Saturday, December 1, 2012

Ebben Wiley's back in the States?! Say what?!

Hello faithful readers...

Sorry I did such a terrible job of blogging while in Burkina. I am now back in the States, and will be returning to my old blog

Peace Corps was amazing, and with out a doubt, will remain one of the most more memorable experiences of my life!

I grew much more than I ever expected. It's so odd... I was in West Africa for two and a half years, but if honestly feels like I just left the States. (I went to Paris for a week and went on a two week cruise from England to the Canary Islands; aside from that, I was in Burkina Faso.)

I expected things to be so different upon my return to home...I guess I expected too much. Because so little has changed (for the most part in terms of how America is) it's very hard to reconcile that I was actually gone for two and half years. THAT alone makes it even harder when it comes to where my friends are in their lives.

Gone are the days of dropping everything on a whim to hit the mall, or bar. Hello responsibility!

That said, I have some awesome stories/ things to share with you all. I am working on getting photos of all the fun things I bought in Burkina, and creating a post on my main blog.

I am also in the process of applying for a really cool grant that I will link everyone to in the next couple of days. I will need you to like my post on the sponsor's site for me to win.

I promise to get that post up before Monday morning!

Thanks so much for keeping up with me while I was in Burkina, and PLEASE continue reading on my main blog!

Happy Holidays!

Ebben Wiley

Friday, February 3, 2012

How does one make liquid soap?!

I can honestly say that I have never thought about how liquid soap is made. I simply go to the store, buy, use it, then repeat the cycle.

WELL, upon moving to Burkina Faso, that definitely changed!

Soap making is a great way to increase the income of women in the developing world. True, in some areas, the soap market has been flooded, so one may not be able to demand as high of a price, but it seems to me that the women are still happy.

I recently started working with a mothers group at my neighborhood primary school. They, like most people, are interested in increasing their income. I personally enjoy and prefer income-generating activities (IGAs) because you it is easier to track your progress and see results from all your labor.

I doubt I have peaked your curiosity about soap-making, but you're going to have to read my step-by-step (that probably left a few common-sense related steps out) guide and look at my pictures nonetheless. I LOVE my MOMS! They are incredible, and even if I don't understand a fraction of what they are saying (because it is in Moore), I still look forward to phone calls asking about soap-making...

Here we go....

1) Gather your materials... You'll need a bucket that can hold at least 15 liters, one kilo of tansigex (no one really knows how to spell this, but its the chemical we use that starts the soap-making process), a cup to take water out with, two buckets that can hold at least 7.5 liters of water, a kilo of rock salt, and a big wooden spoon! (Note: everything should be plastic or wood... DO NOT use anything metal!) 

2) Dissolve one kilo of salt into 7.5 liters of 

3) Whip the tansigex  until it looks like marshmallow fluff. This usually takes about ten minutes if you are working with one kilo- fifteen seems to be sufficient for up to three kilos of tansigex.

4) Starting with the salt water, add in water one liter at a time (alternating salt water, regular water) until all water is used. While you are mixing it is VERY important to add the water in in small quantities, and stir until the contents of the bucket are homogeneous (the same). Totally learned the hard way that this is necessary.

5) After all water is mixed you, cover your bucket, and let sit over night. 

6) [When you come back the next day] Uncover bucket, and add perfume(specific to soap-making, not the type you wear) and coloring. 
7) Bottle, and then you are ready to sell, Sell, SELL!

So there you have it... This is how to make liquid soap!

Until the next time, 

Happy blogging, 

Ebben Wiley

Oh, and sorry about some of the action shots... taking candid photos here is an art that I have yet to perfect. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

What is an AME?

What is an AME?

If you are thinking AME stands for African Methodist Episcopal, you are oh so wrong... well at least here in Burkina you are. AME, in Burkina, stands for Associations des Mères Educatrices (Mothers, and Female Educators Association).

Due to dated traditions and what not that exist here in Burkina, Women tend to be left out of important decisions when it comes to their children's schooling. With these associations, Women are now able to have more a voice when it comes to the scholastic environment.

