2007.07.11: July 11, 2007: Headlines: COS - burkina Faso: Sports: Baseball: WCSH-TV : Fresh off a 27-month stay in the landlocked West African country of Burkina Faso, Josh Yardley can thank the Boston Red Sox for making his transition from East Coast metropolis to the third-poorest nation in the world much easier

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Burkina Faso: Peace Corps Burkina Faso : Peace Corps Burkina Faso: Newest Stories: 2007.07.11: July 11, 2007: Headlines: COS - burkina Faso: Sports: Baseball: WCSH-TV : Fresh off a 27-month stay in the landlocked West African country of Burkina Faso, Josh Yardley can thank the Boston Red Sox for making his transition from East Coast metropolis to the third-poorest nation in the world much easier

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-254-10-11.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - 70.254.10.11) on Sunday, August 05, 2007 - 12:35 pm: Edit Post

Fresh off a 27-month stay in the landlocked West African country of Burkina Faso, Josh Yardley can thank the Boston Red Sox for making his transition from East Coast metropolis to the third-poorest nation in the world much easier

Fresh off a 27-month stay in the landlocked West African country of Burkina Faso, Josh Yardley can thank the Boston Red Sox for making his transition from East Coast metropolis to the third-poorest nation in the world much easier

One of his first projects involved adding more color to his surroundings. The longtime Red Sox fan decided to paint the Sox logo on the side of the 15-by-30-foot mud hut heíd be living in. What seemed like a fairly insignificant act then is something he now considers momentous. "Absolutely. Thatís the way it started. When I started painting it, I was kind of bored and wanted to dress it up a little," he said. "Painting that logo up there was only supposed to be a funny thing and something I could take a picture of and send back home, but then everyone in the village started coming over to my house and asking about it." Soon, the logo went from afterthought to conversation piece. "I didnít plan it, but it kind of just happened," Yardley said. "That was kind of how I got everyoneís attention. I guess that was my hook, so to speak." Having so many villagers take an immediate interest in him helped Yardley immerse himself more quickly into the local culture and language, and pick it up more quickly. "It was so much fun. Eventually I got to sit them down and talk to them about soccer and baseball," he said. "Theyíd explain soccer to me and Iíd talk baseball to them. It was the definition of cross-culture exchange."

Fresh off a 27-month stay in the landlocked West African country of Burkina Faso, Josh Yardley can thank the Boston Red Sox for making his transition from East Coast metropolis to the third-poorest nation in the world much easier

Red Sox a big hit with African villagers

By Andrew Neff

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bangor Daily News

Caption: Josh Yardley of Bangor gives a boost to 11-year-old Papa Traore, a member of Yardley's host family in the West African village of Bomborokuy in Burkina Faso. They stand in front of Yardley's mud hut, on which he painted a Boston Red Sox logo.

Thanks to a former Bangor High School tennis player with a thing for baseball, the borders of Red Sox Nation may have expanded even more.

Josh Yardley went from being a recent college graduate in one of the worldís most populous cities with all the modern conveniences to a rookie math teacher in an impoverished village of 4,000 people having no electricity, running water, or paved roads. Oh, one other thing... He couldnít speak the native language.

It has been said that sports can overcome many barriers and Yardley now knows the inherent truth in that statement.

Fresh off a 27-month stay in the landlocked West African country of Burkina Faso, the 24-year-old Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumnus can thank the Boston Red Sox for making his transition from East Coast metropolis to the third-poorest nation in the world much easier.

After arriving in Burkina Faso ó a country the size of Wyoming bordered by Ghana, Togo, Benin, Niger, Mali and the Ivory Coast ó in March of 2005, the Peace Corps volunteer had to take an intensive three-month French language program.

"When I got there, I knew zero French. When I got to the village, my French was passable, but they had a local French dialect called Moore[MOR-ay]," he explained. "The country has over 60 different languages."

Since his French allowed him to speak to only a small percentage of villagers, he was eager to learn Bomborokuyís local language, but because of the weather, he learned heíd have to be patient. He also found he would have much more time on his hands than he expected.

"Their rainy season is basically the same time as our summer vacation for schools, so they had no school from June through August," Yardley said. "So after I finished the French class, I was kind of bored and I knew Iíd have to start some projects to keep myself busy."

One of his first projects involved adding more color to his surroundings. The longtime Red Sox fan decided to paint the Sox logo on the side of the 15-by-30-foot mud hut heíd be living in. What seemed like a fairly insignificant act then is something he now considers momentous.

