Wednesday, September 19, 2012


As the Peace Corps car pulled up to my compound in Nafadji yesterday. all of my kids were jumping up and down under the neem tree, screaming with excitement that I had come back.  No one knew yet that I was coming to say goodbye.  Sira jumped into my arms, and tears started welling up in my eyes.  We went into my host dad’s hut and PC Security explained why I couldn’t live there anymore.  Mbamoussa was in the room and told me how much I meant to their family and that she appreciated all that I had done for her and her kids.  Sometimes you don’t realize the impact you’ve had on others or that they’ve had on you until you’re leaving them.

I went into my hut and had to pack everything up in a hurry.  The PC car needed to get back to Kedougou as soon as possible, and my hut was a disaster.  I was rushing to take all my pictures down, pile belongings into buckets, and haul large trunks out to the car.  I didn’t travel light when I moved to Nafadji, and I seemed to have accumulated a lot over the past year and a half.  I gave some things to the family and left furniture behind.  As I was packing up the hut that has been my home, I felt numb.  It was surreal to actually be leaving.

We packed up the car, and I told the PC staff I wanted to run back to say goodbye to my family.  I called over all my kids, and started hugging them and telling them I’d be back to visit.  Little Adama started crying, then Fantafoune, then Asu, then like dominoes, all of the kids were crying.  Mbamoussa and the other women fell next.  At that point, tears were streaming down my face and I couldn’t breathe.  I made it back to the car, and everyone stood under the neem tree to see me off.  The hardest part is leaving the kids.  I already miss them.

Playing with a bubble gun
Dou, Sadio, and Sira
Carrying Sira and Dou at Fily's Wedding

I know this isn’t goodbye forever.  I’ll try to go back and visit when I can, but it won’t ever be the same as living there.  The nature of the security issue prohibits me from spending the night in the village, which will make it difficult to visit.

This past month of dealing with the aftermath of the assault, having to leave my village, and just feeling like everything has been changing, I think resilience is what I’ve taken away from all of it.  It’s not the Peace Corps service I expected, but I’m learning a lot.

Saying goodbye to Nafadji was insanely hard, but I tried not to let that cloud the way I viewed my welcome in Saraya.  With the help of some other volunteers, I’ve found a wonderful family to live with, and I’m optimistic about the rest of my service.  My new host mom is a strong, well-respected woman in the community, and she has welcomed me into her home with open arms.  I don’t know her well yet, but I have a feeling she is going to make a big impact on me.  Not only will I be adding a whole new cast of characters to my life here, but also will have much more quantitative work opportunities at the district hospital.  I’ll be able to continue my work on the cervical cancer prevention project and skilled birth attendant trainings as well as find new projects.

Before I can move into my new compound, there need to be some additions to the hut.  Doors, windows, fencing, and a pit latrine.  Hopefully I’ll be able to move soon.

Moving on and bouncing back are all a part of the Peace Corps game.  You really do have to be flexible and adapt to whatever this country throws at you.  Recently my resilience has been put to the test, and I’m finding myself still motivated to do work and to meet new people.  I’m not going to let this setback ruin my experience here.   I’ve felt a lot of things this past month: fear, anger, betrayal, sadness, nostalgia, frustration, confusion, and now hope.  Moving out of Nafadji enabled me to have some closure, and I feel ready to begin my life in Saraya.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Change of Plans

About a month ago, I had a traumatic experience in my village.  I don’t feel comfortable posting all of the details on a public blog, but it involved an intruder coming into my hut in the middle of the night while I was sleeping.  I’m okay, and Peace Corps Safety and Security responded immediately.  I biked out of the village the following day and have been living at the regional house for the past month.

I have always felt safe in my village, and this incident broke that trust.  The part that breaks my heart the most is that I probably will not be able to move back.  This is something that I’ve been struggling with a lot, because I was so happy living in that village.  I’ve reached a point in my service where I’m comfortable with the language and have made some close local friends.  I love my host family, especially the kids.  You never think that something like this will happen to you.  It feels surreal to know that I can no longer live in the place I’ve called home for the past 15 months.  I never wanted to leave my village this way.  I wanted to leave in 8 months when I’m supposed to leave, and by then I hoped I’d be more ready.  It’s not time yet, and this whole experience has been very frustrating and confusing.

The more distance I’ve had from my village and from the incident, the more clearly I have been able to see it.  Initially, I wanted to try to move back to my village, because the thought of not seeing my kids every day was unthinkable.  My family, friends, and work are there, and I didn’t want to leave them.  It made me so angry that my village and I were being punished for something that was completely out of my control.  A month later, the situation is still not resolved, and I know that it’s not realistic for me to think I can move back.  No matter how much I’m going to miss everyone, my safety has to be more important.

Luckily, I was able to go back for Fily’s wedding last week.  The only way that was possible was because my boyfriend went with me.  I’ll write another blog about the wedding, but it was great to go back for a few days and to see my family.

Now I’m trying to plan out the rest of my service.  My friends here have been incredibly supportive and have been helping me to figure out what I want to do.  There are a lot of options, but I think I’ll probably move to another village.  The village I’m leaning towards moving to is in a beautiful location and has some wonderful people.  It’s hard to think about starting all over again in a new village at this point in my service, but this time around I have a better grasp of the language and know what to expect.  I’m not saying goodbye to anyone in Nafadji either, because I still hope to visit during the day and to continue my Care Group and Jeune Relais projects.

The funny part about this is that I had just written in my journal the day before the incident happened that I had the rest of my service planned out.  I knew exactly what projects I’d be working on up until I leave in the spring.  It just goes to show that you can’t plan everything!