I am back to Tubaniso after wrapping up my training in Keleya. There's so much to share, and I hope to find time to write more before Friday's Swear-In. I am excited to finally, officially become a PCV, but nervous for the hard months that lie ahead. More on that later...
I suppose this was exactly the purpose of training, but I am a little upset that I just got used to life in Keleya as I was getting ready to leave. My language was just getting good enough that I could ask more complex questions (and understand the answers if they were given to me in small bites). I no longer simply accepted things I didn't understand, and frankly, many things that originally appeared nonsensical made sense once I understood their context.
The day before we left Keleya, the village had a gathering in our honor - if everyone weren't fasting for Ramadan, it would have been a party. Many of the village's more prominent figures were in attendance, and all of the host families were invited. Our training group wrote a short speech to thank the village for their incredible hospitality. With the help of our language teachers, we translated it into Bambara, and I had the honor of delivering it on everyone's behalf. Without telling my host family that I would be delivering the speech, I tried to make sure they would be coming.
Like most events here, the details of our party were somewhat sketchy. We had at least one false-start when the mayor's office failed to get word to the appropriate elders. Even on the morning of the party, I was unsure exactly who would be doing what when, and tried to make sure my family would be ready to run over.
Much more quickly than I had anticipated, the village elders shuffled in to the schoolyard and sat against one wall. I hurriedly found a small child and dispatched him to my house, telling him to find my dad, and giving him a short message to carry. As everyone got settled for the meeting, I became antsy, looking around the corner every time I heard a moto pass. The host families each got a chance to tell a story about their trainee, and to thank them for their contribution to the family. As they continued around the circle, I tried to keep from showing my disappointment.
I delivered a near-flawless speech (...I think...) to the village of Keleya, but it felt a little empty showcasing my best Bambara without my family there.
The next morning, my departure came early. I packed the meager contents of my hut as my host brother fried up an egg for me. By the time I was packed and fed, I had just a few minutes to walk around the concession and say goodbye to my extended family before I had to catch the bus. Of course, I saved Senidia (Dad) for last, and Madou (bro) and a whole entourage of people carried my bags for me. As I made the rounds, it was hard to communicate the gratitude and connection I feel towards these people. "Thank you very much" didn't quite do it. There are a number of scripted Bambara blessings that help to fill the gaps, like, "may your journey be easy," or, "may we see each other again." I also had prepared a couple phrases, like "I will miss you."
After I said goodbye to host dad, I realized that I hadn't seen my host sister, Waraba. I called out to the concession, and she walked out from behind wherever she had been hiding. All I could get out was "thank you very much" before tears gathered in her eyes and she turned and walked away. Under my aviators, I cried too.
I hardly cried at the airport when I said goodbye to my real family. I don't know what happened, but I cried leaving Keleya. It surprised me.
Less than two months ago, these people were just faces I didn't know with names I didn't recognize. Their customs, their food, and their lives made little sense to me. For much of the time I was with them, we communicated in hand gestures. But when it came time for my speech, I wanted my dad to be proud of my Bambara. I felt like a second grader in a school play when he didn't show up.
Less than two months ago, they were foreign to me, and I to them. When the time came for me to leave, I was saying goodbye to family.