So, props to all my friends, family, and acquaintances who didn’t say things like « How much time do you have to go?? » or, « Wow, only eight months left! » during my holiday visit to the US. And to those of you who did say that or something like it to me: Eh, I forgive you. I realize that from afar, this Peace Corps thing can look like a 27 month long, dirty, dusty camping trip that I’m waiting out in order to get back to my real life in America, so I understand questions like those. I’ll admit it was amazing to be home for three weeks–to see family and friends and play disc golf at Circleville with a Troegs in my left hand–but this (Africa) is where I live now. My work is here, and all the new friends I’ve made in the past year and a half live here, and my house is here with my dog and cats and chicken. Leaving temporarily is a difficult reminder that in eight months (less than, now) I’ll have to say goodbye to everyone and everything I’ve come to love in Burkina Faso. I don’t know how I’ll do it.
The past week has been very exciting. I got into Ouagadougou last Tuesday at 23:55 and slept all day Wednesday and most of the day Thursday before catching a bus that afternoon back home to Founzan. I was surprised with the questions I asked myself during those first few days. For example, when did that mysterious, never-ending smell of burning trash in Ouaga ever make me feel so at home? And I remember there being dust, but was there really always this much dust on my kitchen utensils, pets, and in between my teeth? How did I ever manage to sleep even a minute on this medieval torture device of a cot? My neighbor Fatao has figured out a way to unlock my courtyard door in seconds with a stick through a crack in the door frame, which is perfect for when he wants a piece of candy or a soccer ball at 6:30 in the morning… How did I ever put up with that before?
Well, I’m readjusting: I’ve embraced the smell of burning trash as a comfort trigger, I’ve pet Derek enough that most of the dust is back in the air I breath where it belongs, and I put a padlock on the inside of my courtyard door so Fatao can buzz right off. After a week of being back it’s like nothing has changed. It feels so good to get on my bike and ride to the disc golf course (all 9 holes still standing!) with Derek trailing me, or to go up to the dam with students to fish and look at the horses that graze on the grass that grows on the banks. A couple days ago, from lunchtime to sundown, I knit a phone case at my friend’s boutique while tea was brewed and people came and went. Again, my time home in America was great, but something tells me I wouldn’t have been able to find time to knit and drink tea for an entire afternoon in Pennsylvania. People sometimes ask superlatives like « What’s the best thing about Africa? » or « What do you miss most about Burkina? », and I have to say, the West African people’s complete disregard for the passing of time is nice.
Disregard it as I may, these eight months will be over before I know it (and I totally know it), so I’m focusing on some projects in the coming months so that my community will remember me for something more than my broken Dioula and sweat output levels, impressive as they are. The Founzan « A » elementary school renovation, the International Women’s Day Girls’ Disc Golf Tournament, and the Founzan Girls Soccer League (Federation de Football pour les Filles de Founzan en francais, or le FFFF) are my three main goals. The renovations are something the head director of the elementary school by my house came to me for funding. I informed him that Peace Corps is more about the volunteer’s presence and expertise and less about just handing out money, to which he responded that, yeah he knows, but he’s already worked with Peace Corps in the past and there’s grant money available. I asked the woman in charge of grant money at the main office in Ouaga and he’s right. Let the grant writing begin! Later though, ’cause the Women’s Day Disc Golf Tourney and le FFFF are so way cooler than asking Peace Corps HQ in Washington for some extra cash to buy desks and cabinets.
Congrats to my brother Andy Blunk for not forgetting or losing his passport in DC this past week as he and the rest of Peace Corps Ethiopia’s newest group of volunteers arrived in Addis Ababa for training. And then a special thanks, of course, to my other brother Nate Blunk for not totally copying me.
Mom can you write this grant for me?