Monday, December 29, 2014

Wait, How Many Days?

So apparently I'm leaving in 4 days...I don't really know where the past 6+ months have gone but I'm almost there. I was planning on posting more this past month but I had this nightmare about someone reading my blog and stalking me. I know it was just a dream, but a lot of my dreams come true so I was just being careful.

As far as news in Burkina Faso these days, it's all soccer (football) news because of the African Cup of Nations tournament coming up in mid-January. Burkina did really well last year so they're hoping to do well again this year. It will be held in Equatorial Guinea.
I have everything I need for the trip, and now all I have to do is show up at the airport. I'm almost done packing, I have all my medicine, I have all my travel information printed out and in my binder, I started my travel journaling (Thanks for the journal Rachel!). I am still looking for a good book to take on the plane with me, any suggestions? Preferably books you have a copy of. Also does anyone at home have a pair of noise reducing headphones I could borrow? I want a pair but I don't have $200 to drop on them.

Also, for each of my big trips, I like to come up with a quote that sort of defines where I want the trip to go. I haven't decided for sure yet, but I'm loving this one:

"It is in all of us to defy expectations, to go into the world and be brave, and to want, to need, to hunger for adventures, to embrace change and chance and risk, so that we may breathe and know what it is to be free."

What do you think?

I'm also still trying to figure out what I want to do with my journaling, if I want to type it up as I go along writing it or if I want to upload the pages or if I want to just include certain parts. Any suggestions?

Ok, well that's all for now folks!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My last blood drive....

When I was 16 it was on my bucket list to donate blood but I couldn't do it until my senior year in high school because of the under 18 height/weight requirements. I'm sure anyone who was there remembers how awful that blood drive was...

Fast forward almost two years and today I donated blood for the fifth time. It went off without a hitch because now I know exactly what I need to be a successful blood donor. Unfortunately, I won't be able to donate blood again until after I graduate from Sweet Briar. According to the Red Cross guidelines you have to wait 12 months after traveling outside the US/Canada. When my year for Burkina Faso is up, I'll already be in Spain. I'm kind of sad, because saving lives is awesome, and check out this cool shirt!

If you can donate blood, please do it! You might not like blood and needles (I sure don't) but people don't like dying either so....

I promise it is not that bad, as long as you know what's going on. If you have any questions, please ask me!

Also, 24 days until I leave, and I'm SO EXCITED!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

It's the final countdown....

It feels like just yesterday I was posting at the "6 months" mark and now we have ONE MONTH to go! I was a little nervous, but since spending most of the morning getting all my documents together I have gotten more and more excited. I'm starting to work on a packing list as we speak. It is interesting trying to balance school and planning this trip, but I guess that comes with the territory.

This is my to do list:
1. Get my anti-malarial (my mom is getting a prescription from my doctor at home today)
2. Buy a French phrase book (if only Spain colonized Africa...)
3. Make a million copies of everything
4. Contact my bank and tell them not to freeze my card
5. Enroll in the STEP program with the embassy
6. Do my preparation readings
7. Finish up research readings
8. Make a packing list and buy the things I don't already have

I'm nearly positive that isn't everything, but we shall see.

Any packing tips? I think I'm going to bring my backpack and my (smallish) suitcase, as it's only 2ish weeks.

Sheltering Wings Orphanage

Friday, November 14, 2014

While I hurry up and wait...

So my feelings about this trip change hourly, but right now I'm feeling good. The following article explains the plan for the transitional government, which should be set up in the next few days ( This is very good news and their plan of action sounds good to me. Maybe if they can get a stable government going, the rest of the country will prosper? I hope so.

If anything, at least now more people know that Burkina Faso actually exists right? Well, maybe not because most news outlets in the US aren't covering that, which is really frustrating. I feel like we have a very skewed view of the world in the US. Maybe I shouldn't generalize, but I can promise that 90% of what I know about the rest of the countries in the world is from 1) Playing Sporcle and 2) my own research (I'm kind of a documentary and research nerd but what else is new). I think we'd all be better off if we realized that the world is bigger than our country, or our town, or our school, or ourselves. There are 7 billion other people on this planet, do you care about their lives? Do you have any interest in the way they live? Their cultures and language? I could go on, but that's a paper for another day. This is why I think every. single. person. who is able should travel or study abroad.

How many do you know??
 Ok, rant done.

Anyways, with all this cold weather, I'm looking forward to the warm already :)

Got anymore travel tips for me? Also, if anyone needs gift ideas (cough cough mom) I need some long skirts, sunscreen, and stuff to do while traveling (24 hours each way!!)

