Thursday, December 23, 2010

6 Months in!

December has thus far been the most exciting month for me here in Burkina. Today is officially my 6th month anniversary! In some ways it feels like I have been here for that long but in many other it does not. I have only really been on my own at my site for around 3 months so I still have a lot more integrating to do.

Like I said December has been quite the hectic month, I have been gone from my site from the 2nd or so of December. For the first part of the month I was in Bobo (South-West Burkina) with a group of other volunteers for International volunteer day (which ultimately ended up being canceled) and to march in Burkina’s 50th Anniversary parade. The first 2 days a group of 15 or so of us gardened with a group of men and women who are affected by HIV/AIDS the following week was devoted to the parade. 25 of us marched and for 5 days we had to show up at the parade route and “practice” marching. Basically we just had to be there at 6am stand around until 10am and then walk the 2 mile parade route once. Standing around in the sun was a pain in the ass butt all in all we had a really good time. It was nice to be able to spend so much time with other volunteers that were not in my sector and being that we were the only white group we received quite a bit of attention. On the day of the parade we all had to wear matching pagne outfits with heard wraps and the most uncomfortable shoes imaginable. The parade was incredible though, if you really want to call in a parade it was more of a military march with tons of military personal and zero candy! The day of there were thousands of people standing on the side of the road and a grandstand with the President, First Lady and tons of influential members of West Africa. The parade was definitely an experience and now I can say I marched (military style :) ) in Burkina Faso’s 50th Anniversary Independence parade.

Immediately after Bobo I made my way to Koupela for my regional language training. Me, 4 other volunteers who live in my area, plus our lang tutor spent 8 days 6 hours each day studying Moore.

Today I’m heading back to village to spend Christmas with my courtyard family, being that ive been gone for so long its nice to be able to spend the holidays with them. I’m really sad that I’m not back in the states for the holidays so enjoy the snow, even though I know it can be a pain in the ass (its 99 degrees here today) and enjoy time with loved ones. I miss you all and hope you have a wonderful holiday season!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Peace Corps Burkina Faso Website

Our new and improved website. Everything you need to know to keep up to date on the volunteer projects in Burkina.

Check it out

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Water water water

This is what I do to get get my water for my bucket baths, laundry, drinking water, water for dishes, etc. Granted most of the time the girls help me, because they think im unable to do most things on my own. haha

Friday, November 19, 2010

November Happenings

November didn’t start off on the best foot for me. For the first time in I don’t know how long I didn’t do anything for Halloween and not only did I not do anything I was at home in bed with a 104 degree fever. I ended up being sick for the first 4 or so days of November, and let me tell you it was not fun at all. I hate being sick in the first place (as do all people I suppose) but having a high fever in a house that feels like a hot box is miserable. It is impossible to stay cool and getting water for a bucket bath was the last thing in the world I wanted to do.

The Burkinabe definitely have a different take on how they treat people when they are sick. At home in the states most people leave you alone to rest, sleep and recover but here I was answering the door almost every half an hour because my courtyard family and pretty much most of the town kept coming over to ask “are you sick”, “what’s wrong”, “do you have malaria”, “are you going to have to go back to America” etc. Granted it was nice to know that so many people were concerned about me but at the time I wanted nothing more than to just lay in my bed (aka a not very comfortable cot) and sleep.

I ended up having some bacteria that I most likely got for eating or drinking something that wasn’t cleaned properly. Every volunteer at one time or another will without a doubt get sick like I did, here it is almost inevitable.

I started to feel a bit better on Wednesday and on Thursday I was on a bush taxi up to Ouaga for SIAO ( SIAO is a huge art festival that is held in Ouaga every 2 years. Artisans from all over West Africa come to show off and sell their art. I met up with a few friends and we spent Saturday buying souvenirs that we will take home 2 years from now. It seemed a bit ridiculous to be buying this stuff now and keeping in for our entire service but this is the only chance we will get to go to SIAO because by the time it comes around again we will no longer be here. I always love getting to meet up with the other volunteers and because of SIAO just about everyone form our stage was in Ouaga to go to the festival so I was able to catch up with a lot of people and swap stories from village.


