When you live in West Africa…

  •  You spray mosquito spray and then sniff it. It might smell good. You never know until you try.

 

  •  You call bug spray mosquito spray.

 

  •  It’s only marginally frustrating to try 4 ATMs before you find one that will read your card AND actually has money in it.

 

  •  When a YouTube video starts streaming for a second, it seriously freaks you out and you just assume the internet is getting ready to go out.

 

  •  Getting a link to a video is like a care package getting lost in the mail. You know it’s gonna be great, but you know you’ll never see it.
  • 6. 90 degrees and 10% humidity during the day means you wear sweats at night.
  • The “blessings” you get from national friends for the New Year range from wishing you good health to professions of love for you and everything in between.

 

  •  You visit America and feel like all the hugging between genders is borderline inappropriate, but you don’t think see anything wrong with men walking down the street holding hands.

 

  •  When people understand English and are eavesdropping on your conversations, you add a lot of words like fuzzy into the conversation because there’s no way they know what that means.

 

  •  You ask things like, “are they more aggressive than normal?” in reference to the comments coming from the men on the street as you walk past and no one in your group finds the question odd.

 

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the day i was held at gunpoint

The kids in my neighborhood are SO CUTE. They’re so cute I want to die

They know that I will let them sit in my car when I pull into the compound and that if I have candy, I’ll share it with them. They know that I won’t buy them soccer jerseys or hire them to feed my cat. They know that I don’t like snakes and will give them large quantities of candy to kill them. They also know that I won’t give in to their requests unless I want to. That’s why I won’t buy them a new soccer ball when they pop their old one.

I figure I live here and I can’t start any habits that I don’t want to continue (like buying balls that I know will be flattened in less than 24 hours).

I wasn’t planning on going to pizza night at my pseudo supervisor’s house last Friday, but mid-morning I was talked into it. I realized I didn’t have time to make a desert, but I had just gotten a care package with 4 boxes of Girl Scout cookies in it.

**Shout out to my mom’s friend who sent them! You made me the envy of the American expat community in Ouaga!**

So, I decided to take a box to share. I mean, this family shares their Dr. Pepper with me…samoas1

My car was parked on the street, so I walked out after lunch with a box of cookies in my hand.

My neighbor kid came up and asked for one. Knowing that he wouldn’t appreciate the true value, I said no. I gave him some peanuts, instead.

He took the peanuts and I started to get in the car. I looked down and he had a gun pointed at me and was yelling at me to give him the cookies.

I should take the time to tell you it was a toy gun.

You gotta be serious about cookies to do that.

The things that happen in my neighborhood… wouldn’t trade it for anything… except for maybe a cooler house during hot season.

 

27 years ago, one of my favorite people in the world was born. Happy Birthday, Chels.

I’m not in the states to make something embarrassing happen to you, so I’ll just reminisce about the good ole days.

Chelsea and I met on the first day of Freshman orientation. We were in the same “family” during orientation and our friendship just kind of stuck. 

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We are hilarious. I would hate us if I wasn’t one of us. 

We’ve had some good times together.

Watching Grey’s Anatomy until 5am.

That spring break trip to Chicago with Heibsch where we did NOT bring warm enough clothes.

Dressing up like guys for “drinking in the alley”.

Countless trips to Springfield.

That road trip from hell to Atlanta for Passion.ImageThe shower trucks in New Orleans. 

All of the birthday parties.

Playing the favorites game in the Emergency Room.

Operation double D.

WORKING IN LAUNDRY.

Dance parties in the Freshman lot.

Road trips to Clinton.

Girl Talk.

Making ourselves sick on sparkling grape juice.

Filling my apartment with balloons for my surprise party… 

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Chels, you were an answer to prayers for a friend when I was scared out of my mind heading to a college I didn’t want to go to. I’m so thankful for you putting up with my sarcasm and opinions and forcing me to think about other’s feelings. You’re the best! 

bad choices that are really good choices

One time I asked the Lord for wisdom because he says if you ask for it, he’ll give it to you and so I figured, “why not’?”.

