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Me against the amoebas

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  • pgosselin8
    Greetings from Ouagadougou! You re lookin at a brand spakin new Peace Corps Volunteer. Last week, after 11 weeks of training, we swore in at the US Embassy,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 18, 2004
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      Greetings from Ouagadougou!
      You're lookin at a brand spakin new Peace Corps Volunteer. Last
      week, after 11 weeks of training, we swore in at the US Embassy, at
      the ambassador's posh digs. All of the trainees got traditional
      Burkinabe outfits tailored, so we were all a wild mix of bright
      colors. Someone described it as "prom on acid."
      After the ceremony, which was covered by the national media,
      we hopped across the street to the embassy's American Rec Center,
      which boasts a pool as well as burgers, burritos, onion rings,
      milkshakes, air conditioning, movies. A slice of heaven right here
      on earth. In fact, we spent the entire week in a nice air
      conditioned hotel, eating delicious real food and enjoying each
      other's company.
      Now that we've tasted paradise, however, it's getting ripped
      right out from under us. The new title marginally increases or
      level of respect, but it also means it's time to go to our sites
      around the country and begin our work. We're banished to our
      villages for three months, during which time we will commune with
      the people until we finally emerge from our cocoons and spread our
      beautiful integrated wings... Wish me luck.


      ME AGAINST THE AMOEBAS
      I'm sad to report that my health streak has finally come to a bitter
      end. It was probably a karmic punishment for all the gloating I did
      about my iron intestinal tract, or the result of a vast conspiracy
      amongst the other trainees to contaminate my food. In any case, I
      was
      to my knowledge, the last of the trainees to succumb to the Big D,
      making it all the way to week 9 with healthy bowels, shattering
      previous records.
      Our wonderfully blunt medical caretaker Daynese informed me
      that I had caught the Bad Guy, the little amoeba that could, the one
      that causes amoebic dysentary. "This is the one that kills people."
      She also reminded me to watch what I'm eating and drinking, cause
      like
      all the other flow-inducing parasites, it's caused by fecal
      contamination. Believe me, I would avoid the poop in my food if I
      could. But the poop is everywhere. It's just what happens when you
      commune with animals and the earth.
      It makes it tougher to down the food knowing you're playing a
      game of Russian Roulette. One night you're eating Tô with snot
      sauce
      and BLAM! Giardia. Shake a hundred kids' hands in a day, POW!
      Shigella.
      Eat with a fork washed in poopy water and WHAMO! Blastocytosis. Yes,
      eating in this country is an adventure sport.


      IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING...
      Yes, there is pole-dancing in Africa.



      MY LOVE LIFE



      ...



      HOW I CAME TO WAGE WAR AGAINST THE ROACHES
      Part I of an ongoing series on members of the insect kingdom and how
      they suck

      Prologue
      I was the kind of guy who couldn't harm a fly. But living in Africa
      changes a man. It all began on the ninth day of the eighth month of
      the two thousand and fourth year of Our Lord, my first night in my
      host
      family. I've previously stated my distaste for the toilet situation
      here. But if you've gotta shit in a hole, it might as well be a nice
      hole. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised when I found that my
      new
      latrine was clean, deep (so it doesn't smell and you can't see the
      swarming maggots (it takes about 3 seconds for poo to hit the bottom
      (David Jay, can you do the physics and tell me how deep that is?
      (correcting for the speed of sound, of course)))) with a cement
      cover,
      chest high mud walls and even a decent view!

      Chapter I
      That night I went back, flashlight in hand, ready to pee
      before going
      to bed. As I lifted the cover, roaches poured out from underneath
      and scattered everywhere. Big, fat hideous roaches, we're talking 3
      inches long, large enough to see their ugly little heads and eyes
      staring back at you. I swung around with my flashlight to see that I
      was surrounded on all sides. They sat there, waving their antennae
      guarding their precious hole. I fled. Maybe I screamed. I don't
      recall.
      I decided to hold it. I went back into my hut to sleep, and
      lo and behold, the brutes had also laid claim to my home. Three of
      them, on my walls! I barely escaped with my life. My host brother
      asked what was wrong. I told him. "Yes, but they're harmless," he
      had the gusto to reply! What the hell does you know?! You don't
      understand what I'm going through! Just do something, anything,
      please!
      He went and got some insecticide spray and fumigated my hut.
      I'm sure it was more harmful to my lungs than to the roaches, since
      those monsters can survive nuclear fallout. Still, I was solaced,
      and took comfort from the mosquito netting I tucked in carefully
      around my bed. At least can't get through that... Or can they???

