Thursday, August 30, 2007

I'm heading home, baby!!!

That's right kids, things are getting wrapped up here and I'm heading back to the Ol U.S. of A. My flight leaves tomorrow and i'll be getting into Springfield, Il. Sept 1st, at around 549pm. woo woo!
I'm sorry I haven'e blogged much this last month, but it's been busy with wrapping up work in village, dodging my house falling again, getting rid of my stuff, saying goodbye my village, and to other volunteers. The paperwork to leave is typically obnoxious and overly complicated, but I just got my last signature on my check out form and all I need to do now is get tickets this afternoon handed to me. It's just starting to hit me that I'm leaving. So, tonight, I'm packing and gettin ready for a flight at around 1pm, tomorrow. I'm supposed to fly through Senegal, then Wash D.C. then Springfield. Wish me luck, good weather, and speedy custom officers.
I'm hoping to visit people as soon as I'm settled in the U.S. So, I can update people on recent events both i and out of village. I've been really remiss on some of the updates, lately, but I've just assumed, I would be talking to you all soon enough, i've left alot of posts out.
Hopefully, when I get back and have regular access to internet, I'll type up some more stories/events, and maybe add some old letters I never go around to to sending. Hope all is well, where you are at, and I hope to see and visit you all soon!

Once again, I want to thank you guys for helping me keep up this blog and sending wonderful packages and being the great friends/family, that has helped me do the work I've been able to do. Speaking of work, I'll add to this my DOS(description of Service) and you can get an official look at what I've been doing the last two years. :-)

Here it is:

Ms. Curvey began her training on August 2, 2005 in which she actively participated in an intensive 11-week program in Gourcy, Burkina Faso. During the intensive training, Ms. Curvey lived with a Burkinabé host family in order to enhance her cultural understanding and to facilitate her ability to successfully integrate into Burkinabé society.

The contents of the training program included:

• 165.45 hours of formal instruction in French and Moore (a local language found in her region);
• 122 hours of technical instruction in public health and community health development;
• 33 hours of training in cross-cultural adaptation and integration strategies; and,
• 35 hours of personal health care.
• 5 hours of safety and security and
• 6 hours of administration and policy

Ms. Curvey swore in as a Peace Corps volunteer on October 21, 2005 and was assigned to the village of Tô in the southern part of Burkina Faso. She worked at the local health clinic (the Center for Health and Social Promotion of Tô), which served 5 satellite villages and an overall population of approximately 17,000 people. Ms. Curvey collaborated with the health staff and management committee to increase their effectiveness in health promotion and disease prevention and to improve the organization and administration of preventative services. She worked under the Ministry of Health and reported directly to the Chief District Physician of Leo.

Primary Activities/Projects

• Performed a 3 month public needs assessment of 6 villages, roughly 1700 people. The information gained was used as basis for future health activities.
• Participated in national vaccination campaigns against Elephantitis and Polio, and promotion outreaches for vitamin A.
• Participated in community based health activities(such as baby weighing and vaccination outreach)
• Created and collaborated with local theater group to perform health based sketches on subjects ranging from Elephantitis, HIV/AIDS, and Malaria to Pre-Natal Consultations. They performed for over 3500 people throughout the local health region within a period of 4 months.
• Initiated, organized, and supervised a region-wide campaign on HIV/AIDS in partnership with a 16 member theater group and 5 local contractors. Plays were performed in 8 villages reaching over 2200 people. Videos discussing HIV/AIDS were shown and discussed to over 1260 people.
• Coordinated local a Bike-a-thon with counterparts and neighboring volunteers. Trained 9 non-health volunteers on how to do AIDS educational discussions. These volunteers, in turn, trained 20 local counterparts of Tô on the same subject matter. All in order to reach over 1160 people in 6 villages during the campaign.
• Lead and gave discussions with over 950 villagers, 2 corn groups, and ten garden groups in 6 villages on the use of the Moringa tree as a valuable source of maintaining a nutritious diet in children, family, and as a source of income. Over 100 trees were distributed and planted with villagers, along with distributing 6000 seeds. The tree owners were monitored and received additional training.
• Took part in a precedent setting workshop, (Peace Corps wide) called, “Measuring Success”, that helped set up local level protocol in quantitatively measuring the impact of information briefings on health related topics.
• As a result of applying the above protocol, performed a 3 month survey and campaign towards fighting Malaria, there was a 13% increase in knowledge level on preventing Malaria and 23% increase in prevention for children in the region of Tô.
• Applying the same methods for HIV/AIDS, found a 10% increase in knowledge of prevention methods, and 33% decrease in negative stigmatized responses in follow up surveys.
• Taught discussions for 12 hours in classrooms along with video media on HIV/AIDS at both the primary and secondary school levels, reaching over 800 school kids.
• Coordinated with 2 local primary schools to conduct an art contest, with over 300 children participants, focusing on hygienic practices in the home.
• Painted 3 health related murals at her health clinic on the subject of consultations and vaccinations