*shopping hard

*more shopping

*fitting 7 people in a cab is always fun...lucky me i always get the front

*amazing dinner at the nicest place in Ouaga

After my long weekend in Ouaga flew by I was on a bus back to Ziniare. It has been a bit crazy here because the presidential elections are coming up on the 21st of November and Ziniare is the hometown of the president. Everyone and seriously I mean everyone has something with his face on it, pagnas, t-shits, hats, purses, cars with his poster taped to them, etc. Almost everyday there has been a rally in the villages surrounding me, it has truly been overwhelming. About a week ago Blaise himself came to Ziniare to hold a rally. I didn’t go but I heard from others and saw pictures in the paper and there was an insane amount of people who attended, he definitely doesn’t have trouble winning over people in Zinare.

Along with the craziness of elections one of the young women in my courtyard is getting married so we have had a few parties and family from all over coming by to stay with us. One of the parties I guess I could say is somewhat like a bachelorette party. All the women came to our courtyard and made about enough food to feed the entire village. They then took all that food over to a separate families courtyard when all the men were waiting. Frankly I’m not sure when the wedding is exactly because they only speak Moore in my courtyard and I still have a hard time understanding just about everything that they say. But when it does come I will be sure to put up pictures because I have been hired as the photographer. Not to shocking being that I’m the only one with a camera.

*the ladies

*cooking rice...notice the priority mail box in the left next to the goat head haha

Tabaski also took place this month ( For the holiday I went over to my homologues house where she was preparing a huge meal. Her family has taken me on as a surrogate and I spend quite a lot of time with their family. Their house is at the primary school where she (who teaches CP2/1st grade) has taken over the role as school Directrice while the normal Directrice is on maternity leave. Usually every Thursday one of her daughters and her son come over to my house where I “babysit” while she does whatever it may be. Anyways this day I spent with them and a group of other girls who came by as well. For the most part we just sat a round chatted, drank bissap, and ate. The girls also did some song and dance numbers for me that were pretty entertaining. All in all in was a great day.

*All my girls, and Soule

*taking a nap with a full belly

As for work things are going really well. Zalia (my boss, the women in charge of all GEE volunteers) came by to do a site visit. She went with me to both of my schools and also went with me to see my Inspector in Ziniare. Recently I’ve taken on the role of substitute teacher and will teach classes when a teacher is sick or for whatever reason just doesn’t show up. I’ve also decided to start a girls club that will meet at my house. I have about 8 girls in CM2 (5th grade) who for some of them come over to my house all the time anyway. We will meet about once every week or two and talk about almost everything, health, schoolwork, English, nutrition, etc. I decided to keep the club open to all subjects because I feel that way if something is not working it can easily be changed and I want the girls to choose subjects that are interesting to them. On top of that my satellite school is going to plant moranga trees in water sachets in January and then in March at the beginning of rainy season we are going to plan them in the schoolyard and sell the others and try and make a small profit for the school. Along with that a teacher at the school wants to start a theater club that focuses on girls education. Needless to say I’ve been pretty busy this past month, I’m really happy with the way things are going and I only hope things continue to go this well!

Sadly I don’t think I will get to do anything exciting this Thanksgiving so for me please watch football all day and stuff yourself with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and of course pumpkin pie with tons of cool whip!
Happy Holidays!

Saturday, October 30, 2010


My family loves that my camera can take videos, so we have recorded just about everything (including the clouds)...this is one of the little girls in my courtyard attempting to be like her Ma and pounding Benga. SOOO CUTE!

Sorry I still can't figure out how to rotate the video.

Also I added some stuff to my blog page (my connection is good today so im taking advantage of it) I now have a list of books i've been reading, in the very little free time I have, along with a list of other blogs that my lovely friends have written (here in Burkina and on the homefront).

Happy Halloween! Eat lots of chocolate for me! :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

2 Months In!

I always want to write something for my blog but I never really know what to write. I have so much to talk about and want to share with you all, I’ve had some really great experiences. Ill just write down what comes to mind and we will see how this comes out…

About this time next week it will be my 2 month mark in village, in some ways I feel like I have been here much much longer but at other times these past months have went by relatively fast.

Because I’m still within my first 3 months were not actually allowed/advised to start any projects. Around the middle of January (over my birthday!) we all meet back up for a couple more weeks of training. Right now we are supposed to be concentrated on integrating and learning about our community. So why not tell you a little about them as well?!

