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Teach me how to Ouagadougie

As our first week in the capital comes to a close I find it prudent to update the world on the latest goings on here in Burkina.  This past week has been one of relearning.  We have relearned everything down to the most basic levels of human functioning:  how to eat, how to sleep, how to go to the bathroom, how to order food, how to greet people, how to shake hands, how to sit, and generally how to interact with people.  It’s pretty incredible how much we have to go back to square one.

The week has been quite good.  We’ve been staying in a compound in Ouaga paired up in rooms with a fan and (sometimes) an air conditioner and internet–incredibly luxurious conditions to say the least.  We have received vaccinations, received our bikes, learned how to self diagnose some basic gastrointestinal problems, made practice malaria slides, worked on our French and Moore, and generally have enjoyed the “summer camp” vibe around the compound.

Eating out has been interesting as I’m not good enough at Burkinabe French (or Moore for that matter) to actually branch out.  We all leave in a couple hours to meet our host families and start our new lives.  Since finding out that the Ag volunteers will be serving in the Sourou valley off to the west by the border with Mali, my thoughts have turned to the local language of Jula and hope that my host family speaks both that and French.  I stress the word hope.

That’s all for now, I’m well and enthusiastic and stay tuned for my first post from my training village of Ipelce.

Packing and Preparing

I’m currently writing this from Baltimore as I’m on my last swing through the mid-Atlantic to see people before staging on June 9th.  I’m all packed up and pretty excited to say the least.  Also, I figured I could give those interested a quick list of what I packed (and maybe why I packed it)…


2 pairs of lightweight khakis, 2 pairs of lightweight casual pants, 2 pairs of work pants for field work, 1 pair of mesh shorts, 2 casual collared shirts, 2 more dressy collared shirts, 1 UV-protecting collared shirt for the outdoor work, 7 cotton t-shirts, 7 pairs of cotton boxers, 1 long-sleeve shirt, 1 pair of lightweight sleeping pants,1 scarf (I’ll be the one laughing when the cold season comes…maybe?), 1 pair of flip flops, 1 pair of work shoes, 1 pair of dress shoes, 1 pair of casual shoes, 2 pairs of socks, 1 pair of khaki shorts (don’t anticipate wearing them too much), a couple ties, 2 pairs of glasses, and 1 pair of sunglasses.  I think that’s it…


Netbook, point-and-shoot digital camera, headlamp, solar charger, 8 reusable AA and AAA with charger, external hard drive, and a USB flash drive.


4L Platypus water tank and 2 1L water bottles (they’re great because they can pack flat and weigh next to nothing), leatherman, field knife, screen tent, warm weather sleeping bag, sleeping pad, compressible pillow (thank you, Mia!), quick-dry towel, and a bike helmet.


Assorted toiletries, mesh loose-leaf tea spoon, assorted spices, pastels and sketching pencils, and a mandolin.

That should be it.  I’m sure I’ve missed a few things but that’s the general list!  Right now I’m relaxed and going through some final preparations before staging on Thursday.  Stay tuned for my first post from Burkina!

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Jason Tsichlis

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June 2011