Monday, February 01, 2010

Blogging while my electricity is out....

Life in Ouaga is pretty sweet. Aside from the periodic and unexpected power and water outages (1-2 times a week), everything has been great. It’s giving me a good chance to reconnect with my bat senses, even though there has been the occasional stubbed toe. I was in the shower tonight when the power cut out, so that was pretty fun getting back to my room without walking into any walls. Regardless, I have a balcony and the sky offers a gorgeous starry view… so it’s all OK by me. Plus I had the chance to catch up on my blogging. At any point in time I have at least internet, running water or electricity in my crazy big apartment, which is more than I ever had in village the first time. I figure if I keep comparing everything to the village life, I will never be disappointed. I also have my iPod and my exercise room for when nothing at all is functioning, so that’s OK, too. In case you’re wondering, my exercise room has nothing but a jump rope and a plastic mat for sit-ups, but if I didn’t use it for that purpose, it would just be an echoey, empty room that I will never use… so.. I guess it feels more hoity-toity to call it my exercise room.

The one and only thing that actually scares me some is when I'm biking in town. My only provided mode of transportation is a bicycle, unless I have my friends with cars pick me up, or I take a taxi. But every day since I've been here, I've seen at least one vehicular accident... often involving someone slamming into a bicyclist. Traffic patterns aren't anywhere in the realm of safe, and everyone seems to go where they want on the road at any given time, with little or no signaling. It actually reminds me of driving in NYC, except that 90% of the vehicles are motorcycles and bicycles. And unfortunately for me, the bicycle gets the least respect.

In other news, the job is going really well. I went through a couple of days of training to learn the business processes of the company I’m working for. Then I had another 5 days of training in the field to learn about various construction techniques using native, natural resources such as earth, rocks and granite. We constructed 5 sample foundations and foundation walls using these techniques. It was like being back in geotechnical lab at some points because I learned how to distinguish the various soil types found on site to determine which ones could be used to construct adobe homes. We also built concrete foundations and walls, but the ones using natural resources were really interesting to learn. Not only are they more environmentally friendly, but they are more practical in the heat and cold.

Our mission is to help 400 of the thousands of displaced persons reconstruct stable foundations for their new homes after having lost theirs in the catastrophic flood of last September. Between the government and all the other international agencies over here, everyone who lost their home will receive some level of aid. We began handing out coupons this week that cover the costs of labor and materials needed to construct a solid foundation for a new home. Then we will just supervise the construction process to verify that they’re using the materials provided and that the masons are using the proper construction methods. My role is somewhat supervisory, but at the moment I’m still getting my bearings and making sure I understand all the measures that have been implemented up until this point.

The Harmattan winds have begun kicking up dust at every turn, so I come home every night covered in a nice thick layer of red dirt, as it sticks quite well to sweat. However, the temperature is only in the upper 80s-low 90’s so I can’t complain until the HOT season gets here in about a month. Then I’ll be reporting temps upwards of 110, if memory serves correctly. And then I will talk more about how great it is to have air conditioning at home… except when there’s a power outage.

I have a bunch of pics and videos that take forever to download, so if I can’t get them up on this site, I will post somewhere else and post the link to them on this blog. I’m using skype at home, too, so if anyone wants to skype me, my username is stephanie.servetz .... that is, of course, when my internet is working.

That’s about all there is to report from my end. More soon…


At February 06, 2010 2:44 PM, Blogger Rick said...

Have you considered going Mad Max and tricking out your bicycle with a bunch of spikes and weapons and stuff?

You've got huge brass ones to ride around on a bike in a city like that! I'm impressed once again.

At February 16, 2010 3:06 PM, Blogger Emily Wang said...

Love this entry. I will definitely applaud the next time you enter a room! Keep the stories coming! Also, happy valentine's day lovey... any special requests for your care package? xxoo


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