That was dumb. Bad choice, Bridge.

It’s like asking for patience.

If you ask for it, he’ll put you in situations where you have to use it, like… you know… making you move to Africa and run an office or some such craziness.

SOOOOO, yesterday I changed my mind. I’m not really interested anymore. Thanks, but no thanks.

Then, I asked again this morning for wisdom.

Turns out, I’m in too deep. I can’t stop now or the results would be disastrous.

It’s a good thing The Lord knows what’s up.

 

 

Bread.

I got a text today that said, “went with the girls for baguette and we waited 20 minutes before it arrived by bike”. 

I first had to think about why that was worthy of a text. When you have a prepaid phone, you think about these things (which is a whole new level of weird… because who has a prepaid phone????). 

Then, I started thinking about what I would do if I wanted bread in the states. It was a weird 3 minutes where I thought about the bread aisle at walmart and thought about bagels. I thought a lot about bagels. And toast. Yum. Toast. 

When I got here, I thought it was cool that I could get a baguette straight from the bakery for 20 cents. Now, I just want a dang loaf of bread that doesn’t cost $8 so that I can have a dang piece of toast. 

Oh, how things change.

Now, bread comes from a bike and it isn’t wrapped. I drive around and run errands with an unwrapped baguette in my front seat. When the bakers are on strike, I go to 5 bakeries hoping for some bread. When I go to the bakery on the way home from the office, I don’t think it’s weird if they say, “le pain est fini”. The bread is finished. Boo. 

Life is so different. It’s nice to have someone new to West Africa to remind me of the weirdness:)

 

 

cause and effect

I would like to carry and hand out a booklet of cause and effect examples for Burkinabé men. It will discuss how I will react to their behavior.

  •  Tell me I “have a form”. Yeah, I know that calling someone fat isn’t rude here, but I am an American. If you tell me I have a form, I will 1. assume that you’re a Rasta. 2. assume your next statement will be, “you’ll never learn French if you don’t sleep with an African”. and I ignore you from that point forward. Even if you chase me down the street. I will still ignore you. There is no coming back from those statements. They might work on Europeans and maybe Peace Corps girls, but not on me.
  • Propose to me. See what happens. I can pretty much guarantee that I will laugh at you and then say something along the lines of, “My father would not agree, but you can learn English, travel to America and ask him yourself”.
  • Touch me. At all. For any reason. If you’re lucky, I’ll just yell at you. I might hit and/ or kick you, though. You might end up being chased off by old Muslim men with sticks. I can’t make any promises other than the promise that I’ll freak out on you.
  • Tell me I’m beautiful. I will say thank you, but that’s it. I know you’re just blinded by the white. I know, I’m REALLY white. That doesn’t mean I just got here, though. I am just really white. You should have seen me when I first got here. I look a lot more African than I did.
  • Ask me if I’m Peace Corps. I will actually stop and talk to you, if for no other reason than to correct your mistake. There are a lot of things I can let slide, but being mistaken for Peace Corps is not one of them. You should prepare yourself to endure a bible story and repeat it to me. I have to make you suffer for calling me Peace Corps and listening to my French is probably the most painful thing, judging by my feelings when I listen to your English.

I think this is a tool that will make my life less obnoxious. That, or I could just never go anywhere alone. People leave you alone when you’re in a group. Too bad I’m the only one on my team…

Halfway.

I’ve made it halfway through my term. In a year, I’ll be back in the states (unless I extend).

All I have to say about that is, “WHAT!?!?!?!?!?!”. A year ago I was in the beginning phases of training in the states. I was just meeting people who are, even though they are spread across the planet, so precious to me. It seems like that was another lifetime ago. I am for sure a different person now that I was then, if for no other reason than I haven’t used a Clorox wipe in 10 months.

I am leaving this place in one year. I am going to be messed. UP. I am going to be that weird kid that went to Africa and doesn’t fit into life in America anymore. You know what I’m talking about, right? Everyone knows one of those kids. Well, get ready because that is going to be me.p>

Some days I daydream about the moment I step off the plane in America. Some days the thought of being constantly surrounded by Americans makes me want to die.

