Sunday, September 18, 2011

Not every thing works as you might wish

And the Wall Came a’Tumblin’ down.
While I was in Ouaga at the American Language Center helping with English, I got several text messages and phone calls telling that my wall had fallen down.  This wall was just built in November and I had some concerns about it early on.  It was built in the local building style, out of mud bricks with a bit of straw (shades of the Israelites in Egypt), and I noticed right away that it was leaning outward rather than being really upright. Furthermore, the mason who built it put one end of it under the roof overhang so as soon as the rain started, that part of the wall washed away.  My friends took some rubble from a house that had collapsed and put it along the base of that part of the wall to try to protect it from the rain water flowing past, but that was not enough. But it was not only the wall that had been leaning, but the one on the opposite side of the house that fell, too.  They both fell away from the house, so it was not the wind that blew it over, although there was a big wind with that rain storm.

My friend Prosper tried to support the remainder with some big branches.

In spite of that, a couple of weeks later, the rest of that part of the wall fell over.

To top it off, the wall in the back of the house went over, too.  This is looking hopeless! They will not be able to do anything about it while it is the rainy season, and I am afraid the bricks will all melt away before it is time to build again. This is not my problem, however.  When the Peace Corps sets up a site, there is an agreement that the community will provide housing for the volunteer with a courtyard and a hangar, as well as a private latrine and a private house with at least two rooms.  I have it all, except for the wall.  I do miss my privacy, but I can live with it for now.

Dutch oven burns up

Here is a picture of my cannary and marmite that I have posted before. To make a Dutch oven, you fill the bottom of the marmite with 3 inches of sand and put it on a burner on the stove and heat it for a couple of hours to get rid of the dirt taste. 

I did that and the Dutch oven to baked things pretty well.  That is how I made the small cakes, in muffin pans, for the birthday party I wrote about before. It was OK, but it was a bit hard to get things in and out of it.  I was also worried I was going to run out of gas.  I understand you really get no warning.  In the middle of cooking, suddenly the burner just goes off. 

I decided I wanted a bigger version that sits on its own gas burner.  That way I would have a bigger Dutch oven and I also have an emergency backup gas supply. Here is a picture of the final project.

On the way to getting this, however, I burned up a marmite.  A friend who has a similar one told me just to use high heat.  No problem.  I turned the burner on fairly high to burn out the dirt taste and, after an hour or so I thought I was hearing something funny.  When I checked it out, it looked like a leaf had blown in and was sitting on the burner.  When I looked more closely I realized it was a part of the bottom of the pot!  The bottom melted off and the sand spilled out. I was luck that the burner was not damaged. Here is the pot with the hole in it.

My friend Prosper had bought the marmite and burner at the marché and had brought them home on his moto. When I burned a hole in the bottom of the pot he went back to the marché  and got the guy who had sold the pot to him.  The merchant agreed to go back to the man who made the pots and to get several from which we would be able to chose our favorite.  Prosper’s wife, Martine, tapped and lifted them and picked the one she thought was best.  So far she appears to have made the right choice.  I have made cakes, cookies, biscuits and even roasted a piece of pork in it.  Luckily it did not do any damage to the burner, so a new pot with lower heat seems to have fixed the problem. 

Cell phones and my internet connection

As I may have said before, most adults carry cell phones, referred to her as “portables.”
There are several different service providers, but the one I use is Airtel.  It used to be Zain, but they were bought out by a Japanese company last spring and the name changed.  So did the color of all the little booths all over the country where you can by “unité,”  the way you buy minutes (or seconds in this case) of air time in the US.  The network here if often overloaded, making reception TERRIBLE!!!! There are often dropped calls, a message that the network is busy, or ZERO bars anywhere. And, if the call goes through, it often has so much static it is hard to hear the other person. It is even worse in Ouagadougou (the capital) than it is in my little village.

My internet connection is with the same company. The only way I can get on line is to get up early in the morning, when no one else is on the network.  Then it is sometimes about as fast as being in a cyber café (internet café) in a big city. Sometimes even that connection is slow, but it is certainly better than no connection at all.  Several times it has taken be three days to get my blog uploaded and my e-mail notices sent out.  I do try to post about once a week, but the net work does not always cooperate.

I do not mean to complain.  These stories are just to give you an idea of what it is like here. This is a developing (third world) country, after all, and it is all part of the adventure.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A forest in the City

While I was in Ouaga this summer, I went to visit a big park, referred to here as The Forest. There is one entrance located near the transit house where we stay when we are in town, but I have seen other entrances on other roads, and the map shows that it is a pretty large area. Near the entrance we saw this tree, carved with several animals and people. The message on the open book, in French, is something to the effect of, “We did not inherit this from our parents but pass it on to our children.” I think the point is that this park is not something people thought of having in the past but it should be preserved for the future, as the world changes.

Here is a picture of one of the paths through the woods. As you may be able to tell, this place has quite a mixture of different kinds of trees and other plants. There are not any really tall trees, but there are not many really tall trees anywhere in Burkina Faso.

The tree in the foreground here, with the shiny leaves, is called a karaté (sounds like carrot-a) tree. From its nuts you get beurre de karaté, which you all know as shay butter.

Here is one of the few mushrooms I have seen here. I don’t know enough about mushrooms to know if this is good for food, but I sure would not take any chances!

Here is one of the strangest flowers you are likely to see. Sorry, I have no idea of its name.

There were lots of birds flitting about, but most of my attempts to take pictures of them are just pictures of leaves. This guy, however, sat nicely on the road and I was able to enlarge a little corner of my photo so you can see him.

Here are a couple of pictures of what appear to be a lot of birds swarming around this tree. In reality, most of these are big fruit bats. I was surprised to see them out in broad daylight.

This plant has lovely little thorns, as to quite a few of the plants here. If you don’t want to be eaten by the roaming goats, you had better taste pretty bad, or be pretty prickly.

Last, but not least, is this plant that looks like an agave plant. I suspect it is becaquser I understand they were imported to Europe from the southwest by the early explorers. The climate is certainly right for them here!

That's the end of the travelogue for today. Just a final note to tell you I am doing very well. My health has been fine and we just had our mid-service medical checkup, so that is official! My French is improving, although far from good, and I am happy to be here.