Thursday, June 25, 2009

Camp G.L.O.W

From Camp Glow

This week has been really awesome. Every year, volunteers put on camps for girls throughout the country – CAMP GLOW, girls leading our world. It’s Peace Corps sanctioned, but all of the work is done by volunteers.

I brought four girls from my village. Two were high achievers in my English classes, and two of them were recommended by the censeur. A friend helped me find a mama to serve as chaperon. I was really proud to bring a mix of girls – 2 Fulani, 1 Nago, and 1 Bariba. It was a good representation of the population of my community, and even better, it reminds people in my community and administration that there are bright young girls in every ethnic group.

The week is not close to over, but already they’ve seen and done some amazing things. They’ve gone to the local ancient history museum. They went to the radio station, where the Fulani girls were interviewed in their language for the local Fulani emission, and several other girls were interviewed in French for the news. Finally, they were given a tour of the university. Now that they’ve seen these things, they can set their sights on higher education.

From Camp Glow

In our internal sessions, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about personal health and wellness. I personally have done presentations on drinkable water and electricity. Other sessions include dealing with sexual harassment (specifically from teachers), gender and development, sports (yogo, Frisbee, etc), and computers (for some, it was the first time they had touched a computer).

From Camp Glow

There’s much to come. Tomorrow, the girls will be taken out by “Maman Modeles.” These are mothers who work in the community as government workers, bankers, and so on. Throughout the week, we’ve tried to give them many examples of successful Beninese woman. We want to encourage them – you can be this!

Best of all, I’m looking forward to getting back to the village and working with these four girls to start a girls’ club. I’ve been scared of this, mostly worried about what people will think or assume (as a result of the fact that most male teachers are constantly making advances), but now I am feeling courageous. I think these four girls can make a real difference in our village if I push them along.

From Camp Glow

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Capitol Improvements Chez Jean Marc. . .

In the past couple of days my house has changed significantly. I’m liking it! Outgoing volunteers (See: Steve and Jaren Under the Mango Tree) gifted me a few pieces of furniture that, in my opinion, really complete my house. First of all, they gave me a full sized bed. Because my house is on the highway, it’s a convenient stop for friends, but until now I’ve only had a makeshift cot (“lipicot”) for them. Now, I have my Peace Corps bed for visitors and a nice big bed for myself. With the cot, I could actually sleep 4 or 5 people now!

From Captial Improvements

They also gifted me some shelving, which I really needed (and had been too cheap to buy). Now my grand salon and kitchen are looking fantastic! My kitchen is more organized than ever!

And to boot, the day after my porch was covered! When the landlord built my house for himself, he included a porch space with cement pillars to hold a roof. Maybe because he was saving money to build a nicer house, he never got around to covering it. When it rains, the rain come in the house through the doorway. When it’s hot, there’s no respite. The house bakes like an oven and there’s no shady space to catch a breeze. C’est n’est plus comme ├ža! Recently I started nagging the director du college about covering it. He’s responsible for renting my house. I wanted him to help pay for a little bit of it, since it’s for the benefit of future volunteers. I didn’t expect him to be quite so generous. He provided 2/3rd of the aluminum and paid for the work, my landlord paid for all the wood, and I just paid for 5 leaves of aluminum (about $25). Actually, it’s funny because even that seemed so expensive to me. Really, the whole project cost about $100, including a a whole day of labor for two carpenters.

From Captial Improvements

My house looks really ugly, huh? It’s funny how I’ve come to just accept it how it is. I didn’t even think about how ugly the exterior is until I took that picture. It’s probably one of 20 houses in a large village (10,000 people) with such wonderful amenities. I can’t complain!

Anyway, I’m waiting for the sun to come out so I can enjoy the shade. Go figure.

From Captial Improvements

En Vacance. . .

My Itinerary. . .

I’m very excited to be coming home for three weeks next month. The stressful part, however, is making sure I get to see everyone I want to see! Eeek. Anyway, here’s my itinerary. I know I wont see many of you, but I hope to at least talk on the phone to everyone!

Thursday, July 9th – Leave Cotonou (Just after midnight), fly through Casablanca, Arrive New York City.

Friday, July 10th – Monday, July 13th – In New York City with Erica and Ellen

Monday, July 13th – Friday, July 17th – Fly in to Milwaukee, immediately leave for Lake Wisconsin (Merimac, WS), to spend a the week with my ENTIRE (!!) immediate family!

Friday, July 17th – Leave for Minneapolis, Rehearsal and Dinner in the evening, then head with Genevieve to St. Cloud. Meet with friend at the Red Carpet, stay at Genevieve’s.

Saturday, July 18th – Morning: Breakfast in St. Cloud, Afternoon: Wedding

Sunday, July 19th – Morning with family, Afternoon: Head to Iowa.

Monday, July 20th – Monday, July 27th – Time at majestic Lake Panorama with frequent trips into Guthrie Center. Spending time with friends (you know who you are!), culminating in the wildest birthday party ever on July 26th.

July 28th – DSM to NYC

July 29th – NYC – Casablanca – Cotonou