Secondary Activities/Projects

• Trained 65 Peace Corps volunteers and 18 Peace Corps staff members on the use and benefits of the Moringa tree in their homes and villages. Demonstrated planting and then distributed 5200 seeds and 80 trees.
• Represented the interest of fellow volunteers as a member of the Volunteer Advisory Committee(VAC) which served as a liaison between the Administrative staff and volunteers
• As a leading member of the AIDS Task Force team, collected and interpreted data of the HIV/AIDS related activities performed by 19 fellow volunteers during FY2006. For presentation to both the Burkina Faso government and Peace Corps Washington.
• Taught English for a total of 20hrs to 10 students, once a week for 4 months
• Taught a course to a classroom of 30 high school senior girls on writing grants and action plans for use in obtaining funding for through local and governmental partners.
• Conceived, coordinated and implemented a Cross Sector Conference. Trained 14 non-health specific volunteers on various health issues such as AIDS, nutrition (including Moringa), the Burkina Faso health care system, and the means of using the health information in one’s village.

Additional Activities
Site Development
Helped and coordinated in developing 2 new health sites from visiting 9 villages, and possibly 2 small enterprise sites, for incoming volunteers.

Volunteer Transit House Transition
As a member of VAC, coordinated the cleaning and organizing of volunteer possessions for transfer from old to new transit house locations.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

More Mali pics

Our hostel eating area on top of the plateau
Looking adventurous again
The village on top of the plateau, overlooking the plains and sand dunes
Me and Tracy scrambling up(this time) a crevass to get to the top of the plateau
Once on top of the plateau, we found a little bit of Eden tucked amongst the bumpy terrain of the rocks.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mali trip

Hey kids, just got back from a 3 day hike in the Dogon country in Mali and it was great! The weather was perfect(cloudy and rainy) so that it was cool to hike around all day. First day we hiked up to the top of the Dogon plateau's and then we stayed overnight in a village on top and the second day we hiked down and staying a village further down the region's river and the third day we hiked out over sand dunes. Pretty cool trip overall with some great friends,(Nathalie and Tracy) to experience it with. Really glad I made the time to do it, I almost didn't go. So, now I just got back to Ouaga after traveling all the way back from the dunes in one day(13hrs of constant travel-hiking, fourwheeling ride back to civ., then bush taxi to Burkina and Autobus to Ouaga, whew!) I'm really tired, but here's some pics of the journey.

Pic of the Dogon plateau
Pic of the Dogon homes(lower huts) and Tellum voodoo shacks(tiny upper holes in walls)
Me looking all adventurous and crap
Nathalie and me, posing as we scramble down a crevasse

My travel pals, Tracy and Nathalie, they were a laugh riot nearly every minute.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Hello to you

