Things I Used To Suck At But Since Having Been Here, Suck Slightly Less At

I’ve got like 2.5 hours of straight chilling in internet before Dad and Chad arrive and I AM WAY TOO EXCITED TO DO ANYTHING ELSE.So enjoy this blog post of self validation. Rather, enjoy this list of self validation. Because lists are neat and organized and for the most part I live a life of disheveled sweatyness so let me get away with this lack of eloquence.

Things Hadden is now kind of not awful at in life:

1. Biking in a skirt. No way in hull was I wearing pants all through hot season (100 deg at night, let’s not talk about high noon). So suck it J. Crew, I have mastered stylish whimsicality in Burkina. And I think I’ve only flashed like 120 people, tops!

2. Picking my battles. No, I don’t need to lecture the drunk man calling me over to talk only because I’m a woman and he can totally tell me what to do because #patriarchy of the importance of second wave feminism. Yes, I do need to constantly remind everyone that my top students in math are not, in fact, all boys. And also that you can’t just tell me you want to marry me. You have to take me out to dinner and present a 3 karat diamond ring from Tiffany’s (will accept family heirloom pending further negotiation). Just kidding, you can’t marry me because I don’t want to. And I feel very strongly about everyone I talk to understanding that No means No.

And yes, I do need to babysit my tailor for 2 hours while he re-works a dress so I don’t feel like a total Frumplestiltskin when I go to work. This is crucial.

3. Local Language. My French still sucks, though. Whoops.

4. Patience. Let’s be honest, this one is a very slight improvement. Now, instead of flipping a table when my 14 year old students have trouble multiplying 7 and 9, a little part of my soul simply dies off, and we do more practice problems.

5. Leaning In. Happy? Be happy. Take that happy ass out on the town. Kiss babies, play soccer, day drink millet beer with the locals. Sad? Angry? Frustrated? Allow these feelings, go eat some fried dough and read Barbara Kingsolver. Chances are your snack lady will throw in a gift and every thing will be wonderful.

6. Liking Thunderstorms. They are actually the coolest things about being in Burkina because 1. Lighting is so baller here and 2. Sun is so overrated. Seriously, could probably do without it for the next year or so.

Enjoy the rest of your summer, peeps! And pray for my students again come October, they gon’ need it.

S6. Liking Thunderstorms



So I Crashed This Baptism

Well, not really crashed. These women at a preschool I started hanging out at (bc children are the future etc but mostly bc we sing songs in french and my french is comically heinous), told me that I should swing by.

So I did.

And knew no one.

It’s one thing to crash a baptism. It’s another thing entirely to be the only white person at a baptism of 75 Burkinabé. There’s no hope whatsoever at blending in. So I own this and start greeting the crap out of everyone. Eventually I’m directed into a room where (oh thank god) pre school tantie is hanging out (note: “tantie” is a way to address a woman older than you with respect. At preschools, all women teachers are “tantie” and men are “ton ton”)

I was then informed I showed up just in time to eat (YASSSSSSSSS) so I end up sharing a bowl of rice, macaroni, cabbage, and a sheep’s leg with three other tanties.

Let’s talk about this rice for a minute. It was cooked in hellfire. But a special kind of hellfire where heat is retained for HOURS after it’s been elevated from the circle where all of the lusty peeps are hanging out, through purgatory, and into the bowl we were eating out of.

Yet another digression:
Most of the time, I use silverware. But I happen to be a particularly bougie volunteer who hangs out with particularly bougie Burkinabé. On the rare occasion I eat rice with my hands, here’s how it goes down:

1) scoop rice out of the bowl with your right hand (the left hand is reserved for less savory activities)
2) form rice into a ball using squishing/ rotating techniques with your fingers
3) eat rice ball out of your fingers (or, if your me, shove rice ball into your trap because apparently, you haven’t seen food in days- or at least since this morning)
4) repeat

Now, not only am I bougie but (kind of related) I’m a delicate flower who simply cannot function is times of duress, or when faced with rice cooked by Kahleesi’s Dragons (Khaleesi?? Sharon if you read this, help me out). So. Every time I go in for the scoop, I whimper even though my insides are screaming “YOU ARE STRONGER THAN THIS BOWL OF RICE. GET IN THERE MARTINEZ AND STOP BITCHING”

One of the tanties notices, takes pity on me and starts removing balls of rice, blowing on them, and giving them to me to eat like the baby bird that I am.

