BF: Year One Reflections

In a couple of hours, the school van will collect me and take me (and three colleagues) to the airport. I’m all packed, sitting in my clean, quiet house, reflecting on this first year. I know that once I get in the van and start rolling toward the airport, my memories start to fade like waking up from a dream so I want to do some freeform random reflections while I’m sitting here in my house.

This really has been a great first year. I know I didn’t post very much, and the start of the year was difficult with the coup and attack putting our entire infrastructure into an unusual mode. But I knew that there would be some adjustments, and was prepared to ride out the Culture Shock, and once I moved to a new house and started to get the hang of the town, it got FANTASTIC.

Simply put…Ouagadougou is a happening place! There are a lot of fantastic places to eat, a great cultural vibe, museums, artwork, music, and the locals are proud of their friendliness. Sure, it’s not Hong Kong (and neither is Hong Kong, lol), but I really find that there are as many things available to do here as there was back there. Because back in HK,  distances could be an issue, and many restaurants and other places could be quite a bit out of my budget…but here, nothing is out of my budget. And nothing is that far away.

I think the best part of here is the people, however. The other day I walked to school (something I should do more often, since it’s only about 4 blocks), and pretty much every guard on the road between my house and work waved at me, said hello or asked me if my car was OK. They all know who I am, I’m certain they all know my name, and because I always stop to help people with car troubles (I’ve jump started some woman’s car, and pulled another SUV out of a ditch, both in our neighborhood), I think they accept me as a good guy and someone they like having around. And even with the language and cultural barrier, its hard to really find that type of community these days.

My first year as Head of Ed Tech went very well, also. I have gotten great feedback about making my guys into a very effective team…something that surprises me because they are such excellent workers and have such a joy in what they do that I cannot imagine that they ever were NOT a great team. I have learned so much from them, and have grown to rely so much on their skills, that I cannot imagine how Tech Directors can ever possibly do their jobs without a couple of tech specialists as excellent as Didi and Brice…and even our intern, Arnold, who finished his obligations to us 10 months ago, but continues to come in every day because he likes working here and with the team. How cool is that?

So for the nerdy stuff….here are some of the things I have learned this year (in random order):

  • What all the appliances are in the server room, how they connect, how to reboot and manage them
  • How to be the SuperAdmin for a Google Apps for Education account (controlling everything about everything)
  • How to manage and troubleshoot KEYSTONE, our SIS built on Filemaker Pro
  • How to manage and keep our school website updated  (on FinalSite)
  • Controlling our bandwidth and wifi access to maximize our use of our satellite uplink
  • How to create and maintain good relationships with service providers without losing money
  • How to create and monitor a pretty large budget (about 10% of the total school revenue)
  • A lot more about coding in Excel, especially for comparing and modifying databases
  • LOTS about Moodle (I am now a Certified Moodle Course Creator) and maintain the school Moodle site
  • Tons about Kindles. We are the only school I know that runs a 6-12 Kindle program

I’ll add more as I think about it, but I am happy to say that, for a first year in a role with a LOT of new experiences, I did OK.

The last thing I want to mention is my house! Man, I really LOVE my new digs. About the end of December last year, I finally got out of that little dark box I was living in and moved across the street into a nice little 3-bedroom duplex (the landlord lives in the other half). It’s a perfect size (I use one extra room for storage, the other for an office), and has a huge porch. And best of all, the front yard is the nicest, greenest, shadiest yard I have seen in Burkina. It’s dominated by a huge Karite (Shea) tree that feels like a high ceiling overhead and gives it wonderful shade. There are other smaller trees all around…two mango trees with the biggest fruits I have ever seen (as big as a cantaloupe!), a pomegranate tree (it gave me a pomegranate the day I moved in, and has about 20 more growing right now), a banana tree, and lots of flowering bushes. And a lush green lawn…sometimes I come home Friday and never leave my property until Monday, just sitting on the porch, reading a book, barbequing and enjoying the greenery.

Anyway….too many words, I know. I’ll see if I have some photos to upload. I really hope some of my friends come visit me here…at this point, I plan on staying a third year after my contact ends, as I see no reason to hurry off. I do miss woods and water…there is no getting around the truth that this is a hot, dry place, but I survived the hot season just fine (it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and the fact that we keep the tech offices air conditioned 24/7 helped immensely), and the sandstorms weren’t as bad as I thought they’d be. Besides, the hardships bond the community.

So as I sit here, preparing to get picked up in 90 minutes, I am leaving for the summer with great memories of a fantastic and productive year, and I can’t wait until the fall when I come home to ripe pomegranates, fresh spices growing in the yard (thanks to my fantastic gardener), my new tortoise being about 50% bigger (thanks to a departing colleague), and my tech team all finished with their summer work and ready to fire up another school year.

Yeah, this was a good one.

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4 responses to “BF: Year One Reflections

  1. Thanks for this lovely post, Myron! I’m so glad that I got to be a small part of your first year in Burkina Faso. Working with you gave me the opportunity to refamiliarize myself with Ouagadougou and with the kindness and openness of the Burkinabé people. It also offered me the opportunity to visit my best friend from RCI and meet his sons (including my namesake)!

    Have a great summer!

    • Hey Brian…as one of the very few people who know this country and know what I’m talking about, it’s nice to get your affirmation. It was a great year, and a serious ‘thank you’ for your assistance helping break in this newbie Tech Director.

  2. right on Mr. Buck; all sounds good in your world
    lobsters, corn on the cob, potatoes and strawberry short cake await your arrival!

    • Man, what is there not to LOVE about my life! Thanks, Mark…looking forward to seeing you and all the rest of the home folks in about 3o hours.

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