The white woman on the grey bicycle

Three weeks have passed since our trip to Ouaga to meet the volunteers. One week of training, one week of planning, and one week of mild panic about how much there is to do.

I am happy to say I couldn’t ask for a better team (and that is genuine joy, not because they may be reading this).  Everybody has settled in to life here without complaint, even if some of the British volunteers were “taken aback by the toilet situation”. They have certainly been productive: in the last week we’ve put on 4 hours of English lessons, 5 hours of IT lessons and an hour-long sexual health class. Oh, and we met the chief. He was a happy chap.

Some people have asked what I actually do here, or rather what constitutes a “typical day”. Now that the team are here that’s easier to answer because there is at least a kind of routine. I get up at about half 6, wash off the dust and dirt that has somehow covered me in the hours that I’ve been asleep (how does that happen??) and go out to greet my host family. Fun fact: in Burkina a lot of people won’t greet you until you’ve washed your face. Possibly due to the aforementioned dirt. It’s polite when greeting someone to ask how they are, how they slept, how their health is, how their family are. I usually attempt this in a mixture of (bad) French and (worse) Mooré, and when my host mum has stopped laughing I go to sweep my house.

After breakfast (always omelette and bread) I cycle the 400m to work. It’s amazing how lazy I’ve become about walking, but in this heat it’s a genuinely slow and painful process. Cycling also gives the local children and dogs the opportunity to chase me, which is undoubtedly fun for all.

Work starts at 8, with the volunteers getting on with things and coming up with brilliant ideas, while I try not to interfere too much. There is a lot of paperwork associated with being a team leader (but nowhere near NHS standards). It’s also our job to sort out any problems that arise, and liaise with the staff of the partner organisation. Personally this is my favourite part, because the AML offices are the only places I’ve found in Loumbila with air conditioning. Our project is about teaching English, IT and sexual health to the local community and it’s going well so far. English and IT are so popular we’ve had to double the number of classes. Sexual health… not so much. This week we’re having a rebrand and attempting to attract the masses with youth clubs, free condoms, and theatre. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure there are photos.

After work our time is our own. The nurses and midwives at the health clinic don’t seem to mind that I hang around there a lot more than is necessary- I just like to see what’s going on! I have to say I’m impressed. The clinic offers a free walk-in service for absolutely any ailment, a basic maternity unit, and a comprehensive family planning service. There is no lab, so anything complicated is referred to the hospitals in Ziniare or Ouaga, but from what I’ve seen the clinic puts many UK GP services to shame.

There are other parts of village life to explore after work, like the markets and restaurants. Here is a picture of me thinking hard about buying mangoes.

We’ll be working with this cohort of volunteers for another six weeks and there’s just so much to do. Our calendar looks horrendous. But if anyone will succeed it’ll be this happy bunch.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain too much.

4 thoughts on “The white woman on the grey bicycle

  1. Hannah I LOVE reading this. You and your team are amazing. I’m so intrigued. Keep us updated. I love the thought of you being chased by kids and dogs on your push bike at 6am. So much better than worrying about parking. Xxx

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  2. Awesome post Hannah. It sounds like you are settling in nicely and probably loving experiencing such a different culture. I am jealous just a little I must admit and I really admire you for what you are doing xxxx

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