At the primary school I am working with, the AME was non-existent. I am proud to say, that since my arrival in November of 2011, we have established an association with an executive board. We have also started doing income-generating activities. The larger idea is that we will be able to establish a center where children from the primary school can come on free days and holidays to learn trades skills. Yes, it is very important that these children receive an education, but it is also very important that they have work skills other than farm work to fall back on.

In this society, the most sought after jobs are NGO jobs and government jobs. Unfortunately, due to how the school system is organized here, few individuals actually make it into these jobs. The idea of the mothers is to equip their children with unique skills to make them stronger candidates for employment later in life. I LOVE IT!

We have started VERY small. Right no we are doing soap-making, and neem cream. There are countless problems with hygiene here, so soap is definitely something that makes money. Neem cream is also something that makes money here. Think of this as OFF, but natural. We boil down leaves from the leaves of the neem tree, and then mix it with shea oil to make a lotion of sorts. It ends up repelling mosquitoes, which in turn, helps prevent people from being bit by malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Its really cool, and I promise to come back and add photos, and better explain all of this.

All in all, I am VERY proud of my AME! They are kicking ass, and making giant steps every weekend!

I promise to keep you all better updated in regards to what I am doing.

Take care, and until next time,

Ebben Wiley

Where in the world is Ebben Wiley these days?


A great deal happened between rainy season and now. Obviously the fair happened, but I also changed sites.

I am no longer down in the East near Togo and Benin... I am not in the North not far from Mali. I have been at my new site since November 9, and I absolutely LOVE it.

I meant to post about the site change around Thanksgiving time, and got distracted by the super fast internet at our library. It is actually easier for me to work from site these days, and I take complete advantage of that.

I now have a house that is at least two and a half times larger than my old house, and a private courtyard that is , no joke, the same size of the courtyard I used to share with at least 13 other people, and God only knows how many animals. (Link to first post about my old courtyard.)

This new site feels like it always meant to be, you know? I mean, don't get me wrong, I am thankful for all my experiences at my old site. I learned a great deal from my old site, and if it were not for that, I don't think that I would be enjoying my new site as much.

I am currently working at L'École National pour les Enseignants Primaire (the National Teachers School). It is an interesting match. I am now more closely aligned with my original assignment, which was Girls Education and Empowerment (now known as Non-formal Education).

I work with the AME ( Student Mothers' Association) to help bring money into the school— I'll be posting on out income-generating projects soon. With the women, I also advocate for the rights of the children, and will be working with them to help teach their children income-generating activities during their free time, and school breaks.

Another project I am excited about is my work with the student teachers. During this time of the year, the student teachers from the teaching school go out into the field to observe teachers. I will be working with the student teachers at our school on Thursday mornings. Every Thursday, I will teach the student teachers a Life Skills lesson. It will then be their job to write a lesson to teach the students the next day. I feel this is a more effect way of teaching Like Skills and what not because it will be coming from a host country national. It is also a great opportunity for the student teachers to get some practice.

I am working on doing a big sibling/ little sibling exchange between the local high school and the primary school I work with, but that may be a little down the line.

All in all, I know that February is going to be too short. It's all good though, I am totally up for the challenge... I can honestly say that I have never gone to bed angry/anxious, nor have I woken up angry/anxious due to problems at my new site since being here. In fact, I feel far more integrated into my new community that I ever did at my old community.

Can't wait to tell you all more about life at site!

Ebben Wiley

How did the fashion show go?

Hey guys,

I am so sorry that it has taken me over four months to bring you up to speed on how the fashion show went... I am pleased to inform you that it went REALLY well!

The weaving association we worked with made over 300.000CFA (over 600USD) by the end of the fair from the fashion show, accessories, and orders for fabric at the fair.

Moussa (the shoe guy) made over 100.00CFA (over 200USD) by the end of the fair.

My tailors did pretty well as well. They brought in around 50.000CFA (USD) from the fair.

