, oh why oh why, couldn't this have come up around this time NEXT year?
LEGO Education Development Specialist
We're in the midst of our mid-service medical exams, which includes a trip to the dentist for an exam and getting our teeth cleaned. The backs of my front teeth where I couldn't see with a mirror were really gross - I'm never skipping a yearly cleaning again. All is well, though, no cavities.
I've had crazy good luck booking work that ends up helping out my personal schedule. After a week of being a PCVF at stage, I stayed in town for an extra couple of days to be a guest speaker for the Food Security Committee...and the day we (myself and a co-chair of the committee who joined me) did that, we were asked to stay an extra day to be guest speakers for a session on survival in Burkina (a hodgepodge of topics that PCVs think it is useful/convenient/necessary for the new PCVs to know; we talked about topics from phone plans and check writing to how to maintain a latrine free of flies). Which meant my dead day between working stage and having to be in Ouaga for a meeting became a day on which I had a free place to stay and was paid to be there. AND it meant I got a ride in a PC car down to Ouaga. And now, thanks to another job, I get to be in town for the last couple of days of my friend C's service, AND I've got an impossible-otherwise-to-get spot at the transit house for the Swearing In ceremony of the new volunteers!
Right then, off to start the groundwork for getting something made for Swear In. And to buy cheese. REAL cheese. Ouaga is spoiling me.