I'm writing this while sitting at my little table in my house in Tin. I'm wearing earplugs to lessen the headache-inducing pounding of the rain of my tin roof, which at the moment feels a little like living inside a large drum while thousands of hands bang on it with all their might with no purpose other than to drive me insane. Having just finished my 13th game of solitaire by lantern-light, I've decided that a better use of my time would be to write up a blog entry to be typed up next time I'm in Bobo with computer access. Rainy evenings like this in village can be a bit slow, as the rain is loud enough to prevent conversation and everyone is holed up in their houses waiting it out. One can only play so many games of solitaire...
Luckily, the rains are coming less frequently now and will stop altogether around the end of the month. This is both good news and bad for me. Good because I'm sick of being a hermit in my house, biking through inches of mud, and planning meetings, only to have no one show up because "it really like like it might rain." Bad news because sometimes rain is a great excuse to curl up in bed with a book and not be judged by everyone in the village (wanting some alone time is a foreign concept here), and because the end of rainy season signals the return of 100+ degree weather.
Though most volunteers would say that the entirety of their service is an emotional roller-coaster with constant high and low periods, the past few months have been especially so for me. May and June were both fairly busy work-wise, and the resulting feeling of productivity was rewarding in itself. Between overseeing our clinic repairs, planning and executing our girl's camp, and making great progress with my theater troupe, I was feeling like a "good volunteer," and pretty content at site in general. I was doing the sort of work that I came here to do, enjoying my friends and host family in village, and making a hopefully making a small positive difference in the community.
July, however, was difficult for several reasons. My neighbor had been suffering from AIDS since about a year ago, and though he had made some progress at first, getting his medications under control and putting on some weight, things took a downhill turn around April. He grew frustrated with everything: his medical regime, the stigma he faced, and his ongoing daily struggles physically. His wife is not in the picture and lives in another country, so his two children (Sali and Seydou, age 4 and 6) spend a lot of time in my courtyard, playing with my host siblings and raiding my toy stash, so I'd become particularly invested in the situation. With his mounting frustrations, his health began to deteriorate rapidly. After one particularly pain-filled day, he said "I'm just so tired, I'm ready to go." That night, woke several times in the night to the sound of his moans and cries of pain in the house next door, and at around 7 in the morning, he passed away. The funeral was heartbreaking, especially watching his older brothers who had outlived him carry his body through the courtyard on the way to burial. All us women stood up in respect as they passed, as women are traditionally not permitted at the actual burial. Then one by one, the women started wailing, and his two kids stood alone and ragged for a moment, sobbing inconsolably now that they finally realized that their father was really gone.
I've seen a lot more death since coming to Burkina than I was ever exposed to in the States, which has in some ways made it less shocking to me, but seeing those kids lose their father to such a senseless and preventable disease was particularly hard. Needless to say, that was a difficult time, for myself and more so for my host family and friends here in Tin.
July was also the final stage of a 4-month national polio vaccination campaign, and by month 4 of walking door to door throughout the village and vaccinating any kid we could get our hands on, I was pretty sick of it. Even romantically reminding yourself that you're helping eradicate an awful disease, saving babies, and all that noble altruistic stuff doesn't