The Hardest Part (Truly) is Leaving

This phrase was used as part of a Peace Corps advertising campaign and I find it to be very fitting during this COS week.

Last week was pretty stressful packing up the house and getting all my stuff together to Ouaga. The weekend before I left I hosted one of my ex-pat friends for her first time in village. That was a nice opportunity to show things off and get a closing snapshot before I left site for the first time.

Before I left, women from each quartier came to my house and gave me a ton of village peanuts and small change for my way home. I felt bad accepting the money from them but we were told by our bureau to accept any and every gift. Refusing a gift would be very impolite and culturally insensitive. I was so touched by this gesture and I am so glad that I was able to engage the women of my village in such a positive way.

The Saturday before I left, I ran through the whole spectrum of emotions, anger, fear, anxiety, excitement, and everything in-between. I went over to the Baoguin and Yippala quartiers of my village to say goodbye to the AME (women’s parent association) President (Azeta), of the Women (Lucie), and the Mayor, and to give them printed out pictures of me. (If you want to make a Burkinabe’s day take a picture of the two of you and get it printed out. They love that). Saying goodbye was tough, every kept saying  “tu vas nous manquer beaucoup” (we will miss you a lot) and asking when I will be coming back.

People asked me to throw myself a going-away party which I declined to do. The last time I threw a party for myself in village I was told to my face that a chicken/person and two beers/person was insufficient. I wasn’t going to let that happen again.

Without going into too much detail, the day I left village there was a political spat over the furniture in the house if I do not get replaced with another volunteer between my landlord and my mayor. My landlord felt that he should have my furniture because he let me live in his house for two years. The furniture was bought with Peace Corps money and is Peace Corps property.

We’re not allowed to get into village politics as PCVs. It can ruin your service; it’s disappointing that my leaving site brought many political issues to the forefront. Fortunately our bureau is taking things very seriously and is going to deal with this matter after I leave and go and visit my site and going to seize the furniture the week after I leave. I’m honestly saddened that this blew up into such an intense situation and that I accidentally got in the middle of and that this will affect my site’s future dealings with Peace Corps.

I feel frustrated that politics got involved in this situation. I did my best to stay out of things, and did not find out about the political in-fighting between people until the night before I left. At this point I do not know if I am going to be able to go back and visit my village after this incident. I know it’s not my fault but as indicated by last weekend’s events, these wounds may take a long time to heal.

I think the best advice I can give to a PCV who is village is that you are not going to be able to say goodbye to everyone. In my case it’s summer vacation and all of the teachers I worked with are either in Ouaga, Bobo, or Ouahigouya. I also did not get a chance to say goodbye to either primary school director who I spent most of my time working with. Also you should say goodbye early and not wait until the last minute.

Leaving my home for two years was one of the toughest moments of my entire service. The hardest part of Peace Corps truly is leaving.

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