Published: July 1st 2012July 1st 2012
We’ve just finished Week 3 of training and, wow. I can honestly say I have never felt like this before. I don’t even know where to start. First, I should let you know that I can only get internet twice a month, if I’m lucky, so don’t expect too many updates. We’ve been in Sapone for the past three weeks and I think I’m finally getting used to it all. Chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, and dogs outnumber the people 5-fold. I wish I could draw a map of my host family’s compound. There are six “houses,” and by that I mean four walls, a tin roof, and a window and door on the same side. Luckily, I have my own house. Another one is for one of my uncle’s, one for my grandpa, one for his two wives, one for a few of his kids, and two for my mom and dad…oh yeah, and the 15ish kids that are always at my house. I’m still not too sure who exactly are my brothers and sisters, or just kids that hang out there all the time. Most of the older kids in my family speak French, plus my uncle and my dad. But everyone else speaks Moore. I have no idea what any of them say to me, so I just smile and nod and say “Laafi” or “Ya soma.” Then they just laugh at me. It’s great though. I have never been around a more inviting and hospitable culture. They always make sure I have a seat so I don’t have to sit on the dirt. And they give me more than enough food, which I always end up sharing with children because I can never finish it. It’s only normal to say “Vous etes invites” when you’re eating to invite people to eat with you. And the general response is just a simple “Bon appetite.” My French level has skyrocketed since getting here. Just yesterday in my language group, we talked about some serious topics and I was able to effectively and thoroughly express my opinions, all in French. We have these chickens that hang around our training facility that make so much noise, try to eat all of our food, and poop everywhere. I would gladly kill one and eat it for dinner if I had the chance. My 12-year-old aunt is more jacked than most guys in the states. The girls here (typically) pump all the water, wash the clothes, make all the food (and by that I mean stir all the To—because that’s all they eat), carry their siblings, and tons more. I tried to pound Baobab leaves with her last weekend with a wooden mortar and pestle and nearly died after 5 minutes. She just heaves on it and makes the best sauce for To. I’ve already lost 10-15 pounds, so there’s that. This was the first week I’ve been able to eat a full plate of spaghetti. And even today, I’m still pretty sick and not eating much. And what I do eat isn’t staying down. So the Africa diet really does work, for all those who asked. But the women volunteers that help out with our trainings say that they’ve only gained weight since getting to site. Let’s hope I break even. It’s definitely a mix of the heat, getting used to the new food, and obviously culture shock. Riding a bike everywhere has gotten pretty easy. I just still can’t believe that I’m here. And riding a bike around West Arica. Regardless of what that sucks right now (just being sick is the only sucky thing), it’s still amazing and I’m so thrilled to be here and being a part of this experience. The people in my stage are pretty great. I’ve found a few that I can joke with just like I can back home, so I’m more than comfortable with them. And not to mention that when we talk about our bodily functions quite frequently, we have to get close fast. We’re having a huge media swap party—SCORE! I’ve scavenged almost the entire first season of Arrested Development. If anyone wanted to send me all of it, I would gladly pay you back…in a couple years. So I think I should really explain the concept of time here. WAIT. West African International Time. As fast paced and hectic as the US is, that’s how much it isn’t like that here. After just a month of being here, I already ride my bike slower, walk slower, think slower…uhhh…It’s just a much slower way of living here. And after 23 years of rushing, I’m totally ready for this. I can’t wait to start cooking for myself. I think once that happens I’ll be able to finally feel better. I eat a lot of spaghetti, rice, bread (for every breakfast), and To (millet in soup form, that doesn’t taste like anything). So if you wanted to send some actual food: protein bars (Odwalla and Clif), Annie’s Mac & Cheese, trail mix with chocolate (it will melt and I will still eat it), Velveeta cheese will keep in the mail, instant mashed potatoes (Hannaford brand preferred—don’t judge), gravy packets, tuna fish…can you tell I’m hungry? This entry has to flow, just what comes to mind, and I’m sorry about that. But that just gives you an idea about my life here. I could use more snail mail here. It only costs $1.05 to send a letter, and I promise I’ll send one back. Here’s my address:
Amelia Butman, PCT
S/c Corps de la Paix
01 B.P. 6031
Ouagadougou 01, Burkina Faso
Don’t send any postcards. The post office will think that you’re sending them a picture and not deliver it to me and hang it up instead. You can also send my phone here text messages and I can respond for not too expensive. And you can call that number from Skype (it’s worked and been expectionally clear!) +22666201634. I miss you all so much and wish so badly to be with you and all of your adventures. Keep me posted of everything you do, and I’ll try to post as much as I can.