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The_Continental
Jan 13, 2019

My god, Winston, is that infernal sun still giving my buttocks that entirely too cool smirk?!


From 2009 to 2011 I was a volunteer with the US Peace Corps in Burkina Faso. I'll tell you about it in this post and you can ask questions about the work, the country, the people, etc.

The What:

The Peace Corps is a US based volunteer organization formed under the Kennedy administration, and has 3 main goals:

1.To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
2.To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
3.To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans

Volunteers typically sign up for 27 months. 3 months of language and technical training, then 2 years of service at their site. My training took place in a small village called Bogoya Z where I lived with a very friendly host family. Some volunteers continue for a 3rd year as most work doesn't get done until the 2nd year. It can be difficult to decode the social and cultural aspects of many issues, and can take a year before any actual programming takes place.

My specific program was focused on Girls Education. It was a program with a somewhat nebulous approach, but clear goals of increasing access to education for girls in rural communities. My work focused on the critical transition from primary to secondary school. Statistically, many girls don't continue on to "high school" for financial and cultural reasons.

The Where:

Burkina Faso is a small landlocked country in West Africa. It was named by Thomas Sankara, "Africa's Che" and is a portmanteau of words in two of the major languages there. It means "Land of Upright People". There is one major city, Ouagadougou (wa-ga-doo-goo), much of the population are subsistence farmers.

I made it back to Ouaga (wagga) for training seminars, leave, and administrative duties. However, most of my time was spent at my assigned site. I started in Dori, the capital of the Seno Province. I was one of the northern most volunteers in the country and very close to the borders of both Mali and Niger. I had to curtail my service there due to State Department restrictions, and moved to the town of Yako, where I completed my service.

But Why?

I joined because I wanted an adventure, and I wanted to help people. I learned a lot about how aid is delivered, met some great people and lifelong friends. I could speak some French and had previous experience working with at-risk youth. Naturally,I was assigned to West Africa.


Anyway's here's photos.





My house in Dori, which was pretty posh by Peace Corps standards. It had electricity sometimes. It would cut out a lot during rainy season because the road would get washed out and power was all on a petrol generator. If trucks can't get through nobody gets power.




Scenes from a youth conference in Dori.





Mosque in Bani. Built by hand with mud bricks.



Cattle in my backyard being led to Friday markets. Dori was in an area that was about 80% muslim, and was home to a large mosque. That far north, farming is difficult and many of the Peuhl, or Fulani, people are herders. Many bring their herds to market on Friday and to pray.

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dads friend steve
Dec 24, 2004





Cool stuff

The_Continental posted:

It can be difficult to decode the social and cultural aspects of many issues, and can take a year before any actual programming takes place.

Can you explain a bit more what this means?

maxe
Sep 23, 2004

BLURRED SWEET STREETLIGHTS SPEEDING PAST, FAST


The_Continental posted:

I learned a lot about how aid is delivered

how is aid delivered

did anything get better

what were your RESULTS

ante
Apr 9, 2005

SUNSHINE AND RAINBOWS

Why have I never heard of this country?


I see from Wikipedia that it became a thing around 1960, but I'm totally positive that it was never in any of my geography books growing up.



drat, primary school education sucks balls with respect to Africa

Cosmic Web
Jan 11, 2005

"Stand and deliver, that my hamster might have a better look at you!"


Fun Shoe

What did you eat?

Did you check out Timbuktu?

The_Continental
Jan 13, 2019

My god, Winston, is that infernal sun still giving my buttocks that entirely too cool smirk?!


dads friend steve posted:

Cool stuff


Can you explain a bit more what this means?

Well, moving into a rural African town from the US is going to be a sort of two way culture shock. At least in W. Africa, respect is a huge deal. Anything you do will have sometimes double the amount of stakeholders you anticipated, and everyone needs a seat at the table. Most people also view time as flexible, as opposed to the US where punctuality is valued. When you combine this with a French work day and week, it can be difficult to hit the ground running. Many volunteers want to dive right into implementing a project, i.e. for-profit soap making with a local mothers of students group. However, without making proper introductions, understanding bureaucratic, administrative, cultural norms, many of these projects fall flat. Additionally, many of these areas have seen aid organizations come and go. It generally takes people about a year to acclimate to cultural realities, and during this time they focus on "softer" projects that involve cultural exchange and getting to know their host community.

my kinda ape
Sep 15, 2008

Everything's gonna be A-OK


Hair Elf

This is really cool.