School started here on October 1st and since that day I have been going to sit in on the classes. The lycee (6th-12th grade) is in Ziniare the larger town outside my village, I went by once to meet some teachers but aside from that I haven’t been there. The school is huge and a bit overwhelming, its not actually my site so I’m not sure yet if I will work there. I’ve already been spreading myself a bit thin with the other schools. Anyways Bassy (the name of the school) is like I said, huge, each class has subclasses (for example there are a couple 6eme classes) and each one of those has around a hundred students in each class. The kids come from all over and may need to bike or walk 6K or more to get to school.

My actual site has one primary school (K-5th grade) the classes are about half the size, 40 or 50 students per class. Also, here there is only one class for each grade. The same goes for my satellite village, it has just one primary school with about the same number of students in each grade. For the past couple weeks I’ve been spending time at each school. One week here, one week there. This Monday I showed up at my satellite village and the director of the school, who also teaches CM2 (5th grade) told me that the CM1 (4th grade) teacher wasn’t going to be there in the morning, she had something to do in Ouaga. He then told me I would be teaching the class. Shockingly, (not really) there are no substitute teachers here, if a teacher isn’t able to make it to school for whatever reason the kids are pretty much left to their own devices. One of the other teachers will tell them to do math problems on the board or something and that will be that. Of course you leave 50 or so 4th graders in a room and tell them to do math for 3 hrs…yeah that’s not really going to work. I was completely unprepared, I’m not a teacher what am I going to do with them? And on top of that most of the kids don’t even speak French, just Moore. Anyways, I decided to suck it up and do what most people out here want me to do, teach them English. I taught them the alphabet, numbers 1-10, how to say “my name is…” and a few greetings. They had a great time and caught on quickly but now when I go to the school some of the students just tend to yell out random numbers but hey I guess they remembered something right?

From what I’ve picked up on in my time here is that the schools aren’t having that hard of a time getting girls to school, as a matter of fact there are quite a few classes more girls then boys. The biggest challenge is study skills and continuing to attend school. In my satellite village last year there were 67 kids in CM2, to continue onto the lycee they need to pass a test, of that 67 44 did not get a high enough score to move on. There’s a bit more to it but if you don’t pass you wont move on to the lycee. So that’s one thing I know I could help with. I think the kids just need a bit more motivation and someone to help them study. I was also happy to see that both of my schools have a lunch canteen. An NGO donated rice and oil to schools here in Burkina and the schools I work with have each student bring about a kilo of beans to add to it. This way they get to eat for free all year. Granted a diet of oil, rice and beans everyday is not great for your health but its better than the kids going hungry. If things go as planned I want to plant moringa trees in each schools courtyard and have them add that to the lunches. Moringa is incredibly good for you, it has a ridiculous amount of vitamins and is super easy to grow, plus its free. I really enjoy spending time at the schools here its always entertaining to see the vast differences between here and the high school I worked at in Long Beach or any school in the states for that matter. Students and teachers get about 3 hours for lunch, and at my satellite school one of the teachers brings something to eat for all of us, and by that I mean we all sit in a circle and eat out of one bowl with our hands. The other day we had spaghetti. After we eat we pull out the mats and take a nap outside while the kids are off eating their lunch, playing, and trying to stay out of the heat. The teachers here are much more authoritative than they are in the states. I remember in elementary school loving my teachers and thinking they were the nicest people in the world. In Burkina teachers are very strict, students stand and cross their arms when a teacher enters the room and does the same when they are called on to answer a question. When a student comes to address you outside of the class they cross their arms and squat (almost like a bow) also a lot of the teachers still hit the students even though it is illegal to do so. The parents don’t mind though because they do the same at home. What I’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks is that the teachers tend to show up when they want, take breaks when they want, and answer their cell phones in the middle of class. It may sound odd to us Americans but that’s just how things are done here. At their own pace.

