One of the first things a new Peace Corps stagière
learns upon arrival in the country is its "Three Goals
." Seriously. They even give you a pocket card to keep in your wallet, so you can have those three goals to whip out at a moment's notice. The goals include providing the host country with trained labor to supplement their own forces; to share the American culture with other countries; and to share other cultures back in America. As a volunteer, sometimes the goal of sharing American culture with host country nationals can be the hardest. You spend so much time trying to convince all the people in your village that you are just like them: you pump and carry your own water; you stuff yourself with tô that you ate all by hand; you wear clothes made out of traditional cloth; you start dreaming about greeting everyone in local language as you walk around town. These things are a lot of fun, and doing them helps you attain the oh-so-coveted title of bien integré
by villagers and volunteers alike. And you're very proud of yourself.
It can be just as much fun, however, sharing your American self with your host-country friends. I have found that Thanksgiving, such an American holiday, is the perfect time to do just that. In 2009, my first year of service, I had a big Thanksgiving in my village with both volunteer and Burkinabè friends. This year, I decided to bring that tradition back. Holidays here always feel a little Charlie Brown-esque because you're combining traditions and trying to find substitutes for your favorite foods. But I think I finally got it right this year. Thanksgiving 2011 chez moi
was the perfect mix of Burkinabè and American holiday traditions and people. We celebrated in the my favorite Burkinabè way: killing a few chickens, making couscous sauce and buying everybody Cocas. These were served alongside boxed versions of American favorites. Before dinner, we Americans recounted the story of the first Thanksgiving, taught to us in elementary school, and explained that the holiday is a time of giving thanks, spending time with family and eating way too much. After the meal was over, we all sat around, holding our stomachs, content and tired after such a feast.
The feast, including gravy, couscous and sauce, fried chicken and stuffing and mashed potatoes. Also included, but not pictured: vanilla and chocolate pudding pies and cranberry-date bread
Everyone chowed down, even the baby. Note: Burkinabè love powdered mashed potatoes!