Thursday, June 24, 2010

Où sont les mangues?! (Where are the mangoes?!)

Ouagadougou (Wa-ga-du-gu) is absolutely gorgeous! Today, some fellow Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs) and I ventured out of our hotel courtyard to experience Ouagadougou for the first time. Our main motivation for our adventure was to learn how to barter by purchasing mangoes. You see, a group ahead of us came back with some of the largest, sweetest mangoes we'd ever seen; the catch was that they paid FAR too much for them.

We decided to use some of our "walk-around money" to see if we could do better. Burkina uses the Central-African Franc (cfa-pronounced "say-fah" ) which exchanges at a rate 500 to each US dollar.  The biggest, sweetest, out of season mango should cost no more than 100cfa--the girls paid about 500cfa each. It's all good though, this is why we have "walk-around money", so we can learn how to bargain,and get the best rate for our dollar--pardon a moi, notre franc. (20USD=10,000 CFA)

 WELL, we ended up going out the hotel, and going the wrong direction, and stumbled upon this really cool garden of sorts. It went on for what seemed like forever, and was full of little growing areas. We never found our mangoes, and decided that the other group must have got them from a street vendor who moved his cart.

Even though we found no mangoes, we are EXTREMELY excited to move to the training location, and meet our host families. I am more motivated than ever to learn Moore (the main language of the Burkinabe) because the girls I am most likely working with generally don't know French. I came into this experience with the idea that I was going to help my girls learn English--turns out, I'll be helping them learn French first. You know what though, this just gives me more motivation to learn/master Moore, and get my French back to where it once was.  

OH! I have found out more about my assignment though. Ok, actually, I haven't; BUT at least I have met my direct supervisor of sorts. She is extremely personable and embodies everything I envisioned of an African woman. She carries herself with such pride, confidence, and humbleness that the word "elegance" cannot even hold a candle to her. She's actually the person who first started the Girls Education and Empowerment (GEE) program here in Burkina. Our interview went well, and I am extremely excited to work with her. (I purposely say with, because she has made it clear that we can only accomplish our goal by working together.) 

Well, I actually need to start getting ready to go to the Country Director's (CD) house for dinner and a reception. 

Tomorrow, we head to the training location, so I don't think I'll be able to get on the internet for a while. I will make sure to take more pictures though and post them as soon as I get a connection fast and strong enough to handle it. 

Till next post, 

Ebben Wiley Bell

Monday, June 21, 2010

Has the time really already come and gone?!

I can't believe it! It's early morning 22 June 2010 and I am in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for staging.

Sunday night was ridiculous! I was able to knock out most of my packing Saturday, and just used Sunday for fishing touches. Unfortunately, I ended up going a little over-board, and packed a little too much. It's all good though, I am still with-in the airline limits, which to me, is all that really matters.

This is what I started with--a giant, hot mess of a pile.

From that hot mess of a pile, I then organized everything into groups and bags.

After everything was properly sorted, I then packed the bags, and was done.
I ended up putting my camping bag in this HUGE green duffel, along with my tent, and other random things that didn't really fit nicely anywhere else. 

Staging has been a blast, and I can already tell that I've met some amazing people who will no doubt be a part of my life in some way, shape, or form till the day I die.

Well, I really should be peacing out. We have to be checked out by 7:00am, and I still need to re-arrange some stuff in my bags--go figure. Tomorrow will be a LONG day. We have a three-hour bus ride to NYC so we catch a seven and a half hour flight to Paris, where we will then switch planes for a five and a half hour flight to Burkina. I am SO screwed. It's not like I'm claustrophobic or anything, I just cannot fathom being in the same spot for so long. I do plan on using the time to learn some of my local language, as well as brush up on some French. 

Until next up-date, 

Happy bloggin'!


Thursday, June 17, 2010

What will I miss while over seas?

Well, my departure day is around the corner everything is starting to finally sink in. I will not be in the states for at least two and a quarter years! It is so crazy to think that!

Inquiries have been made as to what I'd like in a "care package" and I think I have finally started to figure out the "Things I will miss" from the States and wouldn't mind discovering in a box with a lovely letter from the sender.

I have always loved reading, but there are times when I just don't feel like reading a book; during those times I enjoy reading magazines. I read everything from US Weekely and People, to Vogue and GQ, to TIME and The Week--hey, it's all about balance.
While I read, I tend to much on stuff. I love, Love, LOVE OREO Cookies, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and Reese's Fast Break bars, Twizzlers (strawberry), and Whoppers. I have no idea how chocolate will hold up in a trans-Atlantic, trans-Saharan journey, but I'm so down for finding out. 

I'm pretty sure I'll be reading a great deal, because of the whole little or no electricity thing, but when I'm at the Peace Corps House, I would love to catch up on my favorite shows. Bethenny Getting Married, Bones, Brothers and Sisters, Desperate Housewives, Dexter, Glee, Gossip Girl, Greek, Grey's Anatomy,HOUSE, Keeping Up With the Kardashian's, The Real Housewives of (anything but the OC), Royal Pains, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and Spartacus: Blood and Sand are just a few of the shows I can think of off the top of my head.  I have no idea how I've been able to keep up with so many shows, and some how managed to graduate from college.I mean, it could be because I used the shows as background noise while studying and what not, but who knows? If you are feeling charitable, and find yourself wanting to load show or two to a 2-4GB flash drive, you'll find no objection on my end. ;-)

On a more serious note, I know what I will miss most is each and every one of you all! I seriously want to keep in touch with as many people as possible and can't wait to hear about all the amazing things going on in you all's lives! Even if you don't feel like writing out a full letter, just scribble a note or something on a post card, and include the post card with your letter. I'd love to get postcards from all over- Texas, Tennessee, Gainesville, DC, South Florida, The Carolinas, just wherever. It's very likely that my villagers have never heard of any of these places, and I'd love to be able to show these places to them.

Well, I have a busy day of packing ahead of me tomorrow so it's probably best for me to turn it in for the night.

Happy blogging,

E.W. Bell

Sources: Sources: Click the link above, and it will direct you to the polyvore site where the polyvore itself is deconstructed with links to the websites I got the content from.(It is worth noting this is not my typical polyvore creation, so the prices and what not are extremely off. I just wanted to make sure to cite my sources.)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

What CAN I tell you about my assignment?!

Sorry its been so long.

I've known where I was going for a while now, but had so much to do that I am just now able to sit down and blog. I will be going to the West African country of Burkina Faso, and will serve as a Community Education and Development Outreach Agent in the program for Girls Education and Empowerment (GEE).

As a GEE volunteer, it will be my job to work with community leaders, and parents, to see the value of educating and investing in their girls in terms of education and responsibility. My country is extremely patriarchal, and because families must pay for schooling after a certain age, they opt of out sending their girls to school, and only educate their boys--I'll be working with about 32 other volunteers across  the country to change this.

I leave for Philadelphia June 21 (two weeks from Monday) and have yet to buy a single thing for my trip. It's all good though, I think Daddy Bell and I are going to knock everything out as soon as he gets back from Canada on Wednesday.

I'll post more later, but I wanted to get my address up you all can write me. This week I found out that I will be so far in the middle of no where that Verizon can't guarantee good international browsing on my BlackBerry, and the conditions over there kill about 80% of all laptops. If you want to write--and I hope you do--write to:

Ebben Wiley Bell PCT
S/c Corps de la Paix
01 B.P. 6031
Ouagadougou 01, Burkina Faso

It takes about four to six weeks for letters to get there, so PLEASE hit me up now, so I'll have a reason to check the mail about two weeks after I get there. 
I'll be blogging more in these last two weeks in the states, so get excited.