Today was my off day, the students at the primary school don’t have school on Thursdays so I decided to spend the day cleaning the house. I had this cubby-like shelving unit made for my room so I took out everything to clean it. It was all kinds of fun, I had tiny lizards in my dresses, crickets just about everywhere, and the best part was the scorpion about the size of a business card in with my underwear. I’ve decided now to pay a lot more attention when I’m getting ready in the morning. After that I biked into Ziniare to use the internet, send some mail, charge my computer and stop by my tailor to pick up a dress I had made along with dropping off some other fabric for another dress. I found some plaid the other day in Ouaga and it made my week.

That’s how my life is these days. Most of the time it’s a lot of sitting around reading (I read a whole book on Sunday), watching/playing with the little girls in my courtyard, trying to learn Moore, socializing with as many people in my community as I can, biking to the pump to get drinking water then walking to the well to get water for showering and washing my clothes, trying to keep up with the endless meetings, and observing classes. I try to keep myself busy, its all you can do to keep yourself from getting to caught up in your own head.

All in all things are going really well here. I’m no longer known as “Nazara” (or white person) but Christine (as close as its gonna get). I’ve started to establish a schedule and my house is becoming more of a home. The weather is finally starting to cool down. Last night for the first time I was actually a bit chilly. I loved it!

2 years is a long time to live here, even the Burkinabe think so. Every time I tell someone I’ll be here for 2 years and this is my 2nd month at site they like to remind me I have 22 months left, It’s soooo helpful. At the same time thought they tell me that by the end of my 2 years my French and Moore will have improved immensely and I will be a member of the community. That makes me happy and I can tell I’m getting closer and closer to both of those with each passing month.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

New Mail Address!

If anyone would like to send me mail I have a new address!

Kristin Chantry
Poste Restante
Ziniare, Burkina Faso

*Also if you send anything the best way is in a Priority Mail flat rate box, its the best deal :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bike Tour!

Hey all pleace check out this site and do what you can to would mean a lot to me!


Pictures! Finally!

Outside my courtyard with my buddy

The kids who come and sit with me everyday...and by that i mean soooome of the kids

My House

My Courtyard

My Bathroom! Bucket baths and a fancy hole in the ground!

More pics to come later...all i had time for now!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I have pictures that I want to post but my internet connection isn't strong enough for me to post them... so give me time I'll get them up soon!

Love and miss you all!

Im at site!!!!

I really am sorry I haven’t been able to keep this blog updated but it’s hard for me to find the time to sit and write down all that I have been up to. Most of my nights are spent socializing with the Burkinabe or spending quality me time doing nothing! Okay well here it is, a quick recap of what I’ve been up to the past 3 months…

The way Peace Corps works is that for around the first 3 months we have pre-service training (PST) where they have Burkinabe and current in-country volunteers teach us what we need to know to survive here in Burkina and do our job correctly.

We have classes every morning from 8am till about 5:30pm. Our classes cover all different topics to prepare us for our service as a volunteer. As a stage (the group of around 80 that I came with who will swear in at the same time) we have 4 different sectors, Health, Secondary Education, Small Enterprise Development, and my sector Girls Education and Empowerment. Each sector is trained on their specific job in tech sessions and then we also have sessions on Medical, Security, Cross-Culture, and of course most of the day is spent in language classes (for me French, and Moore, the local lang. that I’ll be speaking).

During PST we are assigned a host family to live with to help us with the language and really integrate into the community. For me this was the most interesting and my favorite part of PST. The Burkinabe are incredible nice and welcoming and go above and beyond to make you feel at home. Of course each one of us in our stage will have a completely different experience so I can only speak for myself and not everyone.

Our stage has had quite a different experience than the past stages because originally we were to be living in northern Burkina, we had spent about 3 nights with our host family when the US Embassy put out a Warden message saying there were some security threats in that area so all current volunteers and trainees were taken out of that area and moved to the capital until the Peace Corps could figure out what to do with about 100 Americans! This threat really threw a wrench in all of the Peace Corps plans because finding a host family for each one of us new trainees is not an easy process the family’s that were chosen went through months of training to prepare for us, their homes had to meet certain requirements for our safety and they were trained on how to prepare our food and water so we would stay healthy (such as filtering water and bleaching veggies to kill bacteria) plus this is where training had been for a while so this family’s had most likely hosted before so they knew what it was like to live with American. Anyways after a couple weeks back in the capital living at a hotel with running water and AC they found us a new city to move are training to and new host families to live with but instead this time we would be living in pairs based somewhat on our language levels.

