Camp Consolidation 2015

Since last I wrote, the situation in Burkina Faso has progressed significantly. Shortly after my last blog post, the Peace Corps decided it was best to consolidate all of the volunteers in a central location. Luckily, this location has a pool, and air conditioning. So, what happens when 90+ nervous people with an average age of 25 are cooped up in a hotel together for going on a week and a half? Let’s just say we’ve broken a lot of bottles.

            Our time here is best described as limbo. Every day brings new news from the capital and every day brings new speculation about whether we’ll be headed back to site soon or rushed across the border to another state. For those of you that are worried, don’t be. The worst thing that has happened to be in the past two weeks is missing out on naptime.

            As we move into week two, the inevitable has begun to occur: Sharing. As Peace Corps Volunteers there is very little we don’t share. From movies and music to food and drinks to towels and tee shirts and of course, illnesses. One by one volunteers are succumbing to whatever bug patient zero brought to our little watering hole, and whether it is stress from the situation or just plain old Burkina Faso, many of us are moving into week two bedridden.

            Despite this unexpected and uncertain situation, we’ve found a way to make lemonade out of lemons. (And if there were actually lemons, I would indeed make some lemonade to sip by the pool). The Peace Corps sent a number of our language teachers down to give us language lessons every morning, and volunteers have been signing up during the day to give sessions in different areas of their expertise including malaria work in Burkina (me!), classroom management, grant writing and gender and development work. People with other skills have been running yoga and dance classes, and large activities such as trivia and talent shows have served to distract us from our uncertain positions. So in general, morale is high.

In addition, I have had the unexpected pleasure of getting to visit my host family from training a couple times since I've been here. Zoro is quiet and tranquil in the rainy season, and seeing the familiar faces of my host mother, father, brothers and sisters was a welcome respite from the stress of consolidation.  The first time I visited I was gifted a chicken and about four pounds of peanuts. The second time I went back it was for Eid, and the other volunteers and I invested in three chickens to gift the family Ziba. They stuffed us full of rice and sauce and grilled mutton before we said goodbye again, and I decided that I could have easily spent my two years of service right there in Zoro.             

So how am I feeling in all of this? I suppose the word that comes to mind is frustrated. I have been doing my best to operate as normal, working on my grant and my report for the Peace Corps and trying to keep up contacts back in Solenzo to make sure the projects I have started to set up don’t fall by the way side. But sometimes it is hard to carry on business as usual when the possibility of evacuation is hanging heavily in the air. The frustration isn’t perpetual, however.  It slips in between dips in the pool and taps me on the shoulder shyly after a third afternoon beer. It reminds me that I missed out on the trip to India I’ve been planning for seven months and that I could be in Solenzo helping to harvest corn with the nuns. However, there is good energy here too, and people at all stages in their service are eager and optimistic about getting back to their projects and friends at site. Send good vibes our way, I don’t think Solenzo has seen quite enough of me yet!