Most days, I forget that I live in a crazy place. I forget the things that aren’t normal in the states. Life here has become normal, for the most part. When I leave early in the morning and the men on my street are standing outside their gates in only towels chatting it up, I don’t have a weird look on my face. I don’t think about the fact that driving here involves weaving in and out of traffic. I can’t remember what it is like to have electricity ALL the time. It’s exciting when I go a week with running water every time I turn on the faucet. I don’t mind that the kids in my hood have a tire swing at my gate. I consider it a victory when I walk down the street and don’t have men yelling after me. I can understand when people say things to me. I am still never bored while driving down the street, but I’ve forgotten all the things that used to be so funny. They’re just normal now. It’s a very odd feeling.

Return from Outer Space: Once I Went to the First World and FREAKED OUT

I just took a fabulous vacation to visit fabulous friends in fabulous cold weather locales. I felt like I was visiting another planet. I thought my brain was going to explode multiple times. Thanks, culture shock. 

Near Brain Exploding Moments:

1. I was standing in line at customs in London and I had a minor freak out inside my head because how was I supposed to find my white friend in a sea of white people?????? I found her. Phew, that was a close call.

2. I ate chicken and it changed shape and texture when I chewed it. It was not one bit rubbery. Not. One. Bit. Also, I realize that I am a person I don’t recognize because I ate all the meat off that bone. Pre-Africa Bridge didn’t eat chicken off the bone. Boneless skinless chicken breasts only. No more. Next thing I know, I’m gonna be craving some pigeon.

3. My sweet friend took me into a drugstore and I lost my mind. I started crying in the drugstore. There were so many kinds of hairspray and conditioner and DEODORANT. My sweet friend was so patient about having a friend who is a crazy person.

4. The restrooms ALL had 1. flush toilets 2. toilet paper 3. soap 4. paper towels or hand dryers. Whatever. (Please remember that we are excited to go to the American Embassy because they have all of these things in their bathrooms).

5. Escalators. It was almost like I forgot how to use them. I was like Will Farrel in Elf. Embarrassing.

6. I drank water straight from the tap! It came out of the tap and it was clear. Also, took a shower in clear water. It was not one bit orange. GLORY.

7. Broccoli, peaches and starbucks. Also, milk that came already in liquid form and had to be refrigerated. WHAT?!?!?! I forgot how wonderful these things are. Also– CHIPOTLE. So good.

8. English church service. I was a MESS. I understood it all and it was beautiful.

9. Malls, IKEA, the freaking APPLE STORE. I went to the Apple store toward the end of my vacation and I kid you not, walked about 5 inches into the store and stopped and couldn’t move. Awkward. I went crazy in Ikea. I bought everything. I literally had a table in my checked baggage.

10. Disneyland Paris. When you get the chance to go to Disneyland for free, you take it. I was riding Space Mountain and all I could think about was what would happen if I took my African friends and made them ride that thing. I can pretty much guarantee it wouldn’t be pretty. I would probably lose all my African friends.

I realized my vacation was over when I got on the plane for my connection to Ouaga. A bunch of young Burkinabé guys started taking my picture and yelling that they wanted to marry me and I said to myself, “you’re back”. I knew for sure when I stepped onto the tarmac and it was still radiating heat at midnight. I love this place, but sometimes it feels like such extremes can’t possibly exist on the same planet. I serve a God who likes diversity, that’s for sure:)

Life in Africa: Reverse culture shock from CNN

My coworker and I had some reverse culture shock the other day. We were in the American embassy and there was a tv. Let me begin by saying that I don’t have a tv and so the fact that there was something that wasn’t a computer to watch was a little bit blowing my mind. It started off on RTB, which is a Burkinabé tv station that is RIDICULOUS (read: African). We were mostly just making fun of it, but then they changed it to CNN. We stopped and were glued to the tv. We seriously couldn’t stop watching. It was CNN international and most of the people were British, but who even cares? Not us, that’s for sure.

