2006.04.01: April 1, 2006: Headlines: COS - Burkina Faso: COS - The Gambia: Raritan: The Gambia RPCV Chris Walsh writes: "Burkina Faso: Walden in West Africa"

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Burkina Faso: Peace Corps Burkina Faso : The Peace Corps in Burkina Faso: 2006.04.01: April 1, 2006: Headlines: COS - Burkina Faso: COS - The Gambia: Raritan: The Gambia RPCV Chris Walsh writes: "Burkina Faso: Walden in West Africa"

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-245-111-32.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - on Saturday, June 17, 2006 - 6:37 pm: Edit Post

The Gambia RPCV Chris Walsh writes: "Burkina Faso: Walden in West Africa"

The Gambia RPCV Chris Walsh writes: Burkina Faso: Walden in West Africa

The typical American woman one encounters in West Africa is a Peace Corps volunteer, a missionary, or a Foreign Service or NGO employee. She is white, well-educated, well-intentioned, sandal wearing, makeup eschewing. The PCVs are tan and often don't shave their legs or armpits. The missionaries are usually very pale. Bonnie wore makeup and pumps. Unlike the NGO or Embassy people who would say, "Don't worry about that spill, staff will take care of that," she was not used to having a maid.

The Gambia RPCV Chris Walsh writes: "Burkina Faso: Walden in West Africa"

Against Fluency; or, Walden in West Africa

Apr 1, 2006


I WENT TO Conakry because they invited me there to speak. I'd never been invited anywhere before, not "to speak." I liked the ring of that.


Africa would be balm. As a Peace Corps volunteer in The Gambia a decade before I had come to feel that life has wider margins in Africa. Things move more slowly there. One can take one's time, one can take naps. And one can, thanks to widespread illiteracy, escape the written word.

Now, illiteracy is a terrible thing. There are brake-fluid bottles on which raised plastic letters announce, WARNING: POISONOUS. DESTROY THIS CONTAINER. DO NOT REUSE FOR DRINKING WATER. I have seen these bottles, a handy six-ounce-or-so size, several times, and in only one place-the hands of young West African mothers, raising them to their babies' puckering mouths. Illiteracy is terrible.

The illiterate, however, have better memories and longer attention spans than we do. The unschooled African villagers I have known have struck me as there in a way no hyperliterate person (always consulting his mental notebooks) ever is. Walter Ong noted that while the spoken word brings people together, literacy isolates them. Milan Kundera laments the modern phenomenon of "graphomania," in which people use words not as bridges but as walls. But there I go quoting people again.

Ouagadougou, unlikely as it sounds, would be my Walden, the site for my self-repossession. The capital of Burkina Faso, the city has a million people, maybe a million and a half. There are radio stations and newspapers and internet cafs, but Burkina is one of the poorest countries in the world. One evening I sat at a little outdoor bar and had poulet televise. This is a whole chicken-they run very small-roasted on a spit behind a glass window. Delicious with salt and hot pepper and cold watery Brakina or Flag beer. A child of ten or so bussed my plate away and called a friend to him. Together these boys stripped away the bits of meat I had left on the skinny bones.

They ate the cartilage and sucked the marrow.

At rush hour the main intersections of Ouaga fog over with the exhaust of mopeds and old Mercedes, Peugeots, and Renaults. These cars are the most lasting legacies of the many aid organizations that have alighted in Burkina. Off the bustling and desperate drags, though, the roads are sand and dirt, and one feels the quiet of the village, a quiet made deeper by the village sounds-a cattle's low, a roosters crow. Peddlers walk by selling shoes, blankets, chickens. A singing boy tends a herd of goats. Stalks of millet dry on rooftops. Watching a hobbled donkey kick up dust into the late afternoon light, I felt there was something positively biblical about the Sahel: the open wells and thorny bushes, the date palms and hot sun and arid, colorful marketplaces, the asses and camels.

These are all symptoms of "underdevelopment," I suppose, but that doesn't mean they don't have a wonderful simplicity and peace. The endemic fatalism, the god-willingness of everyone, is kind of nice, too. In sha'allah, people often say here-if God wills-and they mean it.

I went to Ouagadougou, more practically speaking, to teach American literature. (I may have soured on the literary enterprise, but I had also unfitted myself for most other life endeavors.) The university students were on strike when I arrived. Then the government shut down the campus. When the authorities came to terms with the students, the professors went on strike. These troubles gave me time to work on my French, explore Burkina, and play softball.

When this story was posted in June 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
Chris Dodd considers run for the White House Date: June 3 2006 No: 903 Chris Dodd considers run for the White House
Senator Chris Dodd plans to spend the next six to eight months raising money and reaching out to Democrats around the country to gauge his viability as a candidate. Just how far Dodd can go depends largely on his ability to reach Democrats looking for an alternative to Hillary Clinton. PCOL Comment: Dodd served as a Volunteer in the Dominican Republic and has been one of the strongest supporters of the Peace Corps in Congress.

The RPCV who wrote about Ben Hogan Date: June 6 2006 No: 912 The RPCV who wrote about Ben Hogan
Probably no RPCV has done more to further the Third Goal of the Peace Corps than John Coyne with the Peace Corps Writers web site and newsletter that he and Marian Haley Beil have produced since 1989. Now John returns to writing about his first love - golf in "The Caddie who knew Ben Hogan." Read an excerpt from his novel, an interview with the author and a schedule of his book readings in Maryland and DC this week.