Both of my host families were great my first family I was only able to spend 3 nights with but I loved them. It was just a small family, mom, dad, and my brother. Small families are VERY uncommon here, most families are pretty large, around 5 kids and then their kids and grandparents all living in one house or family courtyard. My family wasn’t like that. It was just the 4 of us along with some girls who worked at the house doing chores like fetching water from the pump, doing laundry and preparing dinner. We lived close to the training center so I didn’t have to bike far like some who lived out in village (17k). My family also had a TV and electricity for a light outside so at night during dinner my brother and I would watch the World Cup and practice my French. We didn’t have a bathroom in the house similar to most families so instead we had a latrine outside and an area next to that to take a bucket bath. I was so sad when we were pulled out of the north because I knew I would have really loved living with them and my language skills would have improved so quickly. A few weeks later Jen and I moved into our new host family in the new training center city. These families were only trained for about 2 weeks and most of them didn’t even know why we were here but they still opened their homes to us. My host family was larger than the first one. My host mom had 7 kids but they were all grown and didn’t live with the family, actually one of her sons is playing basketball at Manhattan University in New York and an other of her kids lives in Europe. Her children didn’t live at home with her but that doesn’t mean there weren’t tons of people around all the time. Her nephew lived with her and helped around the house and she had quite of few younger kids that worked around the house as well. In the back of the house she owned a dolo bar or what I called a dolo factory. Dolo is a local alcohol that I can only compare to a mixture of cider and wine. Its bitter and looooooved by the older ladies who would hang out and dance in our backyard. This host family had more amenities than my previous host family, we had electricity, a TV, and Jen and I had our own room with a bathroom including a flushing toilet and a shower, along with a ceiling fan and a full size mirror! We were incredibly spoiled.

Its hard to explain but so many things are different here, you have to realize that Burkina is one of the poorest countries in the world so if you had a host family with electricity or running water your living the high life. Cultural differences are pretty intense. Here the girls are responsible for almost all the work around the house and taking care of the kids and things that are incredibly easy back in the states are much more difficult here. It’s a reality check on how lucky we have it in the states.

We have finally finished stage and are now actual volunteers!! Our swearing in ceremony was in the Capital at the US Embassy it was a HUGE party with all of us new volunteers, current volunteers, Peace Corps staff and trainers, our Country Director and important members of the Burkina Government including Burkina’s First Lady. We took the oath and continued to celebrate together for the rest of the night because in 2 days we would all be off to our villages to start our work as volunteers.

Sunday August 29th all new volunteers left Ouaga to head off to our own separate sites. All I really knew was the name of my village and where it was located on a map. I had the opportunity to meet a couple of the people I would be working with in the community at a counterpart workshop a few weeks earlier. They told me a few of the problems that their community faced and what they would like me to help with, including low attendance at school for girls and boys but more commonly girls, and forced marriage.
As new volunteers we are to use our first 3 months at site to observe and integrate. PC wants us to become a member of the community and find the problems the village is facing from the inside, not as an American outsider who has no real perspective of the actually daily challenges. At the end of our first 3 months at site we are to work with the community to come up with an action plan on how to help solve some of the problems we have come across. Then each sector will meet up in Ouaga and go through another couple weeks of training on how to implement some of the programs we would like to put in place (ex. girls clubs or girls camps). So as of now I’m just meeting people in the community, trying to improve my language skills, and spending A LOT of time observing.
As for my living situation my house is in a family compound with 4 other houses. The other families only speak Moore so it makes things a little hard to understand at times but my Moore is coming around. I have 2 rooms in my house, a larger kitchen living room area and then a bedroom. I also have my own latrine and area for a bucket bath just outside the compound. As of now I don’t have a whole lot in my house just a cot for a bed, 2 chairs, a gas stove and that’s pretty much it.

PC volunteers typically stay for 3 generations for each site for a total of 6 years, 2 years for each volunteer. I’m the first person at this site so I’m the one who needs to buy everything for the house and establish most of the relationships in the community. Some volunteers are coming in as the 2nd or 3rd generation so they most likely have a furnished house and somewhat of a PC role already established in the community. In this case the new volunteer can decide to continue with what the past volunteer was doing or start new projects, its up to them and the community. Most will start their own projects and make their service their own.