Were the people friendly to you right away or did they take some time to warm up to you? What were your favorite things about the area you were in? How was the food?

The_Continental
Jan 13, 2019

My god, Winston, is that infernal sun still giving my buttocks that entirely too cool smirk?!


maxe posted:

how is aid delivered

did anything get better

what were your RESULTS

I was able to set up a computer lab with 10 machines and run a "head start" class for girls that were poised to enter secondary school. 9 out of 10 of the girls in the class went on to secondary school, and last time I checked the lab was still a resource as of 2 years ago.

As far as the broader question of "how is aid delivered". I guess I was surprised by the amount of NGOs present in African countries. There is an enormous amount of aid from the US, France, Germany, Japan, China, and simply navigating the landscape of organizations can be daunting. Its also sometimes difficult to see where money is going, which can make it difficult to develop working relationships with these orgs. Obviously I don't want to put my time into forging a relationship with an org that is just sucking up aid money and not putting in any real work.

ClamdestineBoyster
Aug 15, 2015


How hard would it be to fix that bookshelf jfc.

1st_Panzer_Div.
May 11, 2005

Phoenixes we can believe in

Grimey Drawer

I misread AID as AIDS but... was the AIDS epidemic a thing in W. Africa while you were there?

Sunswipe
Feb 5, 2016

STILL ANGRY ABOUT CHEESE


My only previous knowledge of the Peace Corps was from a story in a porn mag, where a guy goes to an African village and ends up repeatedly having sex with a tribal princess who possessed massive breasts. Was this the real motivation for you joining, and did you have any such adventures?

The_Continental
Jan 13, 2019

My god, Winston, is that infernal sun still giving my buttocks that entirely too cool smirk?!


my kinda ape posted:


Were the people friendly to you right away or did they take some time to warm up to you? What were your favorite things about the area you were in? How was the food?


If there is one thing I took away from the experience its that Burkinabe are the kindest, most welcoming people I've ever met. Sometimes it was actually difficult because their form of hospitality sometimes felt intrusive. I had a case of Giardia (horrible horrible burps and shits) during the Muslim feast holiday of Tabaski. People were coming to my door and placing enormous piles of food in front of me. I wanted to cry. They are hands down the best thing about the entire experience. As far as geographically: The Sahel is beautiful, there is a stark emptiness to it and desert vistas can be pretty incredible.

Food was a challenge at first. Millet is the most widely grown crop, and people (women) pound it into flour and then boil it into a gelatinous paste called To, pronounced "Toe". Its usually eaten by hand with a sauce of some sort. The worst of which is "sauce baobab". We called it "snot sauce", because its just ground up baobab leaves and water. It has a questionable amount of nutrition and has the consistency of overcooked gumbo. I lost a fair bit of weight at first while living with my host family. At one point my language trainer noticed this and asked if he could speak with my host mother about changing the menu a bit. I told him I wasnt fussy, but some spaghetti would be nice. The next night my very proud host mother (one of 3) brought me a big pot filled with spaghetti and topped with fish heads. I muscled through it and was so grateful for her effort. Eventually, when I was on my own at my site, I was able to do some cooking of my own. I constantly had invitations to eat with neighbors.

Here are some improvised cooking solutions:

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The_Continental
Jan 13, 2019

My god, Winston, is that infernal sun still giving my buttocks that entirely too cool smirk?!


Sunswipe posted:

My only previous knowledge of the Peace Corps was from a story in a porn mag, where a guy goes to an African village and ends up repeatedly having sex with a tribal princess who possessed massive breasts. Was this the real motivation for you joining, and did you have any such adventures?

Well, as I was working for a Girls Education project I was pretty careful to not gently caress local women. In small African towns word travels fast. And as the only white guy around there was usually extra attention on me. Some people do end up with local boyfriends and girlfriends and some even turn into husbands and wives. I had no intention of leaving with a bride, so I kept romance with host country nationals at arms length. I did get laid though. I'll leave it at that.