I later noticed a mother doing this with her 2 year old child. Whelp.

After we eat we all go home to rest and are coming back in a few hours for dancing and would I be coming back?

For dancing? Duh.

Roll back to the party post rice coma and jump in the circle dance. Here’s how dancing works:

1) you all dance around in a conga line that eventually turns into a circle
2) the beat speeds up. That’s your cue to rush the stage
3) the song ends, clear the dance floor until they start singing the same song for the nteenth time and start that conga line again.

Occaisionally, you will be met with what I like to call the “whoo-girl tantie”. This woman will grab your hand, raise it above your head and yell “WHOOOOOO” like a drunk college girl. This is hilarious bc usually this woman is about 60 or 80 years old.

After busting a move (and busting everyone’s gut with my fancy footwork) I head home to feed my animals and sweat myself to sleep.

And that’s what I did last Sunday.

Signs You’ve Been In Country Too Long (At the 7 month mark)

-Ivorian music starts to sound good.

-Getting things done during the 12PM-3PM repose (African siesta) is damn near impossible because that’s naptime.

-Basic computational math becomes rocket science (this is likely induced by the heat, or paying for something in your 3rd language).

-Tea length skirts and dresses are totally cute and a universally flattering cut, why would you even want to show your knees?

-Stomach cramping and horrendous bowel movements are normal, so long that it doesn’t happen more than 3 times a day for 3 consecutive days. Also those roadside fries were worth it.

-Wanting to wash down that plate of rice you just had with a loaf of bread. (Is butter a carb?)

-Sitting in silence while those around you have animated conversations in a melange of 3 different languages you really don’t understand counts as “social plans”. And you start to look forward to these.

-Mixing French/ local lang words into your daily vernacular in English becomes second nature (see above usage of “melange”)

In other news, my wonderful friend Bridget graciously invited me down to her village to party in the New Year which was wonderful and we got to do lots of fun “village” things like pump water, eat our weights in rice and spaghetti, and dance like maniacs.

Sooooo….It’s Been A While

Hey y’all!

A quick breakdown of the last 4 months:

-Moved to my site, Dedougou, it’s awesome, I have good food here. And sweet, kind, ladies who made good food for me. So I’m pretty well set up.

-Started teaching math. I teach 2 classes that are the equivalent of 7th grade and there are 85 kids in each class. Let’s just say teaching is not my forte, which is why I….

-Started tutoring at my Lycee. I work with exam classes (3eme and Terminal, and at the end of each of those grades the students have to take a huge national exam) to teach them english and math. They’re a bit older than my students and because they have to pass these exams to continue their education, they are extremely dedicated. I enjoy this.

-I also teach IT to some older kids at a couple private schools in my area. They love it. I pray for Jesus to take the wheel when I can’t properly explain how “double clicking” works.

Right now, I’m at IST which is teaching us various skills and such that we can use to launch “secondary projects” which might be more health/ economic developmentally related as opposed to education, which is our sector.

This is probably the most unsatisfying thing to read because it’s like “HADDEN WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?! YOU DON’T CALL!? YOU DON’T WRITE!? YOU DON’T TEXT?!” So much happens everyday but that’s the general update. Will have to get better about taking down stories of my yelling at children in Jula (local lang) or various misadventures at my tailor (high waisted pants do not look good on me and yet are extremely popular, the struggle is real) But the take-away message here is that I am happy and healthy and it’s not as unbearably hot as it has been. Casually dreading hot season (starting in March- when I will likely update my blog again).