Work backed up, so the video footage that was taken has not yet been edited. Hopefully I will have that up soon though. Until then, here goes a link to a few unfinished photos from the fashion show. (I will post the other photos by Feb. 4, 2012. Promise.)

Happy bloggin,

Ebben Wiley

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Fashion Show in Bukina?!

I was taught it's never good to start a thank-you with an apology, but oh well, here it goes...

I am so sorry that it has been so long since my last post... Things in country got away from me, and I am just now coming across the the time to sit down and SORT OF collect my thoughts...

I'll start with the most overdue information, and work backward from there... The fashion show is going GREAT! I wanted to do one of those Mastercard things where I total everything up like total meters of fabric used for clothes, total of tires used for shoes, total amount of money in CFA and USD, etcetera, but I simply don't have the time to do all that right now... I'll knock it out for the brag sheet at another time.

We have about 28 looks in the show— I say about because three looks are still in the works. Once I have made a decision on if those looks are going to stay or go, I will have the final counts down. The outfits, for the most part, are being made from the fabric woven by the association Kailey works with. To the left, you see one of the looks that will be modeled by Austin--a fellow PCV. (Althea and Naeta have been a God-send with their kick ass drawing abilities. They seriously knocked out all the sketches on pretty much a moments notice to have sent out to tailors, and models. Without their aid and talent, things definitely would not be where they are now.)

When I say “for the most part” I mean that probably 75% of the material for the show came from her association. It's SO cool. I've actually passed more time at her site than my site over the last six weeks. Her women are AWESOME, and I intend on blogging about them at another time. They have really helped us out by giving us a discount, and a payment plan to purchase everything in time for the show. Their fabric is beautiful, and will not only be showcased as clothing, but also in accessory forms, such as scarves, head wraps, and bags.  (Click here to see more of their products and pictures from Kailey's  site.)

 All the shoes for the show are also being made here in Burkina. James works with a guy (Moussa) who makes sandals, flip-flops, and accessories from used tires. It's actually pretty sick— I'm getting my laptop bag at the end of the month. What I really like about James and Moussa's project is that when people order shoes from Moussa's website, he donates a pair of tire shoes to a deserving student in the community. 

My tailors are going to have a few of their bags and accessories in the show, but I have also collaborated with two other associations/ sewing schools to ensure we have enough bags for the show, as well as to sell afterwards. "

I must say, this project is FAR more ambitious than I realized when I started it, but I am rather pleased with how things are progressing. I have also found PCV's who enjoy cinematography, and photography to shoot the show so that we can create a look book, and video once all is said and done. This will be an amazing marketing tool for all the associations we have worked with to help sell them selves to investors and what not.

The countdown has truly started... the show will be at 17h the 23rd of September...


Friday, June 3, 2011

Burkina Faso, je t'aime... mais pour quoi?!

(DISCLAIMER!!!!!.. I kept this post 100, so if you are reading these to a group of kids, you may want to read through it first, and make key word changes as to not piss off their rents. Also, I apologize for the cursing... I completely understand that an intelligent individual should be able to express their thoughts and opinions in a manor appropriate for any audience, but as I was writing this, I chose to truly let you all in, and not hold back...As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are mine and mine alone, and are in no way, shape, or form reflections of Peace Corps Washington and or Peace Corps Burkina Faso. Disclaimer now finished, the time has come to sit back with your favorite snack and beverage, and enjoy!)

For reasons unknown to me, I have chosen to watch films that dealt with world travel the last two nights. The first, “Eat, Pray, Love”; the second “Paris Je Taime”  (the film from which I got this blog  entry title from).

I thoroughly enjoyed both movies, and spent most of my viewing time envying the characters because of their awesome experiences. Oddly enough though, as the characters were having their epiphanies, I was having an epiphany my own... My life is truly awesome!

My service in Burkina has been an emotional roller coaster to say the least... The first “wtf am I doing?” moment (that I remember) came around Christmas time. I was feeling extremely homesick, and cut off from everyone, so during my Christmas phone call with the family, I ranted about how “I suck at being poor”, and how “poverty just isn't my thing”and culminated with asking for my parents to send my BlackBerry to me.