      Chapter II
      For the next several nights I would dread inevitably having
      to pee after nightfall. I would spend a good few minutes every time
      psyching myself up to go. Every time, rather than just going in and
      doing my thing, I felt compelled to scope out the surroundings with
      the flashlight, and they would always be there. Sitting, watching,
      waving. I tried leaving the cover off, peeing from afar--it was
      just a mess. And yet, I peed.
      Meanwhile, back in the hut, I learned to do a thorough search
      of the quarters before turning in. One night, I spotted a lone
      roach sitting on my wall. Ok, I thought. You damn roaches have
      given me more anxiety than anything else in this country. I'm gonna
      have to get used to you eventually. I'm here to grow as a human
      being. It's time to make peace with the roach. Be one with the
      roach. You just sit there and be, and I'll just slip under my
      mosquito net and sleep.

      Chapter III
      Much like every night, inspite of the netting, I did my usual
      paranoid search of my sheets before hopping in. Under the pillows,
      along the sides. I lifted the top sheet. Much to my sheer horror,
      one of THEM was sitting there at the foot of my bed. My skin
      crawled. My safe haven had been breeched. Thankfully the beast had
      perished in its quest. I flung it to the floor, shuddering. I
      looked back at its brother on the wall. That's it, motherfucker.
      I've had enough. That was the last straw. Prepare to die.
      I whipped out the insecticide and sprayed it good and long.
      It started to skittle around nervously. What happened next was
      something straight out of a bad Lariam hallucination. The spawn of
      satan spread its wretched wings and FLEW. Right past me. It landed
      somewhere. I searched frantically. It scuttled over my foot. I
      hadn't wanted to squish it, but the shoe was coming out. (They
      don't serve any other purpose here, it's sandles all the time.) I
      squirmed and it it as hard as I could. It chrunched. I hit it some
      more. And then some more. And again. You checked into the wrong
      motel, bastard! You're ant food now! You can die! All of you!
      Eradicate! Eradicate! Eradicate!
      So began the war.

      Epilogue
      As for the latrine, well, I still go there during the day.
      At night, I step out and water the crops. At first I was worried
      what my host family would think. Then I realized that, hell, they
      think I'm a weirdo anyway.
      Late one night, I heard chrunching sounds eminating from the
      latrine area. My flashlight revealed a scorpion chewing off the
      head of one of my adversaries, grasped in its claws. Now that's just
      disgusting. But you, scorpion, are an ally. Just don't get any
      ideas about crawling into my bed.


      MISCOMMUNICATIONS
      When you go to a foreign country, you can be sure you'll make
      many a communication flub and cultural faux pas. Peace Corps
      Burkina Faso is no exception. In fact, the Chief of our training
      village of Boussouma allegedly sacrificed a number of animals to
      protect our foolish selves from precisely this eventuality.
      The most common for the new french speakers is the use of the
      word "excité." While this may appear like the word "excited," in
      French it means horny or turned on. And so, the new trainees get
      off the plane and go around telling the training staff how "tres
      excité" they are. During the host family adoption ceremony in
      one
      of the training village, attended by all the family's and town
      leaders, the trainee speaker made note of how very sexually aroused
      they were to be arriving in the village.
      Soon, all of us began to speak franglais, simply because it
      makes more sense to us to blend the languages together, and all the
      trainees (stagiares) are on the same page. (ie, After I'm
      affectéd,
      my objectif will be to sensibilize the villageois about palu.) Once
      I was speaking to another stagiare after we were offered a shower
      and asked her, "Imane, are you gonna go douche?"
      Another stagiare in my village fell quite ill one night while
      in her host family. Only the father was there, and he only spoke
      Mooré. She flipped frantically through her Mooré notebook,
      and then
      told him with urgency, "I need a midwife!"
      One of the girls in Boussouma would shrug her shoulders when
      she didn't understand what her host mothers were telling her, or
      when a kid in her courtyard would cry when he saw her (her mom liked
      to joke to the kid that the nasara was there to eat him). Whereas to
      us a shrug means "I don't know," here it's more along the lines
      of "I don't give a shit."
      Sometimes non-verbal communications can hit the mark better
      than anything else, however. On her third night with her host
      family, while eating, Trinelle suddenly puked involuntarily on her
      host father's leg. Not only did the family never again serve her To,
      but they also placed a bucket by the dinner table for the next
      week. Maybe I should have taken this approach to express my opinion
      of the fish powder that my host mom went out of her way to put in all
      my food.

