Leaving my village
In this blog I want to tell you about leaving Burkina Faso. After Camp GLOW I returned to my village for a few days to pack up the things I would be taking home and to get the house ready for my replacement. Lindsay, the woman who will be moving into my house and spending the next two years working there is, amazingly, from the Cleveland area! Here is another example of how common coincidences are. Peace Corps sends you to a small country in West Africa, and the person you are replacing is practically a neighbor, not only from the same state, but from another suburb of Cleveland. Here we are, together. As you can see, she is much younger than I am.
On the day before I left my site I wanted to have a chance to say goodbye to people I had worked with over the two years and to throw a party for the neighborhood. I asked my community homologue if she would be willing to organize it for me. I started passing out invitations before I went to Camp GLOW. We had the party in the courtyard of my good friends and neighbors, the Taogo family. A group of women started preparations on Thursday by baking "cake," small pieces of a sweet dough that is deep fat fried.
On Friday they made shrimp chips and the hot pepper sauce (to add to the sauce, as we might add pepper) They also fried the fish for the sauce.
One woman was occupied with cutting up the greens for the sauce.
A couple of young men got the job of killing and preparing the chickens for the pot.
On Saturday there were about 10 women working all morning. They put a measure of each of the kinds of drinks in small plastic sacks. You get a drink by biting off a corner of the sack and sucking out the contents.
The big task was to make the rice. In the end there were four big kettles of it.
The party was announced for 1:00 and I imagined it being rather like an open house with people dropping in. My Burkinabè friends insisted there had to be a ceremony, and I was to be the first speaker. After I thanked the folks for coming, and for being so hospitable for the past two years, I was informed there was to be a toast, and I was to lead it. When everybody had something to drink I said we should drink to friendship between Burkina Faso and the United States.
Then the inspector of the schools presented me with a certificate saying I had done good work in the town. It can’t be a ceremony unless there are certificates…
I received several small gifts which you will see if you come to one of my talks about my experience. Then everybody was served heaping plates of rice and sauce, or spaghetti, or couscous.
The functionaries such as teachers sat together
the men sat together,
the women sat together,and the children sat together.
I was really pleased by the turnout and the chance to bid farewell to folks I have known for the past two years.
Some of the men who work at our one tourist site brought their drums. I thought all you musicians might get a kick out of this photo of the drums sitting in the sun to “warm up.” In our band we will do just about anything to keep our instruments out of the sun!
There was also the man with the stereo system who played popular African music while the drummers drummed along.
The women and children danced to the music.One of the ladies even got this old fellow up to dance.
The next morning I had planned to do some last minute packing, but people kept stopping by. My good friend, Nadine, gave me two sets of clothes, a matching pair of pants and shirt in the Burkinabè style and a dress made from hand woven strip cloth. Here I am wearing it when I went out to dinner in Ouaga.
I had arranged for a taxi from Ouaga to come pick me up with all the things I had to return. The taxi man arrived a half hour early, and my friends and neighbors came even earlier, so I was not finished with my packing. I ended up throwing things in a couple of suit cases to deal with in Ouaga. The taxi-man took this picture of me with my Burkinabè family just as I was about to leave.
In Ouaga I went out to dinner with the friends in the picture above. These are the folks who had been so hospitable to me, taking me to Tabaski and out to see the wet lands around the reservoir for Ouaga. They gave me this stunning dress that I wore to the swearing in of the new volunteers. Here I am with the woman who will replace me at my site, Lindsay.
I had lunch with another friend who gave me this very comfortable dress. This is the woman who is one of the script writers for the soap operas to change behavior,
I also wore it for the final Peace Corps event for volunteers who are finishing their service. There were eight of us finishing our service that week.
After the staff reminisced about us, and we were given Peace Corps pins and badges. The main thing people had to say about me were related to my age. Let me tell you, retirees, Peace Corps is a great thing to do if you still have your health!
The very last thing before going to the airport was having dinner at the fancy restaurant near the transit house. There were six volunteers enjoying the meal, but I did not get everybody in the shot.
FYI I made it back to the USA with a minimum of problems. We sat on the runway at JFK in New York for nearly an hour, waiting for there to be a gate where we could disembark. Fortunately I had lots of time between flights so I did not panic. It is good to be home!
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One final note. I will be giving talks to various groups over the next few months and if you know of a group who would like to hear something about Burkina Faso and serving in the Peace Corps, I would be happy to arrange a talk and slide show (no speaker’s fee) for you. Drop me an e-mail and we can make arrangements. Thanks for your encouragement and for reading this blog.