My second “wtf am I doing?”  moment came in January when my laptop broke. I'm pretty sure I called, emailed, texted, and AIMed Momma Bell till she responded and basically asked for a new laptop to be sent to me. (I actually forgot an earlier WTF moment when my laptop broke for the first time, and Momma Bell ordered me a sick laptop for Christmas. Then right before Christmas, I changed my mind and decided to “rough it” and asked for money to start the Bag Project... which is probably why the Christmas call was such a mess, and why the second time my laptop broke was even more tragic.)

The third moment(s) all deal with money—or the lack, there of.  As a result of the protest, I have not been able to access my living allowance when I needed to the last three or four times I have needed it the most. Last month,  I ended up contacting Momma and Daddy Bell to have money deposited into my American account so I could have money. This month—today actually—I tried to get money so I could travel to Ouaga for work, and the people at the post refused, citing the connection in Ouaga being down as their reason for not being able to help me. Needless to say, I was furious, and called anyone who would listen, to rant about how “these fools at the post refuse to do their job!”

The fourth major moment just recently passed. To say I have a love-hate relationship with my site is the understatement of the century. Don't get it twisted, I LOVE my work, and all my projects, but there comes a time every stay at site, that everyone at site  becomes “these fools” or “these effers” or something of that nature in venting sessions with other volunteers. That said, I can't help but love everyone at site... even those effers who insist on talking to me only in local language, even though they are fluent in French.(Side note- I am rather impressed at how well the village has learned to read me... they know days when I can take more of their shit, and days that I really am not down for it...Kudos to Pama for that!)

The list can go on and on, and in fact, some volunteers have list of reasons why NOT to do a third year. All my grievances aside, I find that for reasons unbeknownst to me, I effin love this country...even when I hate it. In a twisted, twisted way, the Burkinabe are seriously the best clutch players you'd ever want on your team. They ALWAYS come through... even when they don't. There are seriously no words to describe this phenomenon, you'll just have to take my jumbled words for it.

Take my housing situation for instance... I HATE it. I've dealt with it for almost ten months now, and it's doing nothing but driving me nuts. After an hour and a half heart to heart with the PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Officer) steps were taken to better the situation. I also did my part, and worked to establish more boundaries. Unfortunately, I feel things are just mad awkward, and I'm pretty sure my homologue has noticed. I don't really say anything, because in this culture, one doesn't express themselves the way one would in America, and everything is “third-partied” to resolve issues. That may work here, but I'm an American (really, a Bell) first, and that's just not how I was brought up. I was brought up to “speak my mind—within reason” and that “one has not, because they asked not”. Pulling from the latter life lesson, I went about doing my own version of “House Hunters” and found an AMAZING house next to one of the schools I work with. After a little chatting, I was able to secure that house as my house for next year. Needless to say, I am STOKED!My homologue is seriously THE S!, and sensed I was unhappy, and is totally helping make my move happen. She's so sweet, her main concern about the new house is that there is no electricity... Keep in mind, she doesn't have electricity herself. That is just one example I can think of that shows how amazing the Burkinabe are.

Another success story is Aisa. She's one of my favorite tailors to work with. She makes the most amazing bags—without my direction—and is already plotting ways to increase production, and variety. She grossed 62000cfa (about $120.00) last run, and is planning on investing 10000cfa into her next batch of bags. The estimated gross from this next is 75000cfa (about $150.00). The net is something ridiculous... I need to sit down and get it all in one place, but I know it's HUGE. She is the only tailor that understands that one must spend money to make money. I am SO proud of her.

My computer students are also inspiring...when they aren't “those little effers” that is. I am teaching a group of 9 kiddos computers. These kids found me in March while the strikes were going on, and asked me to work with them on English. Because their English was already pretty solid—and because I get tired of helping people with English—I thought it would be cool to do some stuff with the computers. We have class three nights a week, and open hours whenever they call me and I am free. They seriously come rain or shine, whether I am there or not. Some of them can actually already type properly better than I can type properly. (When I say properly, I mean with home keys, and proper finger placement.)