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The Peace Corps Library Date: February 24 2006 No: 798 The Peace Corps Library
The Peace Corps Library is now available online with over 40,000 index entries in 500 categories. Looking for a Returned Volunteer? Check our RPCV Directory. New: Sign up to receive PCOL Magazine, our free Monthly Magazine by email. Like to keep up with Peace Corps news as it happens? Sign up to recieve a daily summary of Peace Corps stories from around the world.

Vasquez testifies before Senate Committee Date: June 3 2006 No: 905 Vasquez testifies before Senate Committee
Director Vasquez testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on his nomination as the new Representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture replacing Tony Hall. He has been the third longest serving Peace Corps Director after Loret Ruppe Miller and Sargent Shriver. PCOL Comment: Read our thanks to Director Vasquez for his service to the Peace Corps.

PC evacuates East Timor, hopes to return Date: May 9 2006 No: 890 PC evacuates East Timor, hopes to return
Volunteers serving in East Timor have safely left the country as a result of the recent civil unrest and government instability. Latest: The Peace Corps has informed us that they are monitoring the security situation on a daily basis and that it is the intention of the Peace Corps to return to East Timor if the security situation improves.

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Website wins trademark suit against Jerry Falwell

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PC Program in Chad temporarily suspended Date: April 14 2006 No: 872 PC Program in Chad temporarily suspended
Director Vasquez announced the temporary suspension of the Peace Corps program in Chad on April 14 and that all 29 Peace Corps volunteers have left the country. With a program dating back forty years (See Page 4 of the April 1966 "Peace Corps Volunteer"), RPCVs hope that volunteers can return to Chad as soon as the situation has stabilized. Congratulations to the Peace Corps for handling the suspension quickly and professionally.

Peace Corps stonewalls on FOIA request Date: April 12 2006 No: 869 Peace Corps stonewalls on FOIA request
The Ashland Daily Tidings reports that Peace Corps has blocked their request for information on the Volkart case. "After the Tidings requested information pertaining to why Volkart was denied the position on March 2 the newspaper received a letter from the Peace Corps FOIA officer stating the requested information was protected under an exemption of the act." The Dayton Daily News had similar problems with FOIA requests for their award winning series on Volunteer Safety and Security.

PCOL readership increases 100% Date: April 3 2006 No: 853 PCOL readership increases 100%
Monthly readership on "Peace Corps Online" has increased in the past twelve months to 350,000 visitors - over eleven thousand every day - a 100% increase since this time last year. Thanks again, RPCVs and Friends of the Peace Corps, for making PCOL your source of information for the Peace Corps community. And thanks for supporting the Peace Corps Library and History of the Peace Corps. Stay tuned, the best is yet to come.

History of the Peace Corps Date: March 18 2006 No: 834 History of the Peace Corps
PCOL is proud to announce that Phase One of the "History of the Peace Corps" is now available online. This installment includes over 5,000 pages of primary source documents from the archives of the Peace Corps including every issue of "Peace Corps News," "Peace Corps Times," "Peace Corps Volunteer," "Action Update," and every annual report of the Peace Corps to Congress since 1961. "Ask Not" is an ongoing project. Read how you can help.

PC announces new program in Cambodia Date: March 29 2006 No: 849 PC announces new program in Cambodia
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Invitee re-assigned after inflammatory remarks Date: March 21 2006 No: 839 Invitee re-assigned after inflammatory remarks
The Peace Corps has pulled the invitation to Derek Volkart to join the Morocco Training Program and offered him a position in the Pacific instead after officials read an article in which he stated that his decision to join the Peace Corps was in "response to our current fascist government." RPCV Lew Nash says that "If Derek Volkart spoke his mind as freely in Morocco about the Moroccan monarchy it could cause major problems for himself and other Peace Corps volunteers." Latest: Volkart reverses stance, takes new assignment in Paraguay.

RPCV admits to abuse while in Peace Corps Date: February 3 2006 No: 780 RPCV admits to abuse while in Peace Corps
Timothy Ronald Obert has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a minor in Costa Rica while serving there as a Peace Corps volunteer. "The Peace Corps has a zero tolerance policy for misconduct that violates the law or standards of conduct established by the Peace Corps," said Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez. Could inadequate screening have been partly to blame? Mr. Obert's resume, which he had submitted to the Peace Corps in support of his application to become a Peace Corps Volunteer, showed that he had repeatedly sought and obtained positions working with underprivileged children. Read what RPCVs have to say about this case.

Military Option sparks concerns Date: January 3 2006 No: 773 Military Option sparks concerns
The U.S. military, struggling to fill its voluntary ranks, is allowing recruits to meet part of their reserve military obligations after active duty by serving in the Peace Corps. Read why there is opposition to the program among RPCVs. Director Vasquez says the agency has a long history of accepting qualified applicants who are in inactive military status. John Coyne says "Not only no, but hell no!" and RPCV Chris Matthews leads the debate on "Hardball." Avi Spiegel says Peace Corps is not the place for soldiers while Coleman McCarthy says to Welcome Soldiers to the Peace Corps. Read our poll results. Latest: Congress passed a bill on December 22 including language to remove Peace Corps from the National Call to Service (NCS) military recruitment program

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When the National Call to Service legislation was amended to include Peace Corps in December of 2002, this country had not yet invaded Iraq and was not in prolonged military engagement in the Middle East, as it is now. Read the story of how one volunteer spent three years in captivity from 1976 to 1980 as the hostage of a insurrection group in Colombia in Joanne Marie Roll's op-ed on why this legislation may put soldier/PCVs in the same kind of danger. Latest: Read the ongoing dialog on the subject.

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Story Source: Raritan

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Burkina Faso; COS - The Gambia


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