My village is only about a half an hour from Ouaga and 6k from a medium sized city so again I lucked out and will be able to easily access a lot of western things that others will have a harder time finding. When I say this I mean a lot of time smaller villages have very limited food choices and may not even have cold drinks readily available. Which may not seem like that big of a deal but it’s the little things that matter here. I also lucked out because I have an incredibly motivated community who is really exited to have a PC volunteer to work with them. I have only been in my site for a week and I’ve already had the opportunity to attend a 4-day conference dealing with girl’s education and empowerment with all of the heads of the school systems. I can’t explain what a great opportunity that was for me, it really established PC in the community and allowed them to put a face to my name. I really hope that I will be able to work with most of these people in the future.

As PC volunteers we are set up with a community homologue, or a person in our village who is there to help us integrate into the community, A professional homologue, the person in the village who works in the school system, and lastly a Supervisor or someone a bit higher in the system who can help me on a larger level. My supervisor is the Inspector (comparable to a superintendent) of the larger local city, he is incredibly motivated and has lucky included me in everything, and was the one who invited me to the conference. My village is made up of 4 cartiers with a separate chief for each. The second day that I was in village my community homologue took me around to meet each chief. Hierarchy is extremely important here in Burkina and the chiefs are highly respected they are considered God-like and are consulted before anything in the community is implemented. The day after meeting the chiefs I went into the city with my Inspector and community homologue to meet other important figures related to the school system and girls education. The school system here is pretty different than the States but is really similar to that of France, it would take me forever to explain so for times sake I’m not going to.

I’m really enjoying life at my site, everyone I have met so far has been welcoming and willing to help me with everything, including fetching water from the well, doing laundry and even feeding me. It has been a huge change being around about 80 other Americans ALLLL the time to being by yourself at site. Currant volunteers say that this is the hardest time for new volunteers and really tests your strength. You need to learn to survive on your own in a place where you are being watched 24/7 and most likely the only white person for miles and they don’t let you forget it. So far each night I’ve had about 20 kids in front of my house just sitting watching me along with my community homologue who comes and visits me everyday. If my first week is anything like how the rest of my service will be I know I’m going to have an amazing 2 years and form some incredible bonds!

Side notes:
- I’m sorry if this is very poorly written and scattered im trying to write about 3 months all at once and there is soooo much that im leaving out. If anything is unclear or you want to ask me anything please please email me ( that way I can be more specific and more blunt. I also have more specific paperwork on Peace Corps Burkina that I can e-mail you!
- Also like I said I don’t have electricity at my house so im not able to use my computer let alone internet so please be patient with me.

- I do though have a cell that you can call me on anytime, it’s the best way to keep in contact with me, and it is VERY much appreciated! If you want to call me I suggest downloading Skype and calling me from that. If I don’t answer right away PLEASE try again I don’t always have my phone right next to me and when you call from Skype it says “Unknown Caller” so I have no idea who called me and there is no way for me to call you back if I don’t know who called. I also can call the states from my cell it’s a bit expensive but it is possible! ☺ My cell number is +226 74 29 03 51

- Another thing that is HIGHLY APPRECIATED and welcomed is letters and care packages!!! ☺ haha Those who have sent me something thank you so so much I cant tell you how nice it is to get things in the mail.

If you do want to mail me anything my address is:
Kristin Chantry
s/c Corps de la Paix
01 B.P. 6031
Ouagadougou 01, Burkina Faso

Good things to send would be…

Any type of food that keeps for a while such as:

Seasoning salt
Italian seasonings
Lemon pepper
Bread crumbs
Mac and cheese powder
Hot sauce
BBQ sauce
Condiment packets
Soup packets
Dried fruit (ex. cranberries, blueberries, strawberries) and nuts (not peanuts)
Beef jerky
Snacks like
Candies, gum
Drink packets
Things that can be cooked on the stove being that is my only way to prepare food
*pasta, rice, peanut butter, garlic, peanuts, canned veggies, popcorn, dried banana and mango are all AVAILABLE here

If you cant tell I’ve spent a lot of time craving food and thinking about what I would want haha
Cooking utensils
Things to decorate my house: oh you know anything cubs related, steelers related or blackhawks related (haha), or incense, candles, picture frames, calendar, etc.
New movies
Books and magazines
Toiletries: body wash, shampoo, etc.

