Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Leaving Keleya: Another Beginning's End

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.

1 comment:

Dr. Trev est.1985 said...

Hurricane Ike was headed towards Texas, so naturally with the timeing (sept 11th, my moms b-day) I packed a quick overnight bag and headed back to Cali! wish u were here.
I was wondering what, if any, kind of wild life you have had an oppertunity to see?
Im sure you have been told that the Repo's (keep in mind im "independent") have posted an atractive female Alaskin wild game hunter as the VP? And the Demo's tacked on one of the oldest and most experianced to kick it with Obama? Has this news sparked any politcal convo over there?
Do you have a favorite exotic food over there?
And lastly I have to admit, I really enjoy reading your updates, you are an excellent writer! Look foreward to reading more.
Usc(1) plays ohio st.(2) 2day, ill let u know who won.
-Dr. Trev