Hey guys, guess what. I asked to cut short my stay here and leave the Aug 31st and I got it!!!! Yippee skippy! That's right I'm boarding a plan in about 33 days to get back to the land of all you can eat. I was shocked when I found out, really, because our beloved country director is not known to allow people to go home early for any reason. Well, I guess my reason was good enough(i.e. All my health extension activities will be done by the 15tg Aug and I won't be doing anything in village). I'm pretty psyched. I was on cloud nine for the next two days and I'm doing my best to get everything done extra early so I can say goodbye properly to all my friends here both volunteers and villagers.
Needless to say, now that it's coming down to the wire, I'm beginning to look around my lush looking village as the rainy season comes into full bloom and I wonder how much I'll miss the things that I take for granted.
I've already started cleaning out my house and figuring who should get what and what I don't want to give to villagers and instead to other volunteers, which is a lot, but I'll explain why next. However, During my "spring cleaning" I found some letters I forgot or decided not to send because of their level of bitchi-ness. Some of them were from a really difficult point in my stay here and it's interesting to see how my perspective has changed since then. Maybe I'll post them just so you can see the difference too. A couple I won't because, their more intended for a journal, so I'll tuck them in there.
The reason I'm planning to NOT give alot of things to the villagers of my town is because of the same reason I don't give toys to the kids here. They'll expect it of the next volunteer or whitey who comes through. I already had people coming up to me the first month I was here, saying "when you leave, give me this, ...or that..., because so-and-so gave us stuff". I don't like the expectation that I'll automatically give people things that I don't care for. It kinda goes against my whole work ethic here and it rubs me the wrong way. Also there has been some stories from fellow volunteers who had a really good village experience up until they left and started giving things away. People got greedy and ugly and started fights during the goodbyes and it ruined those volunteers final days and impression of their village. So, I'm hoping to avoid that too.
I'm supposed to throw my own going away party, meaning I pay for all the food and drinks to whom ever arrives, which could be a lot of people. Since I'm the Nasara, a lot people will come expecting to get sodas and meat, but I honestly don't have the money to spend on them. So, my party, if I have one, will be small and hopefully only with people I want to be there. It probably won't work out the way I plan and if it gets too painful, I'll just say, screw it, and not even have it. Right now, it depends on the day and my mood on if I'm having this party or not. Supposedly it's a neccessary thing to do, culturally, before I go, but it's so against how I would like to say goodbye, I'm having a internal battle with it. Anyhoo, that's boring to talk about, but it's something that I'm dealing with at the moment so there ya go. ;-)
That's all for now, hope this finds you well!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Hey guys and gals

I wanted to mention the packages and letters I got this last week that really surprised me and gave me joy. I recieved letters from Helen, Adrienne and Rodney, and Sister Ann Mary. I also recieved an awesome package from Jen and Frank. I'm planning on writing you guys immediately, either by e or letter. I haven't really been expecting anyone to write or send packages just because I'm so close to finishing up here, but it was a real pleasure hearing from you guys. I love hearing what's going on where you're at. It allows much more time to relax later when we see each other. Anyway, just wanted to let you know I got 'em and You guys are great! That's it for now.later kids

Fun time photos!

Viola! the remaining volunteers of my class, 28 down from 51
Some of my good friends. L to R: Nathalie, Kim, Tracy, and Moi
Inside my courtyard my almost finished mural of Burkinabe countryside.
My patriotic streak. Just don't count the stars, I got overzealous dabbing the paint. ;-)

Close of service conference as written by my smart ass friend Jane Baker

COS conference is a 3 day conference which every stage group (those who remain) are put up in a hotel and attend many sessions on readjustment in the US, emotionally, psychologically, physically, and problems we may face, financial matters for our government compensation, i mean readjustment allowance, special groups that exist to meet our needs as RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, my official title when i COS (close of service) in october), resume writing sessions, a panel with other RPCVs, some of whom have been in international development for many years, and all that jazz.

so yea, it was pretty mind numbing since the amazing food at this amazing hotel had us in food comas all day. let's talk about hotel ricardo for a's been family run since it's establishment sometime before 1985, so all the landscaping is very developed. it was practically a tiny jungle unto itself on the barrage in ouaga. lovely views at sunset across the water. thousands of beautiful birds chirping and singing and swooping all day long. smallish rooms but comfortable, i would say nothing to write home about except that that is exactly what i'm doing....but comfortable, clean, well kept, sanitary, extremely well ACd and tvs with CNN!! oh man, that CNN...what's going on out there?! but yes, la patronne has many, like 10, dogs running around, beautiful international breeds, like a greyhound or two, some cute medium sized black shaggy one, a corgie mix or 3, and one or two african dogs thrown in for good measure. they just come right up to you and seem to say, oh another guest, all right, i'll just be sleeping over here. too cool for school, these pups. but perfectly friendly once the tummy rub was introduced. beautiful animals. so yeah, not four star, but the comfort level is such that if any of you had come to visit me, i would have put you up there because it's like a vacation within a vacation!

so, yeah, session after session, with the wonderfully capable, understanding, and multi faceted Nanette, and many many many handouts that made me dump the entire folder in the trash after i had extracted the most vital info because the folder then weighed 2 lbs. not kidding. anyway, yes i learned a bunch about how my life could suck in many annoying and frustrating small ways, some of which i'll share with you in these scenarios that were presented to us for consideration:

Typical Reentry Problem #1

Returnees--particularly those who have lived closely with host nationals for an extended period of time-- find that they are sharply aware of many features of their home environment and culture that they previously never noticed, or at least never questioned. Becoming suddenly and acutely aware of so many things that were previously taken for granted is not a seriously problem; the problem arises because the returnees often find themselves feeling critical of many of these things. This criticism is usually expressed with the "negative attitude" of the returnees. Even if the returnees manage to keep criticism to themselves, they are disturbed about feeing negative toward people and events in the place they call home.

