Saturday, August 15, 2009


On the 29th of July I officially brought my two years of Peace Corps Service to an end. My last day was complete with stacks of paperwork, and a final ceremonial cutting of my Peace Corps identification card. A few friends and I decided that in order to make our transition back to the USA a little bit easier, we would take a short trip to the second world, Morocco, to help us. The difference between Burkina and Morocco was astounding. In Burkina I spent nearly everyday waking up the the melodic sounds of donkeys and roosters and enjoying meals of rice and onions, but in Morocco, I found a veritable wonderland of silence and culinary delights. I spent a week and a half gorging myself on streetside ice cream vendors and McDonalds cheeseburgers. Thats right McDonalds. It might not sound that exciting, but to someone who hasn't had heavily processed, greasy, preservative filled tastiness in 2 years, it was amazing. The rest of the trip was agreed upon to be ok, but we all just wanted to get back to America.

Two days ago I arrived in America, and it is everything I remember it being and more. Now if you will excuse me, the baseball game is starting and my apple pie is getting cold.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Burkina in the Rearview Mirror

Peace Corps: The hardest job you will ever love.
One of the Peace Corps many tag lines. Over the past two years, I came to question this statement several times. Not so much the hardest job part, imagine yourself sweating in 100 degree heat infront of a class of 131 teenagers trying to pronounce in French some obscure type of mineral that you don't even know the name of in English, or imagine trying to grade 400 odd tests at night with no electricity credling a flashligh on your shoulder whil insects of the night dive bomb your face. So it wasn't really the hardest job part I doubted, as much as it was the love part. Sure, even in America everyone has good days and bad days, and yes my good days numbered way more than my bad, but love? The Peace Corps just sprang that "I love you" on me, and I still wasn't sure if we were at a point in our relationship that I could honestly and meaningfully say it back. But now that we ahve spent two years, make that two years and two months together, I think I might be ready to take that plunge and go all in. I love you Peace Corps, you truly are the hardest job I will ever love. I fear however that I may have proclaimed my love too late. Peace Corps service, at least for me, is one of those things that you dont really come to appreciate until it is over.
Peace Corps: The hardest job you will ever love once you are finished your service and have had time to reflect on the last two years of your life and the good times had during said two years.
That really isn't all that catchy. I guess the original is better, it just takes a little over two years to fully understand its meaning.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


It has been a while, but I am still alive. The lion has disappeared. When the rains started, it moved on to greener pastures, and left my village to defend itself from nothing more than donkeys and chickens. Since the last time, my school threw me a going away party, I took a hiking trip in Dogon Country in Mali, and I celebrated the 4th of July with some waterfalls. Only one month left. Back to village to pack and say my goodbyes. Next stop America.
1. Hiking in Mali, found an oaisis
2. My school
3. Ouoba Boureima, treasurer at my school
4. President of the Matiacoali PTA
5. The Principal and all the other teachers at my school
6. MONKEYS! at my neighbors house
7. Hiking in Mali
8. Hiking in Mali

Friday, May 29, 2009

Foreva', eva'?

With exactly two months left to the day of my departure from Burkina Faso, the place I have called home for the past two years, I am faced with a dilema. How do you say good bye to someone forever? The simple response to such a question would be to simply open my mouth and utter the words good bye, but it is not as easy as it sounds. In the past when I was at a transition point in my life where I was moving to a different place or city, the words didn't seem to have as much meaning. Sure I said good bye, but it wasn't really good bye. In the states a good bye is merely an extended see you later. There is always the odd chance that you will see the person again someday. But in this situation, I find it highly unlikely that I will bump into Fatimata Thiombiano walking down the streets of Springfield, Missouri. Then again, who knows what the future has in store. I will just take it one person at a time, one good bye at a time.

On another scarier note, a lion has been terrorizing the villagers about 10 km from my village. It has to date eaten two children, attacked one grown man, and several cows. It is actually a family of eight lions with only one angry old one, so I am told. The latest attack was just yesterday, but they have all been outside of my village and nowhere near where I live. There are people that go out on a weekly basis to find and kill this lion, but have yet to be successfull. This however is not cause for alarm. I am perfectly safe and if this ever did become an issue in my village, Peace Corps would be the first to know and I would be the first to leave. Once they do kill the lion, they are going to bring it back to my village and let me take pictures of it.

Picrues Above:
Dust Storm
Dust Storm
Trees in shower after I threw out all the duds

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Super White

At first I didn't like being called nasara, or o bopienno, or le blanc or any other number of ways the locals had for saying white person/foreigner. I would introduce myself to everyone, kids and adults alike, so that they would start yelling my name instead of chanting, "white person, white person". I would get angry that they only saw me for my skin color and I was only a random white person without a name of my own. Then I embraced it. I was THE WHITE. I was a superhero whose super power was the ability to glow in the dark, and give out candy faster than a speeding bullet. I would get suspicious if I was told by the kids that there was another foreigner they saw in the market on the way to school. Who did they think they were? Matiacoali is only big enough for one THE WHITE. There is no room for THE WHITES. But in three months, I will move back to America and back to my mild-mannered alter ego. Who will defend the fair village of Matiacoali in my absence from such super villans as The Girl Disempowerer? I will have hung up my white cape in retired as THE WHITE. I, being the third education volunteer in my village, am the last of my kind. I have heard rumors that I will be replaced by a Girls Education and Empowerment volunteer that will work with the primary school. If that is the case, The Girl Disempowerer doesn't stand a chance. I just hope that the villagers of Matiacoali, will not forget me as THE WHITE, THEIR WHITE.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Showering in a Forest