After watching for a while, they started showing people who had recorded their opinions and posted them on the internet. About a football (soccer) game. We were astounded that they were actually playing them on CNN. THEN… THEN… the most ridiculous thing happened. That thing is named they put up a infared heat map of the football game. Please tell me this is not a thing in the states now. If it is a thing, please don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. I will just wait until next April and then group that in with the rest of the culture shock I will be experiencing.

Driving in Africa: The Time I Almost Killed 11 People and 1 Chicken

I figure what a better way to break in the new and improved blog by sharing a near- death experience. Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad, but it could have ended badly.

Monday and Tuesday I made a little trip out to the village with a coworker, a trustee from my organization and a volunteer. I am not cut out for life in the village long-term, but I really enjoy short visits. I needed a break from the office, so I tagged along.

I was a good little Logistics Coordinator and I followed my own advice and checked the fluids and the tires before we left.

I started out by running into the péage, which is like a toll both. It was just the mirror and it didn’t do any damage, just a little scratch on the plastic.

This little village was off of a road that was a little bumpy. It was basically like driving on rumble strips for an hour and a half. If someone besides me was driving it probably would have been only an hour, but it took us 1 1/2.

We got to the village no problem.

After dinner, we set up our tent. Inside the house. The coworker I was with had a bad experience over Christmas with rats eating her hair, so we solved the problem by sleeping in a tent inside. Please just imagine the 30 kids crowded in the doorway watching the crazy white people set up a tent inside. Hilarious.

We had our meeting and got ready to leave. I opened my door and the side mirror that I had hit fell off. Not the whole thing, just the actual mirror part, which was actually just a replacement glued in, but still an important part of driving here.

So we load up and of course there were about 7 people who needed a ride, so we all piled in and started down the road. This village had a bicycle path but no road, so it was a little hard to tell what was going on with the road conditions. We got to the next village and the road that was actually big enough for my truck and dropped a few people off and started down the road.

I said I thought I had a low tire, so we stopped and looked and decided it wasn’t too low to make it to the next village to air up, rather than changing the tire.

Went to the next village and they didn’t have anything to put air in truck tires, just bikes and the kid ended up letting more air out.

We loaded back up and continued on. I started feeling something bump under my feet, but we couldn’t figure out what it was. Then, I started feeling it in the steering wheel. Couldn’t figure out what it was, so we just continued slowly to the next village. There, we discovered one of the lug nuts was missing, one bolt had snapped and ALL of them were loose on that tire. The tire shop guys did I don’t know what and we got back in and started down the road. Remember this road is like driving on rumble strips, so it’s hard to tell what’s going on.

Got about 2 seconds down the road and I stopped because something wasn’t right. Oh, that was because they didn’t tighten the nuts when we stopped. I was really thankful for the volunteer being male, because normally I’m the one that has to do these things. He tightened them and we continued to the next town, where we hoped to buy a new lug nut.

We arrived in that town and realized that the missing lug nut wasn’t just missing, the bolt had also broken. So we have 2 broken bolts and only 4 lug nuts holding on the wheel. We air up the tire, tighten the nuts and get back on the road. We had to be back by dark and it wasn’t something we could easily get repaired, so we just went back.

I drove slowly (even for me) and we stopped every 30 minutes to tighten the nuts and made it safely. The biggest disaster was the chicken we were given pooping in the floor.

I wasn’t panicked at the time, but this morning when I was talking to the office guys and the mechanic, I realized how big of a problem it could have been. Praise Jesus for protecting us! I also didn’t realize how stressful it was being the one driving when I knew there was a problem!

On a side note, if you’re even still reading, we had an awesome meeting with the women in that village. They are developing a farming project to help women in their area and had a GREAT plan. I’m super excited to see if it gets approved and what happens. We were seriously impressed by their proposal, they’re planning on raising sheep and eventually supporting a M from their association to go to another village with the money they make.

Check out BGR for awesome projects like this, as well as relief projects that are happening all over the world!