      COMING OUT IN THE PEACE CORPS IS HARD TO DO
      If you're a Republican! Nobody gives a shit that I'm gay.
      There are, however, rumors going around about right-wingers in our
      midst. And, believe it or not, some have even outed themselves.
      They're people too... I guess.
      Some of us believe that the Peace Corps is actually a deep-
      rooted right-wing conspiracy to round up all of the bright,
      motivated, idealistic progressives in America and ship them off to
      the most remote places in the world.
      Now I hate to get political. But consider this. Peace
      Corp's annual budget is something along the lines of $4 million.
      This to send thousands of Americans out into the world to live with
      local people, share their culture and work with them towards
      sustainable development. Compare this to any other government
      expenditure (say, the $80some billion to blow up iraq) and you'll
      see that it's actually taxpayer money fairly well spent. Now Bush
      publicly recognized the value of Peace Corps and advocated doubling
      its size over the next few years, and then soon after slashed its
      budget. Thanks, Bush. Now I can't get AC in my hut!!
      As you head to the polls on 2 november, take a moment to
      think of me, sweating my ass off in a hut in Africa, and ask
      yourself: could this have been avoided? Thank you.


      PLEASE SEND ME STUFF
      Many of you have written to ask what you can do to support
      development work abroad. The answer is: send me stuff. You can
      send anything with the following exceptions:
      *Peanuts
      *Millet

      If you'd like more specifics, since I'll be starting to cook my own
      food, it'd be great to have spices, sauce mixes, etc. anything that
      can be made by just adding water. I'll happily read anything you
      send. I'll have a lot of time to devote to developing myself as a
      human being, so if you send me Contortionism for Dummies, by the end
      of two years I'll certainly be able to wrap my legs around my
      head. Want me to learn the accordion? Ship one over along with
      Accordion for Dummies and it will happen. You get the idea. Photos
      are always good, and fun to share with the people.

      My new address is:
      Philippe Gosselin, PCV
      s/c CSPS de Zamsé
      Districte Medical de Zorgho
      BP 34 Zorgho
      Burkina Faso
      (West Africa)

      Anything sent to the old address will still get to me, but may take
      me longer to get to.


      Really, beyond stuff, I'm happy just to hear from you. Again, I must
      include a caveat. Here's an example of what NOT to write:
      "Robert and I came back from Cleveland last night. It was a
      very nice
      weekend. We stayed at the Residence Inn ... There was a
      fully equipped kitchen with pots/pans and dishes, stove, microwave,
      dishwasher.... there were 2 queen size beds, a dining table with 4
      chairs, a
      working desk, a full size sofa and stuffed chair, 3 steps to go up in
      the bathroom; the
      ceilings were at least 12 feet high with windows from floor to
      ceilings... it
      was huge! It even included a full buffet
      breakfast, including: eggs, sausage, bacon, toast, bagels..., make
      your own
      wafles, real oatmeal, fresh fruit salad, yogourts, assorted fruits. I
      hope I am
      not torturing you with this..."

      Mom... That's just cruel.


      All right, off I go to my village, in a matter of hours. I will try
      sneak to email at some point during my 3 months of exile, but from
      here on out the opportunities will be fewer and farther between.

      I wish you all the best!
      Love,
      Philippe
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