Wednesday, November 29, 2006

School Presentations

One of the fun things that I get to do on a regular basis for my "other" job is present intercultural experiences to high school students. Basically, I work for AFS Intercultural Programs, a high school exchange organization. In order to recruit students to go abroad, I talk to them in their foreign language classes about culture, stereotypes and my time overseas.

Before Rabi had his work permit, he would join me on field trips and would present to classes about Burkina Faso. In fact, the day after he arrived in the US, we were in the car driving to Marshall, MN for such a presentation. His English must have been pretty good straight off the plane for the Social Studies teacher to allow him to talk in the high school class.

We were also invited to present to my nephews' classes (1st and 3rd grades) in a Minneapolis suburb last year. And a fellow RPCV invited us to present to her pre-school and kindergarten classes at a Montessori school here. These were interesting ones! Rabi told a Burkinabe fable to keep the kids' attention, and we also brought a djembe and finger piano for them to play. In these elementary school presentations, we wore Burkinabe dress to give them a better sense of the culture. Finally, we passed around the money used in Burkina and other artifacts.

Now that he is working full time, he no longer comes on trips with me. But I'm still presenting about Burkina. In this way, I'm fulfilling the Peace Corps' 3rd goal which is "Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans." Of course I present a bit about my study abroad experience in Kenya, but I try to focus on Burkina since most Americans have at least heard of Kenya. I was shocked during one school presentation in Iowa when the students told me they had just completed a report on Burkina.

During these presentations, I try to impress in these students the magnitude of Africa as a continent. So many think of Africa as being a homogeneous country. They cannot fathom that Burkina has about 60 ethnic groups and therefore 60 languages. I ask them what their stereotypes are of Africa in general. Common responses are "poor," "lions," "famine," "war," "desert," "AIDS," "black people," "safari." All things we are exposed to in the media. We either learn about different animals and weird tribes from the Discovery channel, or AIDS and war from the short snippets on the nightly news.

I talk about my experiences living with a host family during my training, and the fact that Muslims and Christians lived side by side in my host village. I do talk about the poverty but try to put it into perspective. I explain to them, just as Americans have stereotypes about Africans, the Burkinabes I knew had stereotypes of Americans. How many people did I talk to in Burkina that could not believe there are people living on the streets in the US?! Hollywood films don't tend to cover such social issues.

So, I may be kidding myself that I am in some way making a difference. But if one kid leaves my presentation with a desire to learn or experience a new culture (be it through a high school exchange, college study abroad, or the Peace Corps), then I am jazzed about my work. And if they will one day recall that the capital of Burkina is Ouagadougou, then I'll just smile.

Students in traditional Mossi attire.

One student tried on a turban worn by Tuaregs, or blue men of the desert.

Rabi with some students.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Update on GlobalGiving Campaign

Here's an update on the GlobalGiving Campaign from Tom Vollrath (Friends of Burkina Faso Project Committee Chair):

Last Friday afternoon, I called GlobalGiving (GG) to get an update on the extraordinary opportunity for the NEEED/FBF project to be awarded $5,000 from an anonymous donor. The good news is that we are little over half way towards qualifying for this award by having 100 donors contribute to this project by December 15th. To date, 54 FBF friends have made contributions! The not-so-good news is that the rate at which donations have been made coming in fell rapidly this past week, with only 2 contributions being received last Tuesday and Wednesday and 1 contribution received on Thursday and on Friday. This is not a good sign. I am concerned that we might not reach our goal. And reaching this goal is important, not only for the girls at school but also for the NPCA, the RPCV community, and, I believe, the Peace Corps. See,

Given the state of affairs, I'd like to ask that those of you, who have not yet made a gift to our project on the GG website, consider making a small donation NOW-- before it slips the mind and before it is too late. I, for one, am going to following Jon Berger's advice. Jon promised to approach his wife and kids about making a donation. This next week, my children are coming home from Thanksgiving. I can't think of a better time to ask them to give a-little-something. And I’ve just gotten a pledge from my wife who promises to make a small donation to the GG project. Spread the good news about this exciting opportunity among close friends and family.

Please donate $10 today!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Holiday Open House

Yarbi Design and Alsadu, Inc celebrate the coming holiday season by inviting you to view one of a kind gift selections of new and antique items.

Friday, December 8th at 10am-7pm
Saturday, December 9th at 10am-5pm
Sunday, December 10th at 12pm-4pm

13056 Euclid Ave, Apple Valley, MN
Tel: 952-431-2614

Wonderful World

Wonderful World: Works by Koffi Mbairamadji
October 28-December 31, 2006
Obsidian Arts
2948 Chicago Ave, Mpls
Open Saturdays from 12-4pm or by app't

Please visit the show Wonderful World: Works by Koffi Mbairamadji. Koffi's work tells a refreshingly vibrant story of living and forms. Dancing among flowers, animals, instruments, and spiritual images in his journey...and a journey of familiar recognition for those who are drawn into his works. Born in Chad, Koffi started painting years ago as a hobby. Today it is part of his daily life.

The show is at Obsidian Arts. Obsidian Arts is a Minnesota non-profit arts space focused on celebration and development of black artists, arts institutions and artwork.

There will be an artist talk Saturday, December 9th at 4-5:30pm. Come support our friend Koffi!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Femme Libre

Rabi ended up entering his piece "Femme Libre" into the NEMAA's Fall Fine Arts Show, which ran this weekend.

He said his inspiration for the sculpture was from gender differences. Men in Burkina Faso, and in Africa in general, can do whatever they want; they can wear whatever clothes they want, can go wherever they want. But women can't.

When a woman actually does what she wants -- wears what she wants -- people criticize her and treat her poorly.
However, there are some women that do what they want.

They are "femme libre" or free women.

Femme Libre
22.5" high x 9.5" wide

Saturday, November 11, 2006


I cannot believe I haven't written about Salon International de l'Artisanat de Ouagadougou (SIAO), and it's already finished! The 10th SIAO (International Arts and Handicrafts Trade Show of Ouagadougou in English) was held Oct 27-Nov 5, 2006. An estimated 2,500 artisans and 500,000 public visitors attended. This year's theme was "African handicrafts and fair trade."

The first one was held in 1984 and allowed the government to assess the interest in Burkinabe products by Americans and Europeans. It was a success so the first edition was held in 1988. Since then, the show is every even year, starts the last weekend of October, goes for 10 days, and features crafts from many African nations. Handicrafts available include bronze statues, hand-woven textiles, leatherwork, ethnic jewelry, colorful pottery, ceramics, calabash toys and many more.

I have only been to 1 SIAO, in 2002. This is where I first met Sidonie and bought my 1st of many Sidonie bags (a yellow one with purple embroidered flowers). It was awesome to see all the different handicrafts and works of art from around the continent. One of my favorite purchases was a hand painted gourd by a Burkinabe artist; he made some of his pieces right on the spot. I had a lot of fun wading through yards and yards of Mauritanian fabric as well. I felt like a kid in a candy shop! Local eats were also available, and different dance troupes and musicians performed. It was a very festive environment.

I'm pretty bummed that we weren't able to go this year, as planned, considering this year's theme. But, we have it on our calendars for 2008! Vous ĂȘtre invite.

Can you find me in this picture?! It's SIAO 2002...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friends of Burkina Faso

Stop what you are doing and make a small donation to a Friends of Burkina Faso project!

Earlier this year, Friends of Burkina Faso entered into a National Peace Corps Association-supported partnership with
GlobalGiving, an online project clearinghouse. The idea was that by putting one of the projects on GG's website, it could attract more donors than FBF can normally get through their limited membership sphere (I am a member myself).

Given that FBF is one of the first three NPCA affiliates to partner with GlobalGiving, GG just informed FBF leadership yesterday that if they can attract at least 100 on-line donations ($10 minimum) for their project by December 15, 2006, GG will put $5000 towards their "
Noon Meal Girl’s Education project.”

The noon meal project is a supplementary project to an earlier one that FBF has been supporting for a few years which provides young girls' families with school supplies and a lamb for the first year of schooling which is then sold the following year to purchase more supplies and a new lamb for the same purpose year-after-year.

To make your donation by 12.15.06 to an innovative FBF community-initiated project in Burkina, please visit the following link:

Read more about this campaign at Tony Gambion’s blog or at the NPCA’s website.

Merci en avance!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Fall Fine Arts Show - Nov 10-12th

The Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association Fall Fine Arts Show is right around the corner. Each member of NEMAA can submit 1 piece for this show; there will be over 200 artists on display!

Rabi is working on 2 potential pieces. Let us know what you think and which piece he should submit!

#1 is the "Femme Libre" sculture. Femme libre means free woman in French.

And #2 is the "Naaba Throne". Naaba means chief in Moore (Rabi's mother language).
Please do stop by to see which one will be on display! We will be there during the opening reception on Friday.

Friday-10th : Opening Reception 5-10 p.m.
Saturday-11th : Noon-6:00 p.m.
Sunday-12th: Noon-3:00 p.m.

The Grainbelt Bottling House
79 13th Avenue NE, Minneapolis