Typical Reentry Problem #2

Returnees--especially those whose experiences have been particularly rich-- usually come home bursting with stories, ideas, facts and all kinds of other interesting things to tell anyone who will listen. What they find, however, is that almost everyone they talk to either will not listen for more than a few minutes, of listens politely but simply cannot comprehend the richness and vitality of the returnee's experiences. (The latter attitude often shows up in the simplistic questions asked of the returnee, such as "Do people in Guatemala know what telephones are?") Such attitudes are likely to cause the returnee to feel considerable annoyance.

Typical Reentry Problem #3

Returnees--especially if they have lived for an extended time in a culture that is much difference from their home culture--bring back with them many new values and patterns of behavior. Their new ways tend to be most sharply difference in relation to those of the people who they love most dearly. This particular change occurs in their host community they became attached to certain people (such as members of a host family) and learned how to behave toward them according to the patterns characteristic of the host culture. Upon returning home, returnees encounter people whom they also love--and begin interacting with them as they learned to interact with loved ones in the host culture. In many cases, however, the family members and old friends of the returnees are bewildered and possibly even offended by this strange behavior. They, in turn, begin to act a little strange toward the returnee...and thus the seeds of misunderstanding are sewn.

And this last one, friends, is the one my group had to discuss. I'll follow it up with our responses...which i'll tell you, are pretty darn close to something you may hear outta my mouth if you dare ask these absolutely ridiculous question:

Typical Reentry Problem #4

Returnees have grown enormously and have gained skills and knowledge that is valuable for and applicable to almost any professional or social environment. However, it is difficult and takes some time to discover how all this can be applied in the States. In the meantime, others (family, friends, and future employers) see the 2 years at a "fun experience" but not terribly serious or useful. The RPCV often gets remarks life: "It's really time to get serious." or "You have to make up for lost time." When this happens, at the same time that the RPCV is still struggling to find his/her place in the US environment, it can lead to discouragement and feelings of inadequacy.

possible responses to "get serious":

--get a life.

--get a new friend because i'm no longer going to breathe oxygen within 30 feet of you.

--i love my life, i don't need to be serious.

-- Would you like to read my DOS/Qualification statement? (kind of an inside joke, but most RPVCs and the like will get it)

--Serious? Ever heard of AIDS?

possible responses to "lost time":

--Shit! Where'd it go?

--I lost that time with your tax dollars so technically it's your fault it's gone.

don't freak out, it's best we all be aware that i'm going to resent you all. ha ha, whoa, just kidding. that's another thing, my sense of humor has undergone a bit of a change, you might say.

so yeah, less then THREE MONTHS until i depart Burkina Faso!!! woo hoo!

love jane(and laura)

P.S. from Laura: Since jane had already written this pretty accurate account of our COS conference and we have the same sense of humor, I did minor editing that applied only to her, but hope you get the gist of the week. Next some photos!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hey, word.