The_Continental
Jan 13, 2019

My god, Winston, is that infernal sun still giving my buttocks that entirely too cool smirk?!


1st_Panzer_Div. posted:

I misread AID as AIDS but... was the AIDS epidemic a thing in W. Africa while you were there?

AIDS is still a problem in Burkina Faso but no more so than Washington D.C.

Sunswipe
Feb 5, 2016

STILL ANGRY ABOUT CHEESE


The_Continental posted:

Well, as I was working for a Girls Education project I was pretty careful to not gently caress local women. In small African towns word travels fast. And as the only white guy around there was usually extra attention on me. Some people do end up with local boyfriends and girlfriends and some even turn into husbands and wives. I had no intention of leaving with a bride, so I kept romance with host country nationals at arms length. I did get laid though. I'll leave it at that.

Fair enough. And sympathies on the giardia, my mother somehow had that and she said after a couple of days, she was pretty much wishing for death.

LabyaMynora
Jun 18, 2000

I am a ghost


Grimey Drawer

This is a cool thread. Shame about the lovely thread tag, though.

The_Continental
Jan 13, 2019

My god, Winston, is that infernal sun still giving my buttocks that entirely too cool smirk?!


I done hosed up

zenguitarman
Apr 6, 2009

Come on, lemme see ya shake your tail feather




Interesting hearing about cultural norms and would love to hear more. A friend of mine did the peace corps in Tanzania (I think) but she had a very different experience as a female, like she would have to eat dinner outside while the men ate inside. I think she also said that the village next to hers killed someone for being a witch. Did you witness anything crazy?

Who What Now
Sep 10, 2006


Statistically you'd think that I'd sometimes fluke into typing a decent post. Nah. Only the most tedious, shitty posts, all day every day baby!

Don't bother engaging me, I don't ever get the hints to fuck off.




ante posted:

Why have I never heard of this country?


I see from Wikipedia that it became a thing around 1960, but I'm totally positive that it was never in any of my geography books growing up.



drat, primary school education sucks balls with respect to Africa

Yeah I don't remember it from Yakko's World at all

The_Continental
Jan 13, 2019

My god, Winston, is that infernal sun still giving my buttocks that entirely too cool smirk?!


zenguitarman posted:

Interesting hearing about cultural norms and would love to hear more. A friend of mine did the peace corps in Tanzania (I think) but she had a very different experience as a female, like she would have to eat dinner outside while the men ate inside. I think she also said that the village next to hers killed someone for being a witch. Did you witness anything crazy?

I'll address the gender stuff first. As a male, it was a lot easier for me to get access to directors, and other people that can get things done. Often, especially for young women, they would have to deal with excessive flirtation to get even statistical information from a government functionary. American Women in Burkina Faso could be said to be a "third gender" (sorry to reinforce any hetero-normative ideas this was only 2009). They are seen by men as different from African women, and possessing more social agency. However, they were also subject to lots of cat-calling and male attention. Our host country staff was very aware of this and were incredibly respectful, but that wasn't always the case "at site". Many women I knew wore fake wedding rings, and on more than one occasion I posed as a female volunteer's husband in order to mitigate verbal harassment.

IIRC it was pretty normal for men and women to eat separately. Men told me it was so the women could get "their fair share". This was a more "villageois" attitude and it was more common to see mixed company dining together in cities.

A note on being a male working for Girls Education: I would typically try to leverage local stakeholders as often as possible and get them to have a large a hand in projects as possible. I had my own hangups about being a white american male going into mostly female spaces in a foreign country and trying to implement social interventions. I tried very hard to leave my ideas at the door and make myself more of a resource than an organizer.

The_Continental
Jan 13, 2019

My god, Winston, is that infernal sun still giving my buttocks that entirely too cool smirk?!


Crazy? You bet:

Drunken bus drivers veering off the road and cracking an axle in the middle of the desert, so 6 guys pick it up and walk 10 hours back to the town we just left to bring a new axle back and replace it while we almost die from the sun.

