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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Weeks 1 & 2: “Y Yeebeogo!” – Settling into Burkina Life

After arriving in Ouagadougou - excited, nervous and tired - late on Monday night, we were met at the airport by the smiling ICS team. All 21 volunteers and our 42 suitcases piled onto the big purple bus that would be the transport for our first week in Burkina. We settled into our house, unpacked, and got some much needed sleep before commencing our induction week. The week was packed with useful information; cultural awareness sessions, health and safety briefings, and receiving Mooré lessons and building on our French language skills. We worked alongside the National volunteers who will be joining the ICS teams for the next few months, and help us to learn and integrate in to Burkina culture.

Some of our cohort on the magic purple bus
Nicte and Ross delivering a beginners French lesson
We soon had the opportunity to put our Mooré into practise at the local market; buying fruits, vegetables and some of the vibrant local fabrics. We have also enjoyed trying many of the local drinks and dishes, including the national dish of Tó (a gelatinous substance made from millet) and Bissap, a bright purple drink made from dried petals of the hibiscus flower. After finding the petals at our local market we attempted to recreate it at home – although not exactly a disaster, I think we are in need of some local expertise!

Some of the Kabeela women in Ziniare

A highlight of our in-country training was the opportunity to visit all of the other ICS projects here in Burkina, which was rather inspiring, and served to give us an overall impression of the great work that goes on here. It was particularly enjoyable visiting the village of Zinaré and meeting the women of Kabeela; hearing their songs and tasting their freshly brewed millet beer. It was great to get a glimpse of what life is like outside of the capital city and witness Burkina’s natural beauty.

The new team! Ailsa, Rowan, Laura and Lewis posing in front of a sculpture

Before returning home we had the chance to stop at the fascinating Laongo Sculpture Park, and wander through the dozens of sculptures exquisitely carved into the many boulders and rocks around the park, each telling a story of the history and culture of Africa.

After a long week of training we were able to socialise and enjoy ourselves at the National Paralympic championships; meeting the athletes and cheering at the sidelines of the various races and events. The Paralymic Committee are partnered with two of the ICS projects here in Ouagadougou; and it was also great to see Djigui there selling their produce. Lewis got stuck in helping with the sales as people came swarming in to buy the delicious tokan brochettes and soya milk, which all sold out in under 20 minutes!

A race at the National Paralympic Championships
Hungry masses gather at the Djigui Espoir stall..
That evening we headed over to the opening of new restaurant Le Foyer with the other ICS volunteers. Djigui have formed a link with Le Foyer, who will be selling brochettes and using Djigui’s tokan in their dishes. They’ve also hired Djigui member, Regina, as a full time cook! Multiple brochettes and live music with traditional Burkina instruments made it an evening to remember.

Monday 30th September marked our first day at Djigui. We spent some time in the soya production room, observing how both the milk and tokan (firm tofu) are made. It was really beneficial to gain a better understanding of the work involved in production and also the importance of producing a high quality product.

Measuring the temperature of the soya milk

Monday was also Ives 26th birthday, but unfortunately he was at home recovering from malaria. With his return on Wednesday we were able to work together, alongside Beatrice (Djigui’s other national volunteer), Val (team leader), Madame Toe (Djigui’s founder), Odette (long standing member and treasurer), Seraphine (in charge of soya production) and Chantalle (accountant), to set out our objectives for the next three months. We discussed the current needs of Djigui Espoir and how we can work together, each using our previous experience to try and achieve our goals. We are especially excited about getting creative in the kitchen to create a new product made from the delicious Djigui tokan.

The rest of the week was spent getting to know the members of the association, adjusting to our new working environment, updating all Djigui social media and creating legal documents (translated in both French and English). Djigui held a meeting with the United States African Development Foundation, with members of the association discussing the progress of the soya production project that the USADF have helped to fund.

The USADF meeting
We have been really welcomed by all of the women here, and Madam Toe has encouraged us to see ourselves as part of the Djigui family. The Djigui women have a great sense of humour and are very accommodating to our limited knowledge of Mooré and French. The language barrier has been frustrating at times; however we have now set up weekly French and English lessons with Ives and Beatrice and are keen to develop our language skills over the coming weeks.

The whole cohort have been kindly invited to the wedding of Giselle (the daughter of Georgette who works in the ICS office) tomorrow, which we’re all really looking forward to. Beatrice took us to her tailor to have some clothes made out of the cotton we bought in the market. Unfortunately they won’t be ready in time for the wedding but, we can’t wait to try them on next week.

And to top off an eventful start to the project, we've already become stars of national TV! We were sat eating our riz gras lunch in a nearby macqui when we happened to notice ourselves on the blurry television in the corner... The National Paralympic Championships made the news!

Nicte on TV!

That’s all for now. We will update again next week!

Lewis, Rowan, Ailsa and Laura

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