Sunday, June 22, 2014

Keep on keeping on

June 22, 2014,
Wow! Been here for just over a month now! Seems hard to believe but, c'est la verite.  Sorry for no blog post last week, I know some of you were crushed... ;-)  In fact, last weekend, I got to get out of the city for the first time, my housemate organized for a large group of people an outing to Nazinga Game Reserve which is by the Ghanaian border. This is a game reserve, meaning folks can hunt as well as just be camera tourists. I had never been to any game park in West Africa so, it was interesting. Certainly, the number of animals and the diversity of bigger animals cannot be compared to East or Southern Africa but, one thing that was really nice is that it is a much more relaxed, low-key park so I think we only saw a total of 3 other vehicles while w were there-also, this is not peak season which also helps.  Nazinga is best known for its elephants, of which it has approximately 800.  We were at the park for about exactly 24 hours and the first afternoon/evening, we didn't see any elephants, but the next morning, we got to see 2 different groups of elephants which was cool. There were some young elephants in the group and one of the mama elephants was not too pleased to have us around so she half-charged us a couple times, enough the one time to get us to speed away in the pickup. Anyway, it was really nice to get out of Ouagadougou and see a bit of the countryside. Burkina Faso, particularly now in the rainy season, is way more green and lush than I ever thought it would be. Really beautiful to be honest, lots of great Baobob trees which are just amazing to see, and during this time of the year they even have their leaves, though their fruit is pretty much done "pain de singe" is what they call the fruit here, make it also into a delicious drink, which people in Senegal also drank.

This weekend has also been a good time. Friday, after work, we had a cocktail event to honor one of the Embassy senior members and it was a really fun event.  Got to meet a lot of Burbinabe in various different positions here and had some scintillating conversation about politics here in the African continent.  In particular, we discussed the challenges faced by countries such as Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Algeria and what the futures of these places might hold.  It was really interesting to get their insight, as well as the insight of some of the other expatriates that were in attendance.  I also found out that an individual from the EU delegation went to HKS so it was fun to chat about Boston a bit with that person. Overall, a really good evening. The man who we were celebrating is on the defense side of the embassy and it was humbling to see how appreciated he was by the Burkinabe in attendance; so many compliments on what he's done and how he treats people. In his concluding speech, I really appreciated that he started it by thanking the Burkinabe for their work with him and he did it in French. That may not sound like a huge effort, but it really is and you can tell that it's things like that which have made him be such a loved member of the community here in Burkina Faso.

Saturday night, one of the Americans hosted a really lovely barbecue at their house so that was a blast to go hang out, eat some delicious foods and just chill. I was there for about 3 or so hours and then I went to la Fete de la Musique. I guess that all across the francophone world, this is a thing. I didn't hear every single artist as the concert had started at "6 pm" which means it likely started around 6:40 or so. but, I did get to hear Akilignouma, which is a really high-paced band with 2 koras, dancers who were really great. Then, I also got to hear Mariam Kone who you are most likely to have heard of as she is a very well-known Malian artist. Coolest thing about this was I got to meet her after the concert and then at the afterparty concert which took place at Bar K, we just sat next to her and her drummer as different bands took turns jamming out! It was pretty darn awesome. To me, the true star of the night was the band Ibrahim Keita (le groupe Nankama), man, they were really awesome. also had several koras and just had amazing energy as a group. There were 3 different percussionists and I, along with the hundreds of others in attenendance got our dance one. Twas really fun and I definitely encourage you to listen to them/buy them on itunes even if you don't listen to any of these others!  Finally, the start for most burkinabe was Alif Naaba. He received the biggest Burkinabe award for a musician, the Kunde d'Or this year and he is a pretty big star around these parts; everyone knew all the words.  He was good, but I will stick to saying that I liked Ibrahim Keita group better. One thing that was cool was that throughout the whole night, all the groups appealed for peace, challenged usto make Africa develop itself. There was a really cool song by Alif Naaba which talked about the brothers, cousins etc. who had gone off to Europe or elsewhere to make dreams come true but have not yet returned, either because they had died or more commonly because they found that dream more elusive than they had hoped.  It really was cool.  Definitely in terms of music and just plumb having fun, this was among the best, I'd say even the best, evening so far. I got home round 3, very happy to have listened to great music at two venues, eaten at a lovely barbecue while chatting with lots of the American staff and having got my dance on throughout the night. What more can you really ask for in life! :-)

My work continues to go well.  I feel like I am starting to remember little details of this job that are shockingly very important to people/systems: left margin vs. justified for some types of papers I write, justified with 1.5 indentation for others, this type of embossed paper for some letters, double spaces for colons, but not for semi-colons, single space vs. 1.5 vs. 2.0..... who gets copied on what etc.  What all these details mean when you're new and don't go through training in D.C. at all is that, I make/have made a good number of errors which my supervisors then fix. BUT, I do think that I'm helping the office as they really are short-handed so even if they have to fix things, I can at least get pretty strong drafts into the system for them.  I also found out that the other officer, to whom I report, will be leaving post at the end of July which means that while the new Political officer arrives, we will be short anyone who has experience here for a little time.  Luckily our Burkinabe staff are great, embassies have all sorts of systems to make up for this etc. but, what that means is that I'll be covering for 1.5 positions for a bit while the new officer situates herself.  I'm incredibly lucky, really, cause I'm getting to do some interesting work and I get to interact with just about everyone.

Okay, off for now, going to eat, take a short nap (yes, cause I've worked that hard) and then do a bit of research, cause I didn't put my hours in this week that I was hoping too! Have a great day/night wherever you are!

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