Moving Out

4 01 2009

my-homestay-room1Our counterpart workshop has finally ended and our site-helpers have since returned home leaving the newly inducted volunteers in Ouahigouya until we embark on our journeys to site the day after Christmas. For Christmas, a lot of volunteers including myself are participating in a non demominational secret snowflake gift exchange and a white elephant (give something from the states you no longer want.) The secret snowflake has a cap of 1 million cfa which is roughly $2.

Between Tabaski and Christmas, time came to move out of our host families. I feel almost guilty.  Almost being the predominant word. I move out of homestay soon. Just the other night, my host mom made the only allusion to my leaving that has come up at all. Though I’ve had plenty of good moments with my host family, little had I internalized leaving my homestay other than “Man, will it be nice to cook for myself.” That is until I hear “Ade, tu partes”?” “pas bon!” from my host mother We never had any chance to wholly bond, though she is one of the few that speaks French in my family. She is always so busy…cooking, cleaning, being primary care giver to the slew of children (at least 15) of the Ouattaras. She one time invited me insider her house which I translated as being indoctrinated into the real family. It was right after her baby peed on me. Thought there was def some guilt involved, the invitation was enough to get me excited. Inside her and Assimi’s house I found a world unlike anything of my family courtyard. Instead of the village-esque marmites (huge, unfinished, metal basins for cooking) and small wooden benches, there was a couch and wait…..a TV and DVD player? The most expensive thing I can find outside, the wooden bench, probably sells for close to 3 mil cfa ($6 USD). Though I only stayed for long enough to watch a local program (RTB…local Burkinabe station) comment on a horse festival in the Northern Dori region, and watch one isolated DVD (Cote d’Ivoirian rapper music video), my entire financial interpretation of my host dad and his family changed. Slowy, by hanging out at Assimi’s tailoring shop more and more I started to gather that he is the sole supporter of his family.

Assimi, me, and Amina during PC "Remerciement" Ceremony

He is the primary breadwinner for over 20 mouths. Only in realizing his giving nature did so many of his quiet gestures and tendencies resonate with me. Unfortunately, the two months of stage were just long enough for me to overcome my french handicap and the traditional norms of this culture. Just now as I move out am I beginning to feel a tie with my host family.  To date, my host mother’s “pas bon,”  is the most heartfelt form of appreciation I’ve been able to internalize. Yes, I have been told formally, as a member of PC, thank you for your service, but until this moment, I hadn’t personalized my experience. Everything had seemed part of “training.” I really hope that once I move to site, the longer than two month period will allow me to really become part of local culture….and not just the nasara.

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