"Absolutely. Thatís the way it started. When I started painting it, I was kind of bored and wanted to dress it up a little," he said. "Painting that logo up there was only supposed to be a funny thing and something I could take a picture of and send back home, but then everyone in the village started coming over to my house and asking about it."

Soon, the logo went from afterthought to conversation piece.

"I didnít plan it, but it kind of just happened," Yardley said. "That was kind of how I got everyoneís attention. I guess that was my hook, so to speak."

Having so many villagers take an immediate interest in him helped Yardley immerse himself more quickly into the local culture and language, and pick it up more quickly.

"It was so much fun. Eventually I got to sit them down and talk to them about soccer and baseball," he said. "Theyíd explain soccer to me and Iíd talk baseball to them. It was the definition of cross-culture exchange."

Converting the masses

If the Red Sox helped Yardley get his foot in the door, he returned the favor by preaching Red Sox lore, legend and loyalty to the Bomborokuy natives, whose curiosity had been piqued by the man they named Wendpanga, which Yardley said translates roughly into "The Force of God."

"Yeah, a lot to live up to, I know," he said with a laugh. "My host family father gave me the name."

By October of 2005, Yardley was accepted into a community that boasted just one refrigerator powered by propane and one internet cafe. He was also much busier now that he was teaching math.

"It became a lot easier after the break, actually having a job and preparing lessons," said Yardley, who earned a degree in computer science and management from MIT.

While teaching and interacting with his host family (the Traores), and an "extended host family" (the Guires) he lived with when he biked to town on weekends, he began to notice a disturbing fashion trend.

"Itís so weird. Everyone all over West Africa wears Yankees stuff," he said. "I donít know if itís because the logo is so well known or that a lot of the clothes are knockoffs and counterfeit stuff, but that was the predominant team I saw represented."

That didnít sit too well with this lifelong Sox fan, so with the help of his family and friends back home, he decided to try and replace some of the pinstripes with red-and-blue.

"My one favorite kid was a neighbor of mine and he wore this bright new Yankees shirt. I sat him down and explained how that had to go because it just wasnít good to wear," he said with a chuckle.

It took seven months to arrive via ground mail, but help eventually arrived in the form of Sox merchandise.

"My folks sent a bunch of shirts and I had a ton of Red Sox Nation wristbands, so I gave them to all the kids in the village," he said. "I had a bunch of kids and students come over to my house and paint Red Sox logos and they were all drawing them. It was really cool."

Reinforcements came much quicker as air mail took only three to four weeks to arrive.

"In my village, I definitely converted some people. I didnít trade them too much because they need the clothing, so maybe I didnít take a lot of Yankee shirts off the market, but I did get rid of a few.

"There are a lot more people whoíve became interested in the Red Sox there."

The ultimate evidence of this ó and one of Yardleyís most gratifying experiences while there ó came when one local farmer gave him some exciting news last year.

"He was also the coach for our villageís soccer team and they won the championship for the entire region this past season," Yardley said. "I donít know what they were before, but he told me they changed their name to the Bambiroqui Red Sox."

Red Sox, reflection, and return

Now just over two weeks removed from leaving Burkina Faso, Yardley is still reflecting on his 27-month stay.

"They have so little, but they were just so incredibly generous. Itís a very humbling experience," he said. "It was amazing how quickly things became normal and I became acclimated to everything. It really showed me how much stuff I can live without."

Yardley was paid just $7 a day by the Peace Corps while in Burkina Faso, but that still gave him one of the highest incomes in the entire village.

"I was probably the second or third highest paid guy in my village. Maybe the mayor made more," he said. "Itís so cheap to live there, I could have actually saved up some money, but I tried to leave most of it there, with the school, church and the host families."

Yardley already misses the friends he made there.

"By far, the thing that had the biggest impact on me is the friends I made and people I became almost part of the family with."

Yardley joined the Peace Corps because he didnít know what to do with his degree, didnít want to waste time putting off a decision, and wanted to help people. He calls it one of the best decisions heís ever made.

"Yeah, I mean the thing is, I canít even compare those two years to anything else thatís ever happened in my life," he said. "I like my life, but I donít want to slip back into my life the way it was beforehand. Iíve learned a lot."

And as for a return, itís not a question of if, but when.

"I know Iíll go back," he said. "Iím going to find a way to get back there."




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