Really anything is appreciated, its nice to have things to remind me of home and keep me connected to all of you!!

***I think this may be helpful, it’s the country overview the Peace Corps gave us in our welcome book!***


Most of the area known today as Burkina Faso was once dominated by the Mossi people, who established their empire around 1500. In 1897, France imposed its rule over the people of Burkina Faso, but it was not until 1947 that the French colony of Haute Volta (Upper Volta) was created. Full independence from the French came on August 5, 1960, with Maurice Yaméogo as the nation’s first president. Four of the six presidents after Yaméogo came into power through military coups. Thomas Sankara, who, after a coup, led the country from August 1983 until his death on October 15, 1987, was arguably the most influential of Burkina Faso’s presidents. Sankara’s charismatic leadership style, which emphasized self-sufficiency and a lean and efficient government that transferred wealth from urban centers to rural areas, was popular with citizens and created a sense of hope in the country. In 1984, the country’s name was changed from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso: “Country of the Upright/ Honorable People.” The current president, Blaise Compaore, has been in power since Sankara’s death. Compaore was the only candidate in an election held after four years of military rule, and he was sworn-in as president of the fourth republic on December 24, 1991. Compaore has won the last two presidential elections, held in 1998 and 2005, by wide margins.


Burkina Faso has few natural resources, and 90 percent of its population engages mainly in subsistence agriculture (producing peanuts, sesame, cotton, sorghum, millet, corn, rice, and livestock). Agricultural production is limited and risky because of poor soils and cyclical droughts. A significant portion of the labor force migrates annually to neighboring coastal countries, in search of unskilled employment. Due to an ongoing conflict and unrest in Côte d’Ivoire during the last eight years, however, that number has diminished. Burkina Faso is landlocked, which drives up the price of imports and is a significant obstacle to maintaining the competitiveness of exports. The primary exports — cotton and livestock — are subject to major price and yield fluctuations as a result of agricultural production conditions, in the case of cotton and livestock, and global market prices, in the case of gold. These factors, combined with a relatively undeveloped infrastructure, have contributed to Burkina Faso’s classification as one of the poorest countries in the world (with a per capita gross domestic product of $1,213). The country ranked 176 out of 177 in the 2007/2008 United Nations Human Development Index.

People and Culture

The population of Burkina Faso is approximately 13.7 million, with an annual growth rate of about 2.8 percent. Sharing borders with six countries, Burkina Faso is composed of a rich mix of people representing over 60 language or ethnic groups. The major groups include the Mossi (48 percent), Fulani (10 percent), Mande (7 percent), Lobi-Dagari (7 percent), Bobo (7 percent), and Senufo (6 percent). Islam is practiced by about 50 percent of the population; Christianity (Roman Catholicism and Protestantism) by about 20 percent; and indigenous beliefs, which continue to play a major role in the lives of many Burkinabé regardless of their religious orientation, by approximately 30 percent. The Burkinabé are known for their tolerance and acceptance of ethnic and religious diversity. While Islam is practiced by a significant portion of the population, religious fundamentalism is rare. In addition, it is very common to find Christians, Muslims, and animists in the same family participating in one another’s religious celebrations, and marriage across ethnic lines is widely accepted. The people of Burkina Faso are the country’s greatest resource. Despite their poverty, they remain dignified, extremely hardworking, and very welcoming to foreigners. Peace Corps Volunteers could not find a more hospitable group of people to work with than the Burkinabé.


Burkina Faso, a landlocked country that sits on the edge of the Sahel, is mostly flat with undulating plains. It has an area of 105,869 square miles, slightly larger than Colorado. It is bordered on the north by the Sahelian countries of Mali and Niger and on the south by Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, and Benin. While the north is mainly desert, the southern and central regions are forested. There are two distinct seasons in Burkina Faso: the rainy season from June to October and the dry season from November to May. The climate is warm and dry from November to March, hot and dry from March to May, and warm and wet during the rainy season. Temperatures range from a cool and dry 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10ºC) in November to a humid 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40ºC) before the rains begin in June. Average rainfall ranges from approximately 40 inches in the south to less than 10 inches in the north.