Hey guys, i bet you've been avidly wondering what i've been doing, right? no? Okay, well, then, I don't really blame you, but a lot has happened between the last time I wrote. I won't be able to justly cover every item i need to update you on, but hopefully I can give a good synopsis.
Okay, the last upheaval the bureau has been able to throw at us has been our potential transit house closure. The idea caused shockwaves through our PCV community and added new renewal the effigies that volunteers burn in their villages of our dear country director. She toyed with us for a couple weeks, making sure we got the message "the transit house is a privilege, not a right" and then finally letting us off the hook to state that we would be moving to a smaller house and that it would all be done in the next two months. This notification came two weeks ago, and our current house will be off limits by the end of this month. Can we say, good times? For the month of August, there will essential be no transit house to use, while they move all the items of the old house to the new house, of which, is about half the size of our current house. The coordination with ALL of the country's PCV to make sure they have access to their items before house closure will be tricky and will probably end up causing a few PCV's inconveniences due to the storage they already keep at the house may not be transfered as needed. Lot's of challenges logistically with this move and it could end up being a great big f@@king mess. So I'll keep you posted. I'm sort of involved with the moving, but not officially. I'm just on the volunteer advisory comm. and all I can really say is, "this is not working" and "no, don't throw that away" for the new house. I'll keep you posted on the process, if possible.
Before all this mess with the bureau, I directed a cross sectoral conference meant to train other sectors on the basics of Health activities they can incoporate in their secondary projects. It was a weekend conference that i had 3 other peers come in and prepare the sessions, whereas i kept track of all the coordinating details with the bureau, house, etc. We had 14 volunteers attend, spread amongst the other 3 sectors and it turned out really well. The feedback was really positive and hopeful for continued cross sectoral conf's of the like in the future. I'm pretty happy about it, despite turning in the follow-up report to the bureau and recieving no feedback whatsoever. Got love the support the bureau doesn't give to realize the volunteers here are even better to make up for it.
I'm currently in my second phase of my compagned to improve the knowledge base of AIDS and malaria in my village. I've got a local contractor showing films with one of my friends sensibilizing during the showing, wheil my theater troupe is doing performances on the same subjects throughout my village and area. I start the final phase when I get back to village this week to do a secondary survey to measure the success of the compagnes. After that, I'm done. no more health activities for me and my village. I've asked the bureau for an early close of service at the end of August, but it probably won't be granted. If not, hopefully I'll be home by Sept 18 for month before meeting some PCV friend in Europe for a couple weeks tour of Budapest, Prague and Dublin. Any takers??
The last note will on my major, who I thought was a really good guy, but just last week got caught fooling around with a student nurse while his family was sitting at their house 30 yards away. Not cool. His wife, a strapping woman went ballistic, started fighting and knock him a couple good ones. He then struck her back, so now we have domestic violence in my nearest neighbors household. Oh, by the way, I saw it all go down, not a pretty sight. So my newest major, isn't all that great, and Mme Sawadogo, my best friend in village who I share my dog with, wants to kill our dog. Long story with that, but let's just say, it's something she could have waited to do after i was gone and didn't. Needless to say, I'm close to the dog and I'm pretty mad at her and upset about the dog. So when i go back to village, the dog will be gone.
Well, as you can see, lots of stuff has been happening and it's been a mixture of both good and bad. I left some stuff out that I may get back at later today, but that's enough for now. Hope to see you all soon!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Letter to Joy and Mark (dated May 25)

Dear Joy and Mark,
Hey guys, how's it going? I know it's been a while since I wrote, but I just wanted to say hi and thank you for all the packages you sent in my time here. They really meant a lot. The book that you sent, "The Wisdom of No Escape," was, and still is, a great book to have. I read a chapter a day and they usually got me through some tough days. Especially days I didn't want to face. I passed the book around to some neighboring volunteers who I thought might need it. I'm not quite sure of their impression and usage, but I think it could only help. It was just returned after some months in circulation and I find myself reading it a chapter per day, not out of need, but to gain new insights. So thanks again!

As you may or may not know, I'm almost done! Woo Woo. But, funnily enough, I've considered extending my time here a couple months, but I'm not sure the bureau would agree to that. I'm sorry I didn't get to see you last time I was in the states, but I hope your annual retreat to the tropics was as pleasant as ever. How many years have you gone there now? Well, hopefully when I get back later this year, I'll get to catch up with you guys.

The other day I was thinking of all the little things that helped me get by or just made my life a little easier here. Besides your book, I found a few things. One: my shower douche. Yeah, that's right. It's 99 cents at Walmast and comes in various pastel colors, but here it's worth its weight in gold. Besides using a brillow pad, there is nothing better to get all the dirt and sun lotion off your skin at the end of the day. Two: my Ipod. Yeah, it's flashy, but also a golden treasure of relaxation and entertainment. Mine's 30 GB, with about 3700 songs, stand-up, and audio books on it. The stand-up tracks are always nice during lunch (Margaret Cho, Eddie Izzard, and Ron White). Three: a do-it-all kitchen knife that my friend Bert sent me. It's some German brand and it kicks ass. I get repeated compliments on it whenever anyone else uses it. It's so sharp, still, and I've never sharpened it. A real gift that keeps giving. Four: Grant and Farah sent me a case of canned chili with a really nice can opener. That can opener, compared to what's available here, really kicks ass too. Five: my tropic screen. It's essentially a two-pole tent that's really just a mosquito net. It's so essential, especially right now during hot season where sleeping indoors is just stifling. Definite must-have in a third world country.

Let me clarify the numbering is in no particular order, because above all else, by far, the support by my friends and family is truly the main element in my ability to maintain my work here. The letters, packages, and phone calls have meant everything to me. The stuff listed above is a little bit of FYI for those who wonder what little things help each and every day as I live and work in Africa.

That's it for now. Take care and thanks again.

Always, Laura