Take care <3


Monday, November 3, 2014

PSA: I'm waiting this out

So I'm sure you've heard about what's going on in Burkina Faso at them moment. If you haven't, please enlighten yourself, BBC News is a fantastic source. The cliff notes version is that the president of Burkina Faso wanted to seek another term (he's been ruling for 27 years) and protests forced him out. The government was dissolved and the military took over. The African union says that they have 2 weeks to get their act together.

At the moment the US has placed a travel alert on the country (, this basically means you should wait and see what happens before you travel. I am hoping that everything will be cleared up by January because I want nothing more than to go. My heart is broken because the trip is in jeopardy, though I hope that a new government will help get Burkina on its feet again.

I am optimistic about the trip but I realize it the current situation travel is impossible. Please pray that this is resolved quickly and peacefully and that I can go come January. I don't think very many people understand the time and energy and love I have put into this project, and it really is like loosing something or someone important. (Thanks for understanding Tiffany!!) I'm literally exhausted from trying to figure this out and trying to stay positive after waking up each day to bad news, though today things are looking up. And hey when there's a will there's a way, right?

I'll leave you with some good news of Burkina (it's a fantastic read):

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ladies and gentleman may I have your attention please!

Hey everyone!

I have fantastic news: I have received an approved visa, bought my plane tickets, and bought my travel insurance. Is it time to go yet?

I am literally SO BEYOND EXCITED for this trip, not that I want to rush the next 2.5 months because Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Also my birthday.

Anyways, that's all I have to say about that. I'm just excited.

Now, any tips on occupying myself on the plane? It's going to be about 24 hours of travel time each way...


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Making Progress....

Last week I went and got my three shots done, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever. They weren't bad, and the man who did them was very nice. I didn't have any immediate reactions (except the ones I made up in my head as I was driving home), but I have had a few over the past 5 days, which rest assured are only mild and relatively common. They all are from the Yellow Fever vaccine, and I'm guessing it's because 19 is the cut-off to get the adult dosage. The place where I got the shot is red, I've had an on and off head-ache, I've been tired, and what feels like a low fever. These symptoms appear in 1 out of four people and can last up to a week. I'd much rather have these symptoms than whatever is going around my school and as long as I'm good for my half marathon on Sunday I don't really mind.

I finally got around to organizing my travel binder, with all my information, copies of documents, receipts, budget, checklists, etc. I may be needing a bigger one!

I also just mailed out my visa application, which is a relief because I feel like that is the one dead line that was looming over me with every passing day. After triple checking everything it is on its way to DC. Now we wait.

I pretty much have my flight ready to go, I'll be flying KLM Royal Dutch and Air France. On the way I'll have layovers in Amsterdam and Paris. The reason I haven't bought the tickets yet is that I'm working with Tiffany in International Studies to see if we can work out a brief home-stay in Paris (a couple days) on my way back. My layover on the way back home would be ridiculously long and we have a program there so why not stop while I'm there? I'm under-budget at is it. If I do that, I'll alos have two direct flights on the way back-Ouagadougou to Paris and Paris to Boston. Breaking up the 23 hours of travel will be nice.

Next up? Work out the Paris details and get my plane ticket and then my travel insurance. As we get closer I'll also need my anti-malarial.

Now that I have a lot of the paperwork done I can relax a bit and enjoy the planning process :)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Checks Are Coming! The Checks Are Coming!

Good news folks, we get our grant money TOMORROW! Well, I don't because I have to send it home and wait for my parents to deposit it because *surprise surprise* Greylock doesn't have a branch down here. I'm SO excited to get to work on solidifying the (travel) details of this project.  I thought for this blog post I'd give you all a look at my time line for organizing the travel portion of my project.

1. Call Fellowship Travel: Tiffany Cummings (the director of Int'l Studies here) had them come to a dinner we had and talk about their business. They offer discounted flights for students, specifically those traveling for humanitarian reasons. They also act as a full travel agency so if I get stuck in Timbuktu (more like Istanbul, but anyways) I'll have them to get me home.

2. Vaccines! I'll need to make an appointment at Walgreen's to get my vaccinations for the trip. I need; Yellow fever, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A, meningococcal, polio, and typhoid (I believe I already have Hep B and the meningitis ones, but I'll have to check). I also need to ask about anti-malaria medication.

3. Plane Ticket: After I talk to Fellowship travel I'll be able to book my plane ticket :)

4. Travel Insurance: I'll need to purchase travel insurance for my trip, Sheltering Wings recommends Travel Guard so that's probably who I'll use.

