Dafra

The same day we visited the village of Koro we made a second stop. This time it was to visit the sacred fish pools of dafra (Bobo for catfish). The sacred pools are located just outside Bobo-dioulassa and are a place where the Bobo people go to worship & provide offernings/sacrifices (chicken, sheep, cow etc) to these overfed looking catfish.

On entering the region a sacrifice needs to be acquired (we opted for a chicken) and local guide engaged. Once we had chosen our chicken & guide we then made our way to the entrance of the sacred pools. The entrance is a half hour walk from the parking area and this scenic walk provided panoramic views of the area and arriving harmattan . Before entering the sacred area you must first remove any red clothing or accessories as apparently the sacred catfish do not like this colour. After arriving the formalities of sacrificing the chicken (something I have to admit I was not able to watch) were needed before we could to offer it up to the catfish. The catfish of course devoured it hungrily as can be seen in Benoits pictures here .

Eve and family also went to visit the weekend after we did and have some great photos posted here as well.

Koro

One Sunday along with Thales (a VSO volunteer visiting Bobo for the weekend) we went to visit the village of Koro. Koro is a small village of around 3100 inhabitants situated 15km from Bobo-Dioulasso. The village is constructed on a steep stub of granite and as a result provided panoramic views of the surrounding valley. While it was build high for strategic purposes this poses a daily inconvenience to the villagers. Their water supply is situated at the bottom and is retrieved by a constant stream of women carrying large containers of water (on their heads nonetheless) up the steep path to the village.

The village is divided into three distinct parts, “le quartier des paysans”, “le quartier des forgerons” and “le quartier des Dioula”. The first two, the farmer’s district and the ironmonger’s district are inhabited by members of the Bobo ethnicity, one of Burkina Faso’s animistic ethnicities. The third is home to a number of members from another one of Burkina’s 60 odd ethnicities, the Dioula. Traditionally known as traders or merchants the dioula are usually either Muslim or Catholic.

Some of Benoit’s pictures of Koro can be seen here and mine here

Early New Year’s Wishes & Belated Merry Xmas

I would just like to wish all my friends and family in NZ, Australia, Quebec, UK, Europe & here in Burkina Faso a happy, healthy and prosperous new year (& a belated Merry Xmas). My New Year’s resolution is to see as many of you as I possibly can before the year is out!

Also, I would like to apologise for the dearth of blog posts over last couple of months.  As I predicted, I am not very good at keeping a blog. However, I would like to propose a change to my blogging format. In an attempt to motivate me to write more about Burkina, I would like to make a call out to readers for questions. Please post any questions you may have and I promise as my second New Year’s resolution to respond (maybe even with pictures from time to time).

Happy New Year everybody & lots of love to all

Melissa

Work

I have been working for a few weeks now, here in Burkina Faso. For those that do not know, I am working at an HIV screening clinic where they also offer pre- & post- test counselling and general HIV information. This is a completely new domain for me having worked in software development for companies primarily in the telecommunications & disk backup industry’s over the last few years. I therefore decided to spend the first couple of weeks doing some background reading in an attempt to gain at least an elementary understanding of the field.

However, thankfully my mandate is IT related. To date my main tasks are to create a website for the clinic and to develop a database for their client information. Additionally, I need to train staff on how to use and administer both the website and database (this is, obviously, after I have finished giving basic computer skills training). Last week I started a prototype website for them using google sites

I decided to use google sites as:

  • I am firstly hoping its one of the more straightforward and cheaper website authoring tools/hosting service out there,
  • and secondly I am hoping therefore I should be able to pass over its administration relatively easily to someone with minimal computer literacy skills.

For anyone interested in the clinic, the first draft is here .

p.s. if anyone has other suggestions for tools other than google sites as I am not a web developer nor particularly up with all the latest web technologies/trends please let me know, all suggestions/help is very welcome.