President Blaise Compaore sending military aid to Libya and then not paying anyone, resulting in military riots: waking up to the distinctive sound of AK-47s being fired, buses being flipped and burned to barricade roads, and a local police station being burned 50M from my house.

Getting drunk with an Imam and soldier on local millet cider and then riding around on a motorcycle in the desert.

Accidentally crossing into Niger and pissing off some Gendarme who chased our vehicle into a village and demanded ID, or (Wait, those arent the right color uniforms!)

Riding in a charter bus for 26 hours to Ghana and arriving at 3AM, falling asleep on the beach and getting malaria.

The_Continental
Jan 13, 2019

My god, Winston, is that infernal sun still giving my buttocks that entirely too cool smirk?!


Saliou, one of the most patient and talented teachers I've ever met. Took me from 7th grade level French to near fluent in 2 months and immediately into rudimentary Peuhl


Sunday in Yako, Neighbor girls hanging out


Peuhl women in Dori


Shopkeeper's son on the counter in Dori

Wendigee
Jul 19, 2004


This is a really good thread thank you for sharing. Maybe all Burt Sexual to change to lovely post pic.

Voting 5.

Chinatown
Sep 11, 2001

~*Suck My Balls*~

Fun Shoe

Thats rad OP. My sister lived for 6 months in rural Kenya, and 6 months in Accra, Ghana.

Did a 2.5 week safari with the family across Kenya years back. Truly an incredible experience.

Im sure being WHITE PEOPLE WITH MONEY skewed things a bit but the people were extremely friendly.

sweet thursday
Sep 16, 2012

by LITERALLY AN ADMIN


Looking forward to the rest of this thread

Wendigee
Jul 19, 2004


I had a cousin do work in Africa for 3 years... Sadly she's from the brain worms evangelical side of the family and did it as a mission to Jesus and I reckon feel superior to the people she was helping.

sweet thursday
Sep 16, 2012

by LITERALLY AN ADMIN


Mods give this thread the autoban ATTENTION thread tag because effort deserves to be rewarded

The_Continental
Jan 13, 2019

My god, Winston, is that infernal sun still giving my buttocks that entirely too cool smirk?!


Chinatown posted:

Thats rad OP. My sister lived for 6 months in rural Kenya, and 6 months in Accra, Ghana.

Did a 2.5 week safari with the family across Kenya years back. Truly an incredible experience.

Im sure being WHITE PEOPLE WITH MONEY skewed things a bit but the people were extremely friendly.

Despite living on a very meager allowance (~$300/mo), and doing my best to integrate with people in the community, there was always the assumption that I was privileged in some respect. At the time that bothered me, but I've come to terms that I am indeed a very privileged person. We had to be on the look out for "faux types" which literally means a fake person. Young men especially would try to befriend me and I wanted to be open but it only took a few times hanging out to realize they were after monetary favors and not friendship. Thankfully these people were the minority and most locals appreciated my presence or just didn't care.

Wendigee posted:

I had a cousin do work in Africa for 3 years... Sadly she's from the brain worms evangelical side of the family and did it as a mission to Jesus and I reckon feel superior to the people she was helping.

There are some extremely awesome faith based organizations, like Catholic Relief Services. There are also deeply entrenched generational missionaries and they have some really wild ideas, I would avoid these people at all costs, they are poison.

Booty Pageant
Apr 20, 2012


wow op you could have had a harem of shitposting school girls by now

Hyrax Attack!
Jan 13, 2009

We demand to be taken seriously


Cool thread! What vaccines did you have to get prior to going? How did you manage money? Like did you have to keep all your cash on you or could you use cards or visit a bank?

What was air travel path to get there? Like NYC-London-Burkina Faso?

The_Continental
Jan 13, 2019

My god, Winston, is that infernal sun still giving my buttocks that entirely too cool smirk?!


Hyrax Attack! posted:

Cool thread! What vaccines did you have to get prior to going? How did you manage money? Like did you have to keep all your cash on you or could you use cards or visit a bank?

What was air travel path to get there? Like NYC-London-Burkina Faso?

