I’ve been at site for three weeks now. If you thought I was a Peace Corps Volunteer back in June when I left disc golf and fly fishing and microbreweries and bbq sauce and personal space and all else that comes with living in the US of A then you were wrong. I was a trainee, comfortable in my warm pocket of faux-America that my stage mates and I built in Leo, Burkina Faso during the training months of summer. Three weeks ago though I was sworn in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer and promptly dropped off at a small concrete house with no running water or electricity and no Americans within a 70 km radius. I am currently living the life you probably thought I had been living for the past three months.

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There’s nothing to do. Few people know my name. I rarely have pants on before noon. I wake up around 800 to the sound of someone pounding on my courtyard door. It’s either kids looking for the soccer ball or a neighbor coming by just to say good morning or my school director making sure the goofy white teacher who doesn’t speak French is still alive. One morning it was a drunk guy who said he installed the doors and windows in my house. I let him in because not a single door fits into the frame and I was excited to share this fact with him. He spent a good 20 minutes drunkenly explaining to me that it was the mason’s fault for making the walls too close together. I haven’t seen him since. I try to go back to sleep after an encounter like this but often can’t so I sit on my cot and play guitar or knit or listen to music or read. I’ll cycle through these four activities (five if you count sitting on the cot) until I feel my sanity slipping, and then hopefully it’s around lunch time.

Luckily my town is big enough to have fresh bread every day and my neighbor Diallo sells smoked goat meat on the side of the road so I can make “le mouton qui rit” sandwiches (goat meat with laughing cow cheese) with banana dogs for dessert. About a week ago some terrible switch went off in the collective mind of the neighborhood kids that made them no longer afraid of the six foot four inch foreigner who moved in next door, so after lunch I’ll have kids at my courtyard door again trying to come in and play uno or soccer or guitar. I take a deep breath and open the doors to the amusement park that my courtyard has become.

Later on some friends might come over and I’ll teach them chords on the guitar.  They sometimes want to hear me play American music. Here’s how our jam sessions normally go:

“Play something”
I begin picking something agreeable like Sufjan Stevens or Iron and Wine
“Do you know reggae?”
I stop “No I don’t know reggae.”
Someone gets their phone out and starts playing Bob Marley for me
“No, I know reggae I just can’t pl–”
We listen to reggae for 40 minutes

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For dinner I’ll make cucumber, tomato, and onion salad. If I don’t have cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions I’ll spend an hour trying to start my charcoal grill to boil water for spaghetti and then give up and buy a plate of spaghetti at the boutique down the street. I might actually have a butler though; this guy Jean Luc has come by a few times saying he’ll cook for me, do my laundry, get my water, etc, so I can continue into my mid-20s not knowing a thing about food preparation or physical labor. I have mixed feelings about it, more to come on the butler situation in future posts.

Sometimes after dinner I’ll head over to the dolo hut where my friend Guy’s mom works and I’ll have a calabash of home brewed millet beer. Maybe I’ll review dolo in the future, I’m just having a hard time thinking of a number low enough for it on the Pabst scale. Once it’s dark out though there’s not much else to be done. I’ll retire chez moi and read some more or listen to music. If my computer has any juice left in it I’ll watch some old disc golf videos I took with my flipvid camcorder and I’ll wonder what any of my friends do without me to organize disc golf gatherings. You guys must be so bored.

School doesn’t start until the beginning of October, so I actually have no real work to do. It can be frustrating and exhausting and lonesome at times but for every five frustrating and exhausting and lonesome experiences I have, I’ll have one experience that somehow makes it all worth it. I’ll successfully exchange salutations with someone in local language, or sit with a tanti and eat cadeaux, or go on a bike ride to the lake north of town and explore, and at the end of the day I’ll feel like I accomplished something even if 80% of my day was spent sitting in my underwear eating trail mix with a spoon (mom please send more trail mix).

I miss everyone. Thanks for reading. Stay well.

White Key

 

8 réflexions sur “

  1. Clay – Thanks for sharing your experience. You are so courageous to venture so far away. Stay strong. We are all so proud of the work you are doing.

    Ken

  2. LOVE the description of your jam sessions, Clay. Sounds like you need to start playing some reggae! We’re thinking of you and your work and adventure.

  3. wonderful story telling. trail mix will be mixed and sent promptly. Expect it sometime in Oct given mail delays. moms love food shout outs – love you mucho.

  4. You are a very white person, Clay. It’s so good to see your smile. And, to hear your voice as I read….the way you write, I really can hear your voice in my head. Makes me smile. Sounds like Chrysalis in an African courtyard🙂
    Sending loving thoughts.

  5. Thanks for these posts! So many of us are thinking of you and excited for news of your day to day life. Keep on doing good and enjoy the « being » in that space!
    Monica

  6. When I first lived in Germany and didn’t know anyone all I wanted was someone to look me in the eye and say « hello, Ann! » Keep the greetings going and soon you;ll feel more at home. We love your blogs and we love you and think about you everyday. Meanwhile back here G’pas Dog Walk a thon went well and all’s good. Love, G’ma

  7. Nous jouons disc golf sans Clay, mais Timmy ne parle pas et Ryan ne parle pas, donc Andy parle tout les temps. Jesse est perdu. Je gagne toujours, je lance mon Innova Champion Boss pour 500+ pieds, c’est facile. Je veux regarder ton FlipVid videos (mais, seulement les videos avec moi).

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