I'm also in the mist of starting this rad project with the schools in my community. My counterpart at the hospital is going to teach “life skills” and “gender empowerment and equality” lessons to the middle school and high school students once a week. The middle school and high school students will then go out into the community, and teach the same lesson they learned to the 5th graders in each primary school—with the help of the 5th grade teachers of course. I love this project because I don't even have to touch it after September; it'll all be taken care of by community members.

Next year, I plan on working more closely with the Parent/Teacher Associations in the community. I believe education is at the base of the development pyramid, and I don't see the parents doing enough to help their kiddos. Unfortunately, it's not exactly their fault, they honestly don't know any better. Rather than continue ranting about how “these fools don't give a whoop about their kids education and future”, I'm going to actually do something about it, and educate the parents on the importance of their kids' education. I have three school gardens planned to helped with nutrition at the school canteen, as well, as chicken coop to help fund school improvements at one of the schools.

A group of volunteers and I are also in the beginning stages of planning a fashion show that will make “Take Me There” look like armature work. I'll blog about this new show later this week...we are going to need your help financing certain logistical aspects...

 honestly do not know why I love it here so much. Everyone I have spoken with since being in country has commented – in some way, shape, or form—about how healthy and happy I sound. Yes, even when I am ranting about something. I feel like that says something, you know? Burkina Faso and I should not work, but we do, and for that, I am eternally grateful. It is my opinion that too many volunteers romanticize life in the States. They seem to forget that we have good days, and bad days alike back at home. We have the same “fools” and “effers” there that we have here. It's just easier to handle all that stuff because America is our home. We grew up learning the customs and they are so en grained in us, that we don't even think twice about them. When I take time to cool down from whatever erked me, I realize that whatever erked me here, isn't any worse than anything that would have erked me at home, it just happens to piss me off more because I'm thinking of things in the American context.

I don't mean to come off as one of those “bien integre fools”/BIFs or anything (see, even Americans get the “fool” derivative) because I'm not—to  all my BIFs, I have nothing but love for you, so please don't take offense to the term. Here are a few of the many reasons why I am not a BIB: I hate courtyard living, I'm not to keen on sharing EVERYTHING, I stopped working on my national language in December after a week of intensive study, I don't respect cultural norms when it comes to pomp and circumstance, I keep to myself at  night instead of going out to just chat, and I probably spend more time on the phone than half the volunteers in Burkina Faso put together. All that said, I do feel I am extremely well-integrated in my village. Part of the whole Peace Corps thing is the exchanging of cultures. I may not be the model American, but most days at site, I am out in the community literally working my butt off for them from dawn til dusk. As I alluded to earlier, when I first got to site, I made the mistake of compromising who and how I am, hoping to be a BIF. It's kinda funny, because I feel that being fake here is the same as being fake in the States. I'm pretty sure they saw right through it, and treated me accordingly. Once I started behaving how I would in the states, I feel that all my relationships got better, and we truly started to understand one-another.

Poverty may not be my best look, but somehow I have managed to make it work—minus a few trips to the ATM here and there. There is a saying in the Peace Corps circles that “Peace Corps is the hardest job you will ever love”. I seriously believe we need to change that saying because it doesn't even begin to paint the picture of what service in the Peace Corps really is. Everyday, I experience either a new emotion, or an emotion so extreme I match it to it's name, but even the most intense roller coaster known(or unknown) to man, I can honestly say, that I have NEVER been so happy in my life! And with that sentence, I believe I have found the answer to the question that inspired this blog post.

Well, it's 23hr15 here, and I need to wake up at 4hr to clean,pack and prepare for my trip to Ouaga tomorrow morning at 9hr. I also have two 7hr meetings with tailors, so I'm kinda already screwed. It's all good though...things always have a way of working out here...even when they don't.

Be on the look out for a new blog post soon!