Les Bwaba Boivent (Lay Bwa-bah Bwahv)

Let’s break down this common French(ish) phrase real quick:  the Bwaba are the predominant ethnic group from right around my site up to the Malian border, and “boivent” is the plural conjugation of the French verb “boire”, to drink. So, the Bwaba drink. They drink dolo to be more specific; and, not to make broad generalizations regarding one of Burkina’s finest ethnic groups, but that’s often all they do. Dolo is a fermented millet beverage freshly brewed and sold every day in Founzan at your (my) nearest dolo-selling cabaret or dolo-ry. It’s an acquired taste, which is a fancy way of saying it tastes kinda bad, but I’m never afraid to have a few calabashes in order to prove my integration and worth among Bwaba friends. Dolo ferments as the day goes on, so in my review of it I decided to have a calabash or two during the morning, the middle of the day, and the evening in what turned out to be a very tiring and slightly hazy day. Here goes.

 Sogoma (Soh-goh-mah)
Dolo is best in the morning before the sun rises. It’s served warm and tastes a bit like an apple cider except more tart–like an apple cider brewed with apple flavored Jolly Ranchers instead of real apples. Sogoma dolo is sweet and sour and leaves an uncomfortable feeling in the back of your mouth. There’s no fruit involved in the brewing process, but this impressive pallet sensed a hint of the tropics, pineapple or mango perhaps.
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Tilefe (Tee-lay-fay)
A little after noon, dolo’s sourness becomes sharper and converges aggressively to the top of the throat where it lingers. The fruity tropical nuances I pretended to taste this Sogoma are replaced with a faint smokey wood-like sensation that can be smelled as well as tasted. Tilefe dolo is no longer purposefully served warm out of the cauldron but is still quite warm thanks to the giant burning ball of fire looming ominously overhead.  I’d also like to thank said giant ball of fire for the fact that recently when strangers greet me it’s no longer "bonjour le blanc", but "bonjour le rouge".  Time to up the SPF, I suppose.
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Wulafe (Woo-lah-fay)
By 5:30 that evening all the dolo at my main cabaret had been consumed, but luckily I managed to find wulafe dolo at a small dolo-ry by my house to finish off this nauseatingly pretentious review post.  I don’t want to exaggerate or sound like I’m complaining but this stuff seriously hurts to ingest.  The acidic day-long fermentation takes precedence over any other discernible taste and seems to assault the mouth and throat in its descent.  I struggle to keep a straight face in front of my neighbors as I drink.  Suddenly my consiousness dwindles.  My vision goes blurry and when I try to get up I realize I’ve lost all feeling in the left side of my body.  I wake up hours later, cold under the moonlight with a film of dust-coated saliva on the side of my face that hit the gr–Eh fine it’s not that bad.  Here’s a picture of the next day’s dolo brewing.
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Last month, my family (my real live family from the United States of America) got to come and see exactly how sweaty and dirty I’ve managed to get after a year in Africa. We had a great time touring the capital city of Ouagadougou, the smaller training city of Leo, my site Founzan, and the tourist city of Banfora in their three week visit. I’m proud of them for coming and staying in the country so long; most families and friends only visit for a week or so before continuing on to vacations in Ghana, Togo, Senegal, Morocco, Paris, Turkey, etc. Anywhere but Burkina, really.  I couldn’t believe they took the time and money to come see me, and now that they’re gone it’s hard to believe it ever happened. It was amazing to be eating my host family’s rice with peanut sauce in Leo and look up to see my parents across the table also having a bowl, or to bike out for a beer at the maquis in Founzan knowing my brothers were right behind me.  Thanks for coming guys.