I can hardly remember what I had to get but I had a laundry list of vaccines (Hep, yellow fever, typhoid?) I also had to take anti malarial meds for the duration of my stay, I took Mephloquine orally every week for 27 loving MONTHS. It was a non-negotiable, and if you caught malaria twice they just terminated your service. Turns out you aren't supposed to do this and I still ended up with Malaria, although I had already closed my service.

I traveled from Detroit to Philly, where we did a 2 day orientation and a last "are you sure you want to commit to 27 months?". Then Philly - London - Niamey - Ouagadougou. Our plane had to be grounded in Niamey, Niger on the way over because it lost power on the runway. We had to stay the night and were under strict instruction to not leave the hotel. I remember the whole place smelling like charcoal and seeing a lot of amputees. Niamey is a very, very poor place.

Methanar
Sep 26, 2013
Probation
Can't post for 27 days!


Do the villager resent you or otherwise ever feel as though that aid programs are colonization 2.0

Methanar
Sep 26, 2013
Probation
Can't post for 27 days!


Also does the average person know anything about their countries history or colonization in the first place

Muscle Wizard
Jul 28, 2011



The_Continental posted:

Well, as I was working for a Girls Education project I was pretty careful to not gently caress local women. In small African towns word travels fast. And as the only white guy around there was usually extra attention on me. Some people do end up with local boyfriends and girlfriends and some even turn into husbands and wives. I had no intention of leaving with a bride, so I kept romance with host country nationals at arms length. I did get laid though. I'll leave it at that.

please tell us more about how u slayed in africa

(USER WAS PUT ON PROBATION FOR THIS POST)

The_Continental
Jan 13, 2019

My god, Winston, is that infernal sun still giving my buttocks that entirely too cool smirk?!


Methanar posted:

Do the villager resent you or otherwise ever feel as though that aid programs are colonization 2.0

This is a great question. I never felt that sentiment specifically and Peace Corps does a lot to avoid that stigma. I did have a guy tell me he didn't like my skin color while he was drunk. He later apologized and said he thought I was French. The guy just didn't like French people, and I don't really blame him considering their history in the region.

I think that Peace Corps is unique in that it is a strictly not for profit entity, must be invited into a community, and focuses on community ownership of projects. I led a fair amount of training for incoming volunteers, and we focused a lot on their feelings about coming into a community as a privileged foreigner. We also followed the Positive Deviance approach which searches for existing solutions within an already appropriate cultural context.

Would you like to know more?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_deviance

The_Continental
Jan 13, 2019

My god, Winston, is that infernal sun still giving my buttocks that entirely too cool smirk?!


Methanar posted:

Also does the average person know anything about their countries history or colonization in the first place

Yeah most people are aware, but there is also pretty strict media control. There have been journalists killed, and I generally tried not to initiate conversations around that kind of thing. I was happy to chat about my political opinions if someone else brought it up but I never wanted to be seen as a political agitator. I was there to help get the numbers of girls in school up.

Thomas Sankara was a Marxist and its no secret the French government supported a coup against him. He was tolerated as a national hero but his successor's face was still hanging in offices everywhere.

The_Continental
Jan 13, 2019

My god, Winston, is that infernal sun still giving my buttocks that entirely too cool smirk?!


Muscle Wizard posted:

please tell us more about how u slayed in africa

You honestly don't want to hear about dusty drunken hippie sex

SCROTO TURBOSPERG
Jan 21, 2007



The_Continental posted:

You honestly don't want to hear about dusty drunken hippie sex

incorrect

The_Continental
Jan 13, 2019

My god, Winston, is that infernal sun still giving my buttocks that entirely too cool smirk?!


I'm choosing to leave that stuff out because A. Its not very interesting aside from (lol had sex) and B. I'm married to a wonderful and beautiful person who would have their feelings hurt if they found out I was typing out details of past sexual encounters.

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my kinda ape
Sep 15, 2008

Everything's gonna be A-OK


Hair Elf

The_Continental posted:

You honestly don't want to hear about dusty drunken hippie sex

Speaking of drinking though, you mentioned the country is 80% Muslim so what's the deal with alcohol there? Is it widely available and used, illegal, or legal and uncommon?

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