Thursday, August 23, 2007

Almost there...

The end of staging is here, just about. Tomorrow we will swear in around 11am (you can never be too certain with african time, which is good for me since I'm usually not the most punctual), and by 2 in the afternoon I'll be on a bus headed for Ouaga, where I'll look for cheeseburgers, milkshakes, gardening supplies, and a typewriter. Then, on Sunday, Beth and I will head for the Southwest and spend the night in Gaoua. The next morning a van will meet us somewhere in town and drive us to our individual houses, and I will be all alone for the first time since having an efficiency in West Campus 4 years ago. Staging has been the longest time of my life, I'm certain of it. Those first few days before having a phone and internet access each seemed like a month. Two weeks after being here, I felt like two years had passed and I was ready to go home. That first time I tried to use the internet, it was slower than anything I remember after 1998 in the United States, the keyboard was french-oriented, and after writing an email to Mom I realized the page hadn't fully loaded and it wouldn't send! I used my last 600 francs and made a two minute phone call to her cellphone, which thankfully she answered. That got me through those first couple of weeks. After that, it was up and down. I've been lucky in that I haven't been sick (although I've lost about 25 pounds), but the loneliness was really something. I would stay awake nights and just be lonely, with no one to talk to or visit. It wasn't like I was the most social person back home, either. For the most part, I would go upstairs and watch TV and leave my family downstairs to watch Everybody Loves Raymond. But it's one thing to be in a comfortable house on the second floor with your family all downstairs safe and sound, and another thing to be on a bed with one sheet and zero pillows, hearing languages you can't understand through the windows, and knowing even if you got up from where you were right then and started walking, you wouldn't be home soon enough. So after a month and a half of that I thought I had scratched even: it wasn't worth it to keep going, but it wasn't worth it not to. I figured with that mindset, I could just wait it out and see what came. Then something happened, I thought that, yeah, if I wanted to go home I could do it. I could call the Peace Corps and be home in a couple days; that part didn't scare me anymore. What did scare me was that I wouldn't be able to come back. So that's where I am right now, waiting patiently to be able to see family and friends again, but loving every minute of this. Yeah it's hard - the food, the work, the languages, all of it. But I'm also so lucky to have the chance to do this. How many generations of people have had this opportunity, to go somewhere completely foreign and do some cool stuff, and then come back and get on with life? Not many.
I guess that's all for today. I'm going to be taking a lot of pictures down in Kampti. I've been hesitant taking them around here, since I've lived with a host family and haven't been able to pull the camera out without dozens of kids appearing from every direction all at once. But that'll change in the next few days when I have my own house and can go exploring on my own. Also, there is a UNESCO world heritage site about 30 kilometers from my house with the most well preserved ruins in West Africa, so I'll be there soon to take some pictures.
Oh and one more thing: they started harvesting a lot of the corn and mill yesterday, which, combined with the wind that has been sweeping through town, has awoken the beast which is my allergies. Does anyone know any good non-medicinal treatments? I heard that eating local honey is good, so I'll buy some tomorrow, but if you have any ideas, please pass them on.
Okay, hopefully I'll be able to write on Sunday or Monday. Thanks again for all your thoughts and support (and letters and packages and emails). Clay


Rachel said...

yeah! The real work finally begins! Congrats on your swearing in tomorrow. Be careful when you're exploring your new home....make sure you're safe! that's my mom comment! You sound great......Love you!
Let me know when you get HP.

Ginger said...

Congratulations, Clay!!! I admire you for sticking in there and making it through training. I know there is no place like home, but hopefully when you get your own place in your village it will feel like your home away from home.

In case you didn't know, your Mom adores you, ;-) so being her "cubical neighbor" I adore you too. You are an entertaining writer...I enjoy reading your blogs, so keep on writing! I will keep you in my prayers.

Mary B said...

Hi Clay!
I just read your whole blog in one sitting and I must say you are an incredibly good writer! I hope you will be writing your own book some time in your future. The pics are great - the baobab tree was my favorite (yes, all those party pictures and I pick the tree!).

Jacob just started classes for grad school at UTSA. He has two cats to keep him from getting lonely - want me to send you some cats??
Love and Peace!

Maggy said...

high school was today for the first time. =) it was okay.. i got lost a lot and i don't have very many classes w/ people but i'm meeting new people. have fun in your new home!

katie said...

Licorice root is supposed to be a miracle cure. I researched it and it said Licorice root is consumed as a natural medicine in Arabia, Africa, India, Asia and Europe.. mix it with hot water for a tea. Ask if they have it. I am getting really bad allergies too, I guess that's what we get for being Dad's kids! I love you, I bet you are all settled in your new home now.