mom with host sister's son

mom with host sister’s son

When we first arrived in Founzan, just by chance, some of my least favorite elementary aged neighbors came over in curiosity. They happened to be on their best behavior though, so introducing them was frustrating: “Ok see that kid sitting and smiling politely next to you? That’s the guy who stole my laughing cow cheese and squeezed it when I tried to get it ba–NO DON’T SMILE BACK WHAT ARE YOU DOING??” Maybe I should give those kids another chance. That night we ate lentils inside as a huge dust storm tested the structural integrity of my house. Looking back, I’m able to classify each day by one seemingly small task that ended up taking just about all of our time and energy. One day was the marche day, another was spent trying (unsuccessfully) to meet the mayor, on Friday we traveled south to Dano, my regional capital, to use the internet and treat ourselves to some slightly better food. Our first full day was spent simply walking down the dirt road near my house introducing family members to the people of Founzan I see on a day to day basis. We met the women who sell beesap, the bread ladies, Yacouba at his bike shop, the girls I buy fanta and pelforth from, and small boutiques owners. The woman who sells attieke at the end of this road didn’t initially understand that it was my family, but held out her arms in front of her stomach and gestured from me to my mom, asking something in Djoula. I don’t know what exactly she said but I guessed it had something to do with me and my mother’s uterus 24 years ago, so I nodded and her expression changed to surprise then excitement, enthusiastically greeting my parents with “momma” and “poppa” as she realized they were my real family from the states. On Thursday we spent the day at the dam fishing in canoes, trying to keep Derek from capsizing the boat and wondering just how serious schistosomiasis really is. "N ma foiy solo barragi ra bi" is Djoula for "I didn’t catch anything at the barrage today", a phrase I’m getting pretty good at saying lately. At the end of each day’s adventure we were exhausted, but that’s kind of how things go here: you set one goal for the day, attempt it, then sit back in a wooden chair all evening thanking the African gods for things like breezes and cold water sachets.

what not catching fish looks like

what not catching fish looks like

repose after a long day of walking up that one dirt road

some repose after a long day of walking up that one dirt road

free dolo in the marche

dolo in the marche

I had to remind myself multiple times a day to stop stressing and relax. To settle down and enjoying being with my mom when we’re in the marche scrambling to find onions, cucumbers, peppers, and garlic for dinner as a storm approaches and the marche is closing early but mom is “just sure we can find fresh parsley if we keep trying”.* Or one evening when more and more people were coming over to the house for tea and dad looks like he’s about to cry over the recently gifted and slaughtered chicken and I’m the only medium of communication between family, friends, and students and Jean Paul keeps telling me we need to kill the beautiful red gecko in the corner of the courtyard because, if it throws its tail at you, your arms and legs will fall off. Other volunteers whose families and friends had visited warned me about how stressful it is to suddenly bring your past American life into your new Burkinabe one. They were right, but it wasn’t any one person or group’s fault—it was more that, to use the words of George Costanza, “worlds were colliding”, and I put it all on myself to see that the worlds didn’t collide too harshly. Later when I apologized to my family for how flustered I’d been they told me they hadn’t noticed, so maybe I hid it well.

you can't see my face here but there's a flustered expression on it

you can’t see my face here but there’s a flustered expression on it trust me

After a week in site, we said goodbye to Andy in Ouagadougou then traveled down to Burkina’s old, creepy, French guy capitol, Banfora. Banfora is a medium sized city located in the cascade region of Burkina, famous for its rock formations, tropical waterfalls, and hippo lake. We, however, were impressed enough with the small kidney shaped pool at our hotel and the nutella crepes across the street that most of our time in Banfora was spent swimming in, hanging out by, and jumping into said pool, taking breaks once or twice a day for nutella crepes. After the unnecessary amount of stress I put into hosting everyone at site, Banfora was a great vacation, and we did end up doing some of the touristy stuff that that town actually is (locally) famous for. Here are some pics.

cascades near banfora

cascades near banfora

peaks of sindou

peaks of sindou

according to the guy paddling our canoe through hippo infested waters, hippos yawn when they're hungry

hungry yawn

Again, it was a great trip, and I’m really proud to say that my whole family came and spent so much time in country.  It was a rich time of my service, and I wish I could share all of what happened during those 18 days in Ouaga, Leo, Founzan, Dano, and Banfora.  I can’t, but here’s a few other fun things that ended up happening.