Last week my village received the first rain of the year, the only precipitation since August of last year. These are called the Mango rains and I have been told that they signal when the tiny mangoes are ready to eat. It is believed that if you eat them before the mango rains you will get meningitis. I have tried to convince my friends that there is no way that this is possible, but I was about as successful as the time I tried to convince them that the monkey in the village was a baboon and not a gorilla, this even with visual aids of the two. The same day a huge lizard was killed outside my house and its tongue was ripped out. If you leave the tongue in after you kill it, it comes back to life at night and eats your baby. Who am I to question? So the mango rains came and they came with a vengeance. At first it was a nice rain and I was outside jumping in puddles with kids getting who knows how many water born illnesses, then the wind picked up and branches started falling. I took shelter with my puddle hopping friends in my house and then it started to hail. Everyone, kids and adults alike, where running outside and snatching up pieces of hail and popping them into their mouths with looks of mixed excitement and pleasure as if they were pieces of candy hurled at the earth from above. I suppose I would have done the same thing if I hadn’t been spoiled by America and grown up with ice only w few feet away at any time of the day or night. Oh, another weird village thing, apparently the women are afraid to go the fields by themselves because of the gorilla danger. What gorilla danger you ask? First of all, there are no gorillas in Burkina Faso, but one would assume women would be afraid of angry gorilla attacks. One would be wrong. The women are afraid of a gorilla having its way with them. I am also told that gorilla-human hybrid babies exist from such encounters. Not right now of course, but in the past the friend of the friend of the friend of the sister of my neighbor had a monkey baby. It was all covered with hair and had long monkey fingers but it didn’t survive more than a year. God doesn’t approve of monkman babies, I am told. But again, who am I to question?

With only four months left of my Peace Corps service, I have realized that it is now or never for all of the secondary projects that I have thought about doing over the past two years. I put some of them off for far too long and if I started them now they will never by finished, so I decided to focus on one and go all out. I am going to try to accomplish a massive tree planting in the courtyard of my school and transform it form a barren, rocky redness similar to the surface of Mars to a green, shady oasis inviting to the enlightenment of young minds. Several tasks needed to be accomplished in order to make this vision of green a reality. First, talk to my principal and see if he was onboard with plan oasis. He was all about it, especially when I told him it would be free wince all of the labor would be performed by me and the students. Second… seeds. What kind? Here do I get them? Where do I find my misplaced green thumb? Who can answer all of these questions? My friendly village forester, a.k.a. tree guy, that’s who. I trotted on over to his office, I actually more walked than trotted, and I probably sweat more than walked, it is hot in Africa, but he was not there and I was on a tight schedule to get to Fada, buy my seeds, and get back. When I got to Fada, however, I immediately regretted this decision. Fada is a big place, and I had no I idea where they sold seeds. I reasoned that plants like water so I should head towards the city water hole. It is really a large pond/lake thing in the middle of the city that supplies the city with water. I am sure there is a better word for this in English, but the French virus has infected that part of m brain and I have lost the word. It turns out my hunch was correct, plants do like water and luckily plants come from seeds and that was what I needed, but how many and what kind? I ended up buying an obscene amount of seeds for a similarly obscene amount of money. Equipped with huge sacks of seeds and partial knowledge of what to do with them, I returned to village with high hopes. The next task, fourth maybe, was to find sacks to plant them in and allow them to grow for two months before putting them in the ground. Water in America is sold in plastic bottles, in Burkina, it is sold in half liter plastic bags. Perfect. Also, in Burkina there are no trash cans, so the market is full of discarded and unloved water sacks for my tree planting needs. Perfecter (the fact that they are available, not that there aren’t any trash cans). Also I have dozens of children on spring break, annoying me and willing to do anything for a piece of candy. Perfectest. At the end of the day, I had about 700 water bags and no candy. Long story short, a mixture of sand, dirt, poop, and child sweat, I now have about one square foot to shower in since I put the 150ish trees in my shower, the only place the animals cant get to them. I never asked my principal how many trees he wanted to plant. I hope it is a lot, otherwise the volunteer who replaces me is going to have to shower in a forest.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cart for ya?

I just finished up my close of service conference this week and we had our going away party last night. One would think that this means I will be coming home soon, and yes one would be correct. I will probably be leaving Burkina Faso around the end of July and then moving back to America and back to the real world full of economic crises and artery clogging fast food around every corner. My return to the real world, however, is forcing me to decide what I want to do with myself. My parents have already told me that my master plan of being a bum living in their basement was not a positive life goal and have encouraged me to either find someone elses basement or find a job. For some unknown reason, I chose the later. Finding a job is something I haven't had to worry about for almost 8 years. After selling my soul to Wal-Mart during high school, it just never came up. I refuse to go back to Wal-Mart. I will not be that 75 year old man that cant control my bodily functions as I recite, "cart for ya?" over and over and over. So I at least know where I will not be looking for a job, but that doesn't really narrow my possibilities. I have been looking into a dual Masters program at John's Hopkins in Nursing and Public Health. Peace Corps volunteers are given priority, who knows what that even means, and financial assistance. All in all it is a three year program starting with a year accelerated program to get my bachelors in nursing. After that I will apply to doctors without borders and come back to Africa for a while. Thus my life in a nutshell. My plan has changed everyday this week and has already changed today, so we will see how I feel tomorrow.

Cliffs we biked by on our safari trip

I am so cool

Children doing tricks for my entertainment

My future wife and my neighbors monkey