First week in Bobo

Arriving in Bobo for the second time we were feeling quite helpless, it’s no easy feat to do anything in this country at first when you do not know how things function. Helen (one of the VSO volunteers in Bobo since April) had kindly agreed to meet us at the bus station and arrange transport to our new home. She was an invaluable resource being thoughtful enough to have also:

  • brought us a food/emergency package for the next day’s breakfast & lunch (as it was Sunday evening when we arrived and we had no means to obtain supplies ourselves),
  • found a great restaurant for us to dine at for supper on the first evening,
  • cooked us all supper the second night as we had no gas nor food to do so ourselves,
  • and also kindly loaned us her kettle as due to a country-wide gas shortage we had no gas for our cooker. However, we are fortunate enough to have enough electrical current running through our place to use a kettle (to my surprise I discovered that this is not very common and most people here, like Helen, do not have enough electrical current to even boil a jug ). With the kettle we were able to make tea & coffee as well as couscous until we got gas a week later,
  • additionally, over the week she (along with all the other volunteers already here) responded to our many questions about many things.

Our house (photos coming soon) is large. It has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathroom, living/dinning area, kitchen and large balcony. It is situated on a large & somewhat barren section. At this stage the place is temporary as we will probably be moving sometime during the next couple of months. The house is situated on what turns out to be a very busy/lively street – it reminds me more of St Denis or Avenue Mont Royal (rather than St-Catehrine as Benoit does) in Montreal.

The first week was pretty tranquil and actually we spent a number of afternoon’s poolside at the  Club Muraz (a little oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city) relaxing and trying to escape the heat. Which, admittedly is not too unbearable at the moment and while we find it hot many of the Burkinabe’s are feeling the cold …

Aside from being poolside our time was occupied in the following manner:

  • Meeting the partners – Ousmane introduced myself, Sabrina and Benoit as a group to each of our respective VSO partners with whom we will work with.
  • Opening  bank accounts – we opened accounts at the EcoBank and this was a relatively painless, straightforward & fast process (I think I have spent too much time in Quebec …) However, actually to make a withdrawal while not complicated has definitely not been fast to date. Taking at least an hour and a half each time (I think I will try to pick better times to go in the future).
  • Purchasing items for the house – VSO furnished our houses with all the big items like, beds, table & chairs, lounge suite, fridge and gas cooker etc but we were responsible for finding the smaller things like linen and cooking equipment.
  • Organising/coordinating house reparations – the house was not in 100% working order (by western standards I have to admit as it’s no doubt in fine repair by local standards) when we arrived and we needed minor electrical, plumbing and carpentry repairs.

Photos: Week One

A few photos from the first week in Ouagadougou.

The hotel in Ouagadougou - Le Village Nong Taaba

Bungalows

Bungalows

Resturant & dining area

Barbed wire Burkina Faso style (this was on the walls around the hotel)

The new volunteers - Bertrand, Sabrina, Thales, Laure, Isabelle, Arnel, Togba, Leo, Marco, Benoit & moi

Breakfast time on the last day in Ouaga (Benoit, Marco, Leo, Leo's minder for the week, Sabrina, Thales, Laure, Isabel & Arnel)

The street in front of the hotel & VSO Office

Books

Since leaving Montreal a month ago I have found myself with a little more spare time to devote to reading. Along with a couple of guide books on Paris & Burkina Faso I have been able to finish the following somewhat random/eclectic collection of books:

  1. Charles Dickens’s Bleak house – his 9th novel following the long running Jamdyce and Jamdyce litigation and its trials and misfortunes at the Court of Chancery.
  2. Sinclair Lewis’s 1920s satire of American culture, Babbitt .
  3. My first Marian Keys novel, The Other Side of the Story, as I was curious to see what her novels and writing style was like.
  4. After having read Mysterious Islands and Around the World in 80 Days earlier this year I devoured another Jules Verne’s classic tale – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  5. And last but by no means least, Oryx and Crake by Margret Atwood.  After having recently read my first Atwood novel, The Handmaids Tale, I was intrigued to read another.

I have just started Three Cups of Tea which appears, so far, to be a captivating read about:

“One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time”

p.s. If anyone has any reading recommendations please let me know as I am sure I will have time to finish a few more books over the coming months.