Food and Diet

Drinking water is likely to be of poor quality and thus will require boiling and filtering. The variety of fruits and vegetables is somewhat limited, with only one fruit or vegetable often available during any given season. Burkina Faso produces some of the best mangoes and papayas in the world, but they are seasonal. Garlic, onions, tomatoes, and a local variety of eggplant are available year-round in many locations. Other fruits and vegetables grown in the country, depending on the season and location, include oranges, grapefruits, bananas, carrots, cabbages, potatoes, beets, lettuce, and cucumbers. Burkinabé meals are simple. A typical dish consists of a staple food like rice, millet, yams, sorghum, or maize served with a sauce made from okra, various greens (e.g., spinach), tomatoes, or peanuts. Sauces may contain fish or meat. French bread is available in larger towns and villages.

(Because I am close to a large city and Ouaga I have a wide selection of veggies and can pretty much get all of this items as long as they are in season.)


Paved roads connect the largest towns and cities in Burkina Faso, and fairly well maintained buses service these routes on a regular schedule. Smaller towns and villages are served by “bush taxis” — typically overcrowded and poorly maintained minibuses that do not run on a fixed schedule. Most Volunteers do not live near paved roads, preventing daily access to motorized transportation out of their villages.

(Im located right off a main road and 6k from a large Gare so if I want I can take a bush taxi to my village or I can just go to my main city and bike to my village.)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

One week!

Hi all i only have 5 mins so this is going to be quick! all is going well ive been here for a week and love it! i have a cell if you ever would like to call and check in.
its free for me!

the weather is HOT the ppl are amazing and i love the 57 volunteers that i came here with. i just ,oved in with ,y host family and have a host brother who is 18 ill def writgh more but im between classes and still need to have luch!

love you all!

mail me anything!haha
aka food like beef jerky!

Kristin Chantry, PCT
S/c Corps de la Paix
01 B.P. 6031
Ouagadougou 01, Burkina Faso

number 226 74 29 03 51

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The time has come.

A year and a half after filling out my Peace Corps application the time for me to leave has finally come.

My luggage isn't even fully packed and this experience has already been completely different from all of my past travels. In late January '09 after I turned in my application and completed my interview I received a phone call telling me that I had been accepted and they were placing me in the Caribbean and would be leaving in February '10 . Ten months later in November I received another call telling me that unfortunately I would no longer be going to the Caribbean because the program was full. Instead in June '10 I would be heading to west Africa. At first I was extremely disappointed because for almost a full year I had it in my mind that I would be going to the Caribbean, and I mean come on who wouldn't want to live there for 27 months!

The plus side of moving my departure date back 5 months was that I had the opportunity to move back to Paris!! :) Paris was a perfect little vacation before leaving for one of the poorest countries in the world for 2+ years, and the language refresher was incredibly helpful.

I've just spent that last 3 weeks back home in Illinois tying up loose ends and enjoying as much American beer, baseball, buffalo wings and BLACKHAWKS HOCKEY as I can!!

Tomorrow morning I catch my first flight, I'm off to Philadelphia for Staging. This is where I will meet fellow volunteers who will train with me in Burkina along with meetings on what we should expect, whats expected of us, and of course more vaccinations.

The volunteers I am to meet in Philly will be with me for our first 3 months of training. The training will take place in Ouahigouya
(Why-ee-gou-ya), a regional capital about one hundred and eighty kilometers (around 112 miles) north of Ouagadougou, the capital. During this training I will live with a host family in Ouahigouya, this is where I will meet my Burkinabé (bər-KEE--bay) “home-stay” family who I will live with for most of the training. I will have my own room in their house/courtyard, and will be considered a member of their family. During this training period, my family will serve as language and cultural informants, helping me really get a feel for all aspects of the country.

If you'd like to learn more about Burkina Faso, or even just find it on a map (don't worry I had to look it up too when they told me where I was going) check out this website:

Welp, I really should get to packing! I hope you guys enjoy reading my blog. I'm not to sure how often I will have internet or how consistent I will be on updating this but I will of course try my best!

Please e-mail me (, write me, skype me (kristin.chantry), facebook me, or even send me presents. ;) Any way you find easiest to stay in touch! Your correspondence would mean the world to me!