Model School

This week in staging, we started model school where we’re each assigned a class and teach in that class for 4 weeks. I’m teaching 3eme (the equivalent of 9th grade) and it’s an absolute mess because it’s the first time I’ve taught a class of 35 kids in a language I started learning a month ago. Cut to a psycho Nasara yelling at bunch of 15 year olds in broken French in the hopes that they understand enough to comprehend that finding the conjugate of a square root is both fun and engaging. Not to mention I confused all of my kids for a solid 5 minutes when I forgot to put a tail on my 9 because you need those here. But you’re supposed to be bad at teaching now because it’s not a “real” class and it’s okay to make mistakes. Right? RIGHT!?

Type A Hadden is loosing it just a little.

Site Visit

Having spent most of last week being shuttled around Burkina and this week recovering (years on years of laundry), I’m enjoying having a Sunday to relax and do nothing except lesson plans because Model School has started, but more on that later.

I finally got to see my house! It’s absolutely gorgeous and surrounded by trees and I actually have electricity and running water!!! Dédougou is an amazing city and I can’t wait to start living there and eating all of the delicious food (thank gawd my house is far away from the center so I actually have to get some exercise). Hopefully I can get a hold of enough bandwidth in the near future to upload pictures.

AND I’m getting a cat from a Volunteer who is COSing soon so shocker I’m turning into a cat lady even in Burkina.

Sunday Adventures

So last Sunday I didn’t have much planned other than my usual cyber-cafe trip so I was hanging around my family a whole bunch. Then my host mom asked if I wanted to go on a tour of the neighborhood with my host brother so we headed out down the dirt road outside my house. At this point, I’ve been using the paved road mostly to get places because I figure it’s better for my bike and haven’t been too on top of my exploring because I didn’t feel like getting lost in the middle of a city in West Africa so I’m so stoked to get a little more exposure to the back roads. After making several turns, seeing my brothers school, and realizing the local bar is actually two minutes away from my house as opposed to ten if I don’t take the main road, we finally pulled up to a gate about 15 minutes away. My host-bro told me it was his aunt’s house and we rolled inside. The first thing I noticed was just how quiet their courtyard was despite the fact that there were about 20 chickens roaming around and one pretty angry dog with an open sore on it’s ear (good thing I have a few rabies vaccines?) We then went inside where my host aunt was hanging out on the couch surrounded by fans (whaaaaaaaat) and watching the Mexico-Netherlands game (also whaaaaaaaaaaaat I haven’t seen a single game and I am not at all bitter about it. whatever.).

It was kind of like stepping into the twilight zone. Everything was calm and wonderful and my host aunt and I talked about our families and America. She has this amazing low, raspy, and soft voice while speaking so slowly and deliberately that you can’t help but be drawn in by every word. She has three children and insisted on taking a picture of me, my host brother (who at this point, is borderline napping on the couch), my 8 yr old host cousin, and her best friend. I so wish I had a copy it was an awkward family photo at it’s finest. Her oldest is at university in Bobo and they are trying to send him to America, resources willing. And the family dog’s name is Douglas.

With Douglas the dog curled up at her feet, she told me that her husband works in bronze and gave me a candlestick holder to bring back to the US and then turned on MTV and the rest of the family left the room. So I just hung out and willed my host brother to come back and find the World Cup channel so I didn’t have to keep watching “2 Broke Girls” in French.

After a couple of hours we voyaged back to the playground that is my family’s courtyard. It was nice just being in a house for a while with a family that had a volvo station wagon and no screaming children and a dog named Douglas. It’s especially nice when this happens in the middle of Africa while you’re missing your family with a volvo station wagon and no screaming children and a cat named Mel.

Site Announcement!

I just found out where I will be placed in-country for the next two years on Wednesday!

Basically the whole week leading up to site announcements I was a nervous wreck. As I freaked out on my family, my host mama told me she was praying for me (do those prayers count for more during Ramadan? Asking for a friend…) and my mantra for the week has been “J’ai Allah avec moi”. Which doesn’t really do anything because I’m all sorts of non-spiritual but hey, you take the dieties you can get, right?

My site is a city called Dedougou and it’s the regional capital in the Central-West part of the country. This is absolutely amazing because it’s an urban environment so the usual amenities will be easier to find (ie electricity/ internet/ a variety of food to cook with etc) and rumor has it I have a pretty bitchin’ house so holla at me MTV Cribz PCBF edition. I’m a little bummed because it means I don’t get a true “Peace Corps Unplugged” experience. However I distinctly remember reading a blog and being shocked at someone’s dismay at getting a site with electricity because he thought PC didn’t think he could tough it out. So I’m considering myself extremely lucky! I also share my site with another Volunteer which is great because now I have another American in my site which is rare in PC and most Volunteers are the only one stationed at their site, with the exceptions of marriages, etc…

OH OH OH there’s apparently a Catholic Center near my house that makes cheese. HELLS. YES. Hope they sell to Catholics of the fallen variety.

I’m a little far away from other peeps in my stage but ‘tis Gucci, as I will use all of my capital goodies (ie le fromage) to get them to come to me!

Whoo hooo! Amped for site visits next week!

Updates whoooop!

We are technically still in the honeymoon period of Pre-Service Training so I’m pretty content. Even bad days in Africa aren’t that bad because despite what’s happening, I still get to be in Africa and pretty much anything crazy or weird that happens to me is a funny, albeit probably disgusting, story I can tell later (except for latrine roaches…those are no laughing matter and pretty much all gross).

This will likely when I get seriously ill and I don’t have my roommates to French braid my hair while I’m tossing my cookies BUT HEY SO FAR SO GOOD!

We also get out sites this week which is exciting and nerve wracking and I can’t wait to take another unsuspecting Burkinabe village by storm!

I’m here! And alive!

HAYYYYYYY FROM AFRICA. So here’s what I’ve been up to since I left the loving embrace of my parents in Boston:


A quick break down on our journey here: My whole staging class (all education volunteers, teaching either pre-school, math, science, or english) all met in Philly for an orientation. After a day of ice breakers and talking about spiders and parasites, we went out for a “last meal” (craft beer and flat bread pizza, y’all).

The next day (Thursday), we head up to JFK (and I got WAY too nostalgic about NYC because #Barnard) and sat in the airport for half the day until we caught our flight to Brussels, hung out in THAT airport for more hours until we boarded our flight to Ouagadougou!

Once arrived, PC staff met us and guided us through customs and transported us all back to our hotel which is really a convent and I walk around terrified that the natives will figure out I’m a fallen catholic. Also it’s hot. Like really hot. Like subway platform in July hot. AND IT WILL GET HOTTER.

After a dinner of rice in a chicken/ okra sauce and malaria pills, it was bed time THANK GAHD because at this time we had gone on two different 6+ hour flights and sleeping didn’t happen.

This all took place in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina, we then were transferred to Leo where we met out host families!

We spent a few days in Ouaga getting ourselves oriented and bonding as a stage (read: stahhhhhhhge) then bussed our way to Leo for training where we got our host families!

My host family consists of my host dad, two host moms (but the first wife picked me up, so I’m assuming shes my “real” host mom), and God knows how many host siblings. It’s actually seven BUT THEY’RE EVERYWHERE so it seems like they multiply. They are a practicing Muslim family which I requested because I feel like I’m lacking major knowledge in Islam. Also, they speak Arabic, Allah Akbar!!!!!!!, so now I can sprinkle in Arabic words for the French words I don’t know. Most of the time is just my family laughing at me because I know so few languages and they all speak like five.

Most days I wake up, take a bucket bath, head to PCT training, head home, take another bucket bath, hang out with Habiba and Hussein (le host sibbys) who like playing catch with me, eat dinner, and then my host mama tries to teach me a little French/ Arabic/ Moore/ Nuni whatever she feels like, then I pass out. The rooster outside my window crows at all hours of the night so my next goal is to learn “If you slaughter this bird, may I do the honors?” in French.

My host family is shocked at how little I eat (but I’m super healthy- no worries to those concerned about my well being!) and ask me all sorts of fun stuff about America. My host mom is a hair dresser and so I get to meet her clients when I come back from school. They try to practice their English on me and I try to practice my French on them so it’s just a hot mess.

Speaking of hot messes, it is mads sweaty up in here. And riding a bike in a maxi skirt is incredibly difficult. I hate JCrew ads for telling me biking in a skirt is fun and whimsicle it is NO SUCH THING.