Notable Moments

  • Beat Andy and Nate in a disc golf putting game where the loser had to agree with everything dad said for the day. They spent the afternoon helping him set up tents in the yard, agreeing with his tent set-up techniques, and complimenting his tent placement ideas.
  • Mom keeps asking what’s wrong with the donkey when it makes its normal donkey noise.
  • First full day in Ouaga I was by far the sweatiest.

    clearly the sweatiest

    what kind of sweat pattern is that even

  • At a hotel in Leo the woman at the desk wanted to charge Andy and Nate an extra $20 to share a room because they weren’t a married couple and I had my best haggling line to date: “they’re twins, they were inside my mom at the same time and now they can’t be inside one of your rooms at the same time.” She dropped the extra charge.
  • Planted a baobab tree in courtyard on our last full day in Founzan to remember time together or something.

    and it's grown 0.045 mm already!

    and it’s grown 0.045 mm already!

  • Cats begin suckling at Derek for milk in what I hope will remain the most uncomfortable thing my pets ever do when I’m around

    gross.

    more disturbing than the fact that I’ve referenced my mother’s womb twice in this blog

 

So who’s visiting next?

-Clay

*I actually did, to my astonishment, find fresh parsley in the marche last week. I’d only ever seen it in Ouaga and Bobo before, so my mom received an apology text for how crazy I thought she was that day.

 

Founzan Disc Golf Course

Hole 1
65m, straight shot, mildly wooded

Hole one’s basket is visible from the teepad, but scattered trees throughout the entire fairway make birdies only possible to those with the straightest/luckiest of throws off the pad.  Most of  the kids I’ve played with have learned the hard way that if you aren’t careful with your first shot you’ll easily take a couple strokes bouncing off trees before you’re in putting range.  Players with strong arms need to look out for the bull pen hazard (full of bulls, their excrement, or both depending on the time of day you’re playing) just past the basket to the right.

Sawadogo Gilles lining up drive for hole one

Sawadogo Gilles lining up a drive for hole one

bull pen hazard visible in background, hole one fairway approach shots

bull pen hazard visible in background, hole one fairway approach shots

Hole 2
62m, tunnel shot to dogleg right

If you can get out of the low ceiling, 5m wide tunnel that makes up the first half of this hole, you can expect a par; if you want a birdie though, a well placed, low, right curving (backhand anhyzer or forehand) shot is all that will work.  Any misfire through the tunnel will slap your disc right out of the air, or throw it back into that bull pen on the right depending on your luck that day.  Basket is protected by trees around the back and left sides so an overthrown approach shot isn’t going to make much of a difference.  Great flick shot for learners.

a rastaman's heart sinks as his disc is swatted to the ground by hole two's low tunnel ceiling

a rastaman’s heart sinks as his disc is swatted to the ground by hole two’s low tunnel ceiling

hole two putting

hole two putting

Hole 3
66m, dogleg left

The base of hole 3 is visible straight ahead through the trees and bushes, but the best route to the basket is around the right of a large tree in the center of the fairway.  Nate Blunk somehow rolled it under/through the brush to the left of said tree on his first play through for a birdie, prompting me to angrily move the teepad to the right after the round to avoid future bushwacking of this nature.  This is the hardest birdie of the course in my opinion, because of the big curve you need in order to hit the dogleg left without throwing too high and getting caught in tree limbs.  Does any of this make sense to my non-disc golf readers?

a student takes an unorthodox anhyzer route through hole three's dogleg

a student takes an unorthodox anhyzer route through hole three’s dogleg

round one's winner and course record holder:  Nate Blunk (2 under par).  still not over this

round one’s winner and course record holder: Nate Blunk (2 under par)

As you can probably tell from these pictures, I recently had some visitors.  On May 29th at 2:00 in the morning, a plane carrying four of my favorite people landed in the airport in Ouagadougou.  The Blunk family’s second ever West African adventure was extremely well spent and a huge highlight of my service so far.  The disc golf course is what I was doing with my time before their arrival though, so I decided to share it now.

Thanks for reading.  More holes and posts to come soon.

