02 November 2011

Burkina Trip

So I spent the last half of October in Burkina Faso for work. It's a small, landlocked country in West Africa with pretty much the coolest name for a capital city - Ouagadougou. I spent most of my time in the capital city, but was able to go out into a few villages, which was definitely the highlight of the whole trip. I also forgot that it was October - the temperature was about 100 degrees every day, which made me REALLY appreciate the fact that my hotel had a giant pool.

Burkina is one of the poorest countries in the world. The average Burkinabe lives on about $2/day, not even enough for a Starbucks latte here in the States. Literacy rates are extremely low and when you get outside of the cities, electricity is basically nonexistent. It's a whole different world and visiting Burkina made me appreciate all the creature comforts of home. Tape decks still rule and iPods are nonexistent - I let our driver borrow my iPod when we were out in the village and the poor guy didn't know how to switch through the songs, so he started listening to them in alphabetical order and had to suffer through Atomic Kitten, Abba and A Teens. The people there were super nice and I'm really looking forward to the next opportunity I have to go back. Here are a few pictures from the trip, since images are worth 1,000 words:

Burkinabe bike lane (psst - I got to ride on the back of a motorbike, it was great!)

An elementary school classroom

One of the households in the village we visited

Village children

As a white girl, I was a novelty. These kids had followed me to my car

Burkinabe bike shop. Really, all you need are tires, bikes, and some know-how

If you are interested in checking out a cool organization, take a look here: Friends of African Village Libraries. I heard about the organization from a friend and visited their office while I was in Burkina - they work with villages to install libraries so that local children will have more to read than simply their school books. As someone who loves to read (I read 6 books during the two weeks I was in Ouagadougou), I can't imagine my childhood without books. And this organization works with the villages to ensure there is buy-in and local responsibility for these libraries. I was really impressed with the whole business model and concept. Take a look!

Part of me wishes I had taken more pictures; but the other part of me is glad I didn't. As much as I want to try to capture everything I'm seeing over there, I know there's no way the pictures can do it justice. I also feel borderline exploitive when I take the photos - I know that many of the kids and adults like having their photo taken, but I feel guilty that it's basically for my own pleasure - there isn't any way I can print and give them a copy right there.

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