So I have finally taken the time to sit down and write something about Site Visit, aka the first time a volunteer gets to see where they are going to be spending the next 2 years of their life. (Site visit happened ages ago but I was too lazy to write about it, sorry).
The big reveal of my future location happened early on, just before we arrived in Leo we were given a short description of their site. To be honest, I did not think that my slip of paper told me much of anything. However, the one crucial thing it did tell me was the name of the village.
I know, it’s a mouth full. Most people, including locals, just call it Soubaka.
Soubaka is in the South West of Burkina near the border of Cote d’Ivior. It is surrounded by the Foret Classee de Toumousseni, aka a huge forest where if you get lucky you might see some elephants. The region in which it is located, the Cascades, attracts loads of tourist because of its natural attractions (i.e. the forest and the Cascades de Banfora.
It is 38 kilometers south of Banfora, and it takes 8 hours to get there from the Capital with the help of 2 buses and a taxi bus. That trip is something I will be trying to do as infrequently as possible.
The village has no electricity, no indoor plumbing, the main local language is Jula, it has a CSPS (a clinic), and the big marché is every 5 days.
I spent a total of 3 days in my site for Site Visit. I was able to sleep in my house, meet my counterparts (people in the community who I will work with to plan projects), see the school where I will be teaching, and meet other people in the community (such as the principle of the school, and the president of the “Student Teacher Association”).
It was a decent experience and rather eye opening. Though I have heard it before, it was re-enforced by my visit that people here to do not automatically assume I am American because I look like them. So far it has been assumed that I’m from Burkina, and I have been asked if I am from Kenya, Ethiopia, Senegal, and France. Other Black volunteers have informed me that they are met with the same assumptions/questions (aka “Is your mom African and your dad white?”) and that it is something that is going to happen from now until forever.
Also, it was interesting to see just how quiet life is in a village. Though I was reassured that when it’s not summer vacation there is much more life in the village, I will not be surprised if it continues to feel like it is a slow quiet town. However, I suppose it will be something I will get used to. By the time I go back to the States I will start to think suburban and city life is far too loud.
One other nice thing is that the lack of electricity means a lack of light pollution, and thus there are tons of stars.
My house is surrounded by a mud brick wall, which encases a small court yard. The house itself is two room, and currently has nothing in it. Well, it does have a huge desk that the last volunteer left behind but otherwise there is nothing else. However, I am getting a few things from another volunteer who is finishing up her serves by the end of the month, and before I go to my site I will have a shopping day in Bobo so I can get all my furniture and other needs.
To be honest I’m kinda nervous about going to site. It’s mostly because there are so many people who only speak Joula, especially older women, and I only had a few classes during training.
On the bright side I could always get a tutor, or get someone to translate for me at the marché when need be. I’ll give myself a few months before I’m able to be somewhat functional in the language then everything will be great!