We’re at the end of the almost 3 weeks in Burkina with the ImissDennys guy and the experience has been a mountain top one from beginning when we first laid eyes on a tall, dark, lean (as in I’m glad I lost a few pounds before coming to Burkina or I’d of weighed more) Clay in the Ouagadougou airport at 1:50 AM on a May Thursday morning to this very moment hanging out in Hotel Joanne’s with AC and a fan the night before our return flight home beginning at 6:20 AM on a Jun Monday morning.

We’ve met his closest Peace Corps volunteer friends – all amazing human beings from the many corners of US diversity and interests and his good Burkinabe friends/family (pronounced Burkina-bay to most people – and Berk-IN-ah-bee to his Spanish speaking mother… OK, I don’t speak Spanish or French or Djoula – and quite frankly, I’m finding that I may not have that great a command of English either).  Visiting Clay’s host family – the Nagalos was a knot in my throat kind of experience.  And when Boukary Nagalo, the tall, regal father proclaimed at the end of our visit that it is God who brought our families together – whether we were Muslim, Christian, and/or Undeclared – there was no question in any of our hearts the truth he spoke.

For days, we’d end the day asking one another and ourselves, what most impressed us from the day – and inevitably, it’d turn into a Clay-love fest affirming how intrigued/amazed/impressed we all were with his ability to so fluidly, with humor, grace and good will communicate – first in French – then increasingly we realized – it was Djoula.  Or Moore.  Or a fourth language that somehow he could smile and say something – just enough for the person he was interacting with to know that he recognized the language but wasn’t yet able to speak it.  then as the days wore on – we were reminded that we were parents of not just one great guy – but three…. and that Andy and Nate too were understanding all French and increasingly interacting – as their parents would hold up two fingers and say trois or three fingers and say quatre.  We knew we were close.

I’m happy to report that disc golf is taking off in Founzan.  The children poured out to the course that Clay’s built each time we went there… to play, to watch, to enjoy the outing.  Laughing – and actually putting with precision that surpassed our expectations given that it was a relatively new sport for them.  But it wasn’t the disc golf that people wanted to tell us about.  It was their sheer enjoyment of Clay working and living among them – and Clay’s sheer joy in being with them was equally evident to us.  The young woman who sold us the heavenly beesap – the most refreshing drink made of hyacinth flower nectar – boiled with sugar and water….a baby sleeping swaddled in the Burkina International Women’s Day 2014 fabric laid out on the cool concrete foundation of her stand – her refrigerated unit providing her with a commodity that refreshed and restored hot travelers and townspeople alike.

This evening’s dinner in Ouaga – and Clay’s PCV colleagues joining us – inquired what meant the most to us in our travel and visit to Burkina.  There was no single answer.   In each moment laid something extraordinary..  The djoula.  The dola.  The beesap.  The extraordinary lives that the PCVs had committed two years – perhaps more – of their lives to.  The Burkinabe and the utter kindness and hospitality they exuded in their every interaction with our son – and with our son’s family. The white rooster that Jean Paul who works with Clay by providing him outstanding food and care – gave as a meal while we visited.  The Guinea hen that school partner brought us for another meal and sauce.  The To that Clay’s neighbor brought by for another meal.  The peanuts that were ground and roasted outside of Clay’s home by the djoula speaking women who laugh and laugh as they work each day – and who delight in Clay’s conversation with them as they teach him their language and rejoice in his progress.  Somogodo.  How is your family.  The response – my family is well.  Somogodo – and your family?

Je suis content.  Tres content.

love Imissdenny’s mom.

In Peace Corps, a secondary project is a self-run and -planned community project that stresses and somehow guilts you for only having agreed to over two years away from family and friends and Sheetz MTO sandwiches to teach huge unventilated classrooms of teenagers.  The secondary project I chose back in January with my homologue was a marche presentation on HIV/AIDS that, in the four months I took to plan it, slowly also expanded into STI prevention, family planning, and general sex ed.  Fun stuff, but my vast lack of knowledge on the subject left me feeling highly unqualified and under prepared–turns out if I can’t explain something in English I can’t explain it even more in French.  Those feelings stayed with me through the months of preparation until last Friday morning, when I threw my kitchen table and sex supplies on the back of my bike and headed out to the marche for the day.

I guess after I had all my supplies together and my ten minute presentation on the subject ready, my biggest fear was not being able to pull a crowd–that the big white guy sitting at a table with wooden sex organs and a bowl of condoms wouldn’t attract my fellow Founzanites, but repel them.  This fear of mine was abandoned when the bike mechanics from the booth next to me curiously approached as I was setting up my table.  They were my first audience and, although I knew them and that they hardly spoke French, I went through my lesson:  HIV/AIDS affects the whole world, here’s how it is transmitted, here’s how it can be prevented.  They did a pretty good job keeping straight faces through the anatomy and sexual transmission parts, but they kind of lost it when I broke out the giant wooden penis and demonstrated how to use a condom.  I couldn’t get them to take any of the freebies I was handing out either, but an older man (probably in his sixties) came over and gladly accepted three, and the secondary project was underway.

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Here’s my set-up in the marche.  The kid sleeping in my chair arrived just after the first group and stayed with me for most of the morning, interrupting from time to time when one of his friends was in the audience and sending children to go on cigarette runs for him.  Next time I’ll just bring one chair for me.  Early on, Tanti Buvette (who I wrote about in a previous blog) stopped by on her moto and asked what I was doing.  I began to explain that it was a small presentation on HIV/AIDS prevention but before I could finish she started up and sped off on her moto into the marche.  Later on, I called a young woman over who, upon seeing what was on the table, also chose to flee as fast as possible, running in the opposite direction she was originally walking.  I asked a guy if he wanted to listen to my presentation and he said he would if he could have a cookie after, pointing to the bowl of condoms on the table.  I let him have some.

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My students got a kick out of seeing me teach some new non-math material, and weren’t shy at all to demonstrate proper condom usage or pose with certain wooden replicas.  On the far left is a 5eB student named Gilles showcasing a well wrapped package (sorry).  The kid writing on the table in the middle photo is my neighbor Abdoulaye, who comes over every night for tea, whether I invite him or not.  He’s adding a question to the anonymous question jar I had out for kids too nervous to ask their questions aloud.  The best (worst) question I received in that jar was from a kid in my 5e class whose handwriting I recognized:  "Women are the fields of God, and you tell them to take contraceptive pills.  Is that good?"  This is a serious question and I intend to answer it seriously, but the reason it made me laugh is that I was expecting questions more for the sake of the questioner.  This kid’s question was a question just for me to ask myself, for me to reflect on what I was teaching and maybe change my viewpoint on it.  I won’t put his name here, but the guy who I’m 100% sure asked this is on the right of the third photo sitting on his bike.  He also comes over for tea from time to time and hung out by my hangar for most of the morning that day.  The smaller kid looking at the camera in that last photo is Adama, a top-of-the-class-in-math 6eA student who likes hanging out with me a lot but was really uncomfortable with everything going on around him that day.  It was fun to imagine his internal conflict as he had to choose between spending the morning with me versus getting as far away as he could from the wooden vagina resting on my table.

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In the afternoon a doctor from the local hospital came to help and translate in Djoula.  Her presence brought more women into the crowds and I was really happy for her support.  The next time I do this I’ll make sure to have a woman (either a volunteer or Burkinabe) with me for the entire day because of this.  By these final hours I was getting really tired of explaining the same things over and over again and was slowly losing my sense of humor about it.  I knew every point of the presentation that would make people laugh–I now paused after taking out the female condom, like a comedian who knew which jokes were going to go over best.  The same student who coined the phrase "the fields of God" wanted to know if you could drink water from the female condom, I guess because he thought it was shaped like the water sachets everyone drinks here.  If you fill it with water yes, I replied.  He is pictured above in the green looking right into the camera.  The guy demonstrating above is my friend Zuma, who studies German at Koudougou University and was as excited as my students to see how I was spending my afternoon.  By the end of the day I was exhausted; I had been in the marche for a total of five and a half hours and had given out 115 condoms to the men and women of Founzan.

The most exciting part about this for me is that all the preparation work is done:  I have the marche spot, all the materials together, and can comfortably pronounce clitoris with a french accent, so I can go out and do this again any marche day I want.  The hope is to keep it going, maybe do it once a month, answering the anonymous questions and allowing the lesson to change and grow to suit the needs of the different demographics.  I’m looking forward to doing it again, which I would never have guessed I’d say last Friday morning.

Thanks for reading, everyone.
Clay

It’s been three weeks since I returned to site after March’s oil spill mishap.  The skin has all grown back and I feel 100%, but there is scarring and the leg modeling dream seems to get farther and farther away as the days go by.  Being back in Founzan is great–it’s amazing how much this place feels like home now, and how eager I was to get away from all of Ouagadougou’s luxuries (electricity, AC, wifi, fridges) and back to the 110 degree heat, 80-student classrooms, and 2 leg-climbing kittens that come with site.  Class is going really well.  It’s the third trimester which is the shortest and the last before summer break, so most of the kids are checked out.  I’ve tried to be more laid back at school lately.  I had a girl sleeping in the front row last week (I mean ok you can sleep in class but do it in the back row come on) and instead of taking it personally or calling her out, I set my phone alarm to two minutes from then and discreetly slipped it onto her desk.  Two minutes later I confiscated the disruptive phone from a confused and very awake student in the first row.

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camping on porch

The English teacher at my lycee, Monsieur Zongo, had me come into his Terminale class to teach his students about America this trimester.  Terminale class can be compared to 12th grade in the USA I suppose, although it’s much harder to get there.  These are the smartest kids in town, most of whom will be headed to Ouaga or Koudougou next year for University.  To give you an idea, there are four 6e (sixth grade) classrooms at my school, each with around 85 kids, and one Terminale class with 50 kids.  You do the math.  Seriously do it, I’m sick of doing math.  Anyway, he asked me to come in and teach his class about American politics, society, geography, climate, etc. so I jotted down all I knew without the help of Wikipedia on one side of a small sheet of paper and showed up to class.  It went well overall, I drew a map of the US on the board and showed them New York, California, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania.  I explained the President’s four year term (foreign concept for a class of 18- to 24-year-olds whose president has been in power since before they were born), and I showed them pictures of me with friends white water rafting and fishing, along with a fold out map of Half Dome from Yosemite.  It was fun to share that stuff with them but I felt like I had babied them once I held Q+A at the end:
"What does it mean when people say the diversity of the United States constitutes its wealth?"
"Why can the white man come to Africa but the black man cannot go to America?"
"Why is the black man still oppressed in the USA today and how has that changed over the years?"
Dammit doesn’t anyone want to just ask me what snow feels like?  It’s cold and wet and terrible.  These kids were smart, and I answered each question like a bad politician at a… Uh, at anywhere I guess:
"Well, I’m glad you asked that… Uh… Good question… Hmmmm…"
I did my best though, answering their questions as honestly as I could, wishing my country’s history wasn’t so embarrassing.

It’s hot in Africa.  The other day I tried to fry an egg on the concrete of my porch.  It slid slowly off towards my yard (apparently my porch isn’t level) and then Derek licked it up.  Myth busted, I suppose.  I was talking to the principal of my school about a week ago and I guess the way all my clothes were sticking with sweat to my body inspired him to mention to me that there’s a pool in Pa, a small truck-stop of a town 10km north of Founzan.  I cancelled my appointments and biked up mid-afternoon, a mess of sweat-stained clothes and helmet-matted hair, with dreams of pool-side beers and wifi.  Someone would probably tell me I had to take a shower before getting in the pool, and I’d laugh and agree, putting down my beverage as they showed me to the outdoor showers, etc, etc.
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Well here it is:  the pool of Pa.  It’s located at an overgrown and abandoned hotel/conference center on the East side of town, and it doesn’t have a drop of water in it.  Pretty disappointing.  I walked around the grounds for a bit and ran into a guy who worked there.  He didn’t speak much French but I asked him where the water for the pool was and he said it was all gone.  I agreed, then asked when they’d put more water in.  He thought for a while.  Tomorrow, he said, Come back tomorrow.  I haven’t been back since.  Saying something will happen tomorrow in West Africa is like saying it’ll never happen, but who knows, maybe I’ll have a place to swim close to site in the near future.

I was in Bobo-Dioulasso this past weekend for a friend’s birthday.  Saturday morning we took a bike ride and then a hike down into a canyon to see the sacred catfish of Dafra.  Aside from throw up, this was the first touristy thing I’ve done in country, and it was so cool to see Burkina in a different light.  We fed chicken guts to the catfish and I wondered how bad of a curse Lord Dafra would lay down on me if I came back later with some fishing gear to catch all his fish.
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Sorry the blogs are getting so scarce.  In all honesty not a whole lot happens on a day to day basis, so when I get to internet and sit down to write it’s often hard to think of anything to share.  Sometimes it feels like I have to pour hot oil on myself just to have anything to talk about at all.  Anyway, thanks for reading.

Clay

This imissdennys blog post is dedicated to my friend Jean Paul.  In the first month that I was at site, Jean Paul showed up at my door and handed me his work certificate offering to cook, clean, sweep, wash laundry, and get water for me.  I told him no, that maybe I’d take his help with laundry from time to time but didn’t need someone to get water or cook or sweep.  I was pretty wrong, and he must have known it because he ended up coming over again and again until I caved and hired him.  There was some initial guilt over having a Burkinabe do all my physical labor, but we’ve become good friends and we often drink dolo and eat together–he’s over every day except Sundays, his day off.
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Here’s a picture of Jean Paul cleaning out my blackened cooking pot about a month ago after a nice Sunday evening oil fire I started while trying to make french fries.  My initial thought upon seeing the smoke and flames right next to my gas tank was to stand back and watch my cuisine explode, but I managed to smother the flames with an old pagne shirt after psyching myself up to be an oil fire smothering hero in front of all the kids in my courtyard.  When the pile of pagne shirts subsequently caught fire I threw water on it all, and through terribly thick oil smoke-induced tears and coughing fits I swore that from then on I would make salads on Sundays.

This past Sunday I didn’t have ingredients for salad, so I decided it was time to give fries another shot.  I put the oil on the burner like the failed first attempt but sat right by the pot while cutting the potatoes to be safe.  At some point when my head was down cutting potatoes the oil got to be too hot and smoke started filling my cuisine again.  I put on my oven mitts and took the pot off the burner to let it cool down outside but it immediately burned me through the mitts and I dropped it on the ground, splashing hot oil up onto my legs.  I should mention now that I was wearing short shorts.  It was much more startling than painful at first, I screamed and ran faster than I’ve ran in a while inside to my 100L trash can of water.
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I spent a good deal of my night pouring water over my knees in this trash can.  This particular selfie was taken a couple hours after the oil spill, as other volunteers grew tired of hearing me complain over the phone and I was done crying.  At one point I got up to find food (was pretty hungry, never finished the french fries if you didn’t guess) but ended up just running to a place that sold cold sachets of water, buying ten, then throwing them and myself back into the water trash can, returning to the only comfortable spot I could find in my village.  It was pretty painful.  I can see now why they poured boiling oil on each other in the middle ages.  Those guys really had things figured out.

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The photo on the left was taken the day after the accident and shows the coverage of the oil splatter on my legs.  My left ankle and shin got most of the action while my right big toe and knee took its fair share as well.  The picture on the right is an artist rendition of what my mom imagined my legs looked like.  As you can see in the picture on the right, the oil continued to burn for 24 hours after the spill and blood is spurting out of my left shin.  Most of those purple spots seen in the first photo have blistered and peeled off since then and my left food has swelled up quite a bit.  It’s much grosser now with swellings and skin peelings so I’ll leave you with your imagination and a picture from today after the doctor here wrapped me up:
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If anyone wants a more graphic picture of the healing process I’ll be happy to email it.  Thanks everyone for the support and thoughts and such.  It hurts but I’m in the med unit, getting paid $10 a day surrounded by leather sofas and ac and wi-fi and experienced Peace Corps medics.  I’m fine and will be back in site listening to This American Life snuggling kittens in no time.
Thanks Eric Hayden Weiss for the seamless photoshop job.