5. Visa: I can apply for my visa once I have my proof of Yellow Fever Vaccine and my travel dates set.

I'm beyond excited for this trip AND I just found out that 1) my school may be running a trip this summer to Tanzania and 2) my dance professors are going to Denmark in July for a conference and we're invited to go with them.

Also, for those who are concerned with the Ebola outbreak, there is still no warnings or advisories in Burkina or Turkey (which is where I'm flying into):

That's all for now!!

Holly <3

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Excitement and dealing with concerns

It's hard to believe that in exactly five months I'll be hours away from landing on Burkina soil! I am so excited, but I feel like I have so much left to do! I've already picked out my flight and I have lists upon lists of things that I need to get done (that are less exciting, like paperwork). I've also been working with my anthropology professor on developing a reading list that will prepare me for my trip as well as aide my research. And let's be honest, I'm excited about the upcoming school year in general (16 days!!!).

Even though I get butterflies in my stomach every time I think about the trip and my project in general, I can't help but notice the reservations that others seem to have. I'm not ignorant, I keep up with world news and current events, and I know that this is a shaky time for international travel. I have been keeping myself updated and have been monitoring the US government's travel suggestions/restrictions. For the time being, I am still planning on proceeding with my travel plans. The way I see it, there's no way for me to predict what the world will look like five months from now, and unless I have a concrete reason not to travel, I intend on taking full advantage of this amazing opportunity that I have been given.

Let's start a conversation...what do you know about Burkina Faso/West Africa and what do you want to learn about it?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Some Background on Burkina Faso (also 6 months till I leave!)

The country that is the focus of my research is Burkina Faso. Most people have never heard of it, let alone know where it is. Burkina Faso is a tiny, landlocked country in West Africa (that's the side closest to us).

Burkina Faso, formerly Upper Volta (also a former French Colony), is ranked as the world’s third poorest country in the world by the UN. Its population is 17.4 million people and its main export is cotton. The current life expectancy is 54 years. Eighty percent of the population lives in rural areas and fifty percent of those people live below the poverty line. The literacy rate (over the age of 15) is 21.8%. Their official language is French, but they have several national languages, including Mossi, and over 60 lesser used languages throughout the county. As I said before, languages are of particular interest to me, and I actually wrote a paper on bilingual education in Burkina Faso for my anthropology class but that's a topic for another day.

How am I getting to Burkina Faso? Since my tentative departure date is exactly 6 months away (January 2), I am getting very excited about making travel plans, even though I have to wait until I get my grant money in September to do anything. I'm planning on flying Turkish Airlines out of Boston. I'll have a layover in Istanbul and then another flight to Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina. I'll have people waiting to pick me up at the airport, and then I'll be headed to Yako, which is the village I will be doing my work/research in.   

I'm very excited about this whole idea of travelling with everything I have coming up...I'm spending my junior year in Spain! Let the countdown begin!

Gold Mines in BF
For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the one to come - Hebrews 13:14

Monday, June 30, 2014

First Post!

Hey everyone! Or maybe it should be bonjour or even ne y windiga! 

My name is Holly and I'm keeping this blog to document my research and travels for the upcoming year (You can learn more about that in the "about me" section of the blog). A big part of my research involves a trip to Burkina Faso in January. One of the things I am most excited (and nervous) about is the inevitable language barrier that I'll be facing. I've been taking Spanish for ages and I love the language (it's even my second major) but French and Mossi, not so much. My French is limited to the little I've picked up from ballet and a few basic lessons I've had from friends (Thanks Lil!). Unfortunately, Mossi, one of the native languages in the area of Burkina Faso I will be travelling to, is not accessible in the United States at all. Regardless, I'm super excited to learn about and experience this new culture!

As a bit of an outline for my project, here is my timeline via my grant proposal:

Time Line:
Time Period
Attend any open classes on West African Dance at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
1.      Begin/Complete research on West African Dance for Dance History class and on how environment affects development in Developmental Psychology
2.      Begin Blog
Travel to Yako, Burkina Faso with the following goals in mind:

1.      Observing and working in: the orphanage, school, medical clinic
2.      Learning about and helping with activities involving the widow’s program
3.      Observing children (and other community members) and how they dance/move, both formally and informally
4.      Participating in traditional dances
5.      Observing the way in which the organization has been integrated into the surrounding community
1.      Write paper on how NGOs and developmental programs can help rather than hinder the success of a community
2.      Create an Arts day/children’s dance program workshop
3.      Look into creating a community movement program
4.      Synthesize research done on movement as it pertains to dance/movement therapy
5.      Finish blog and prepare to present all of my findings at the Pannell Scholars Fair presentation

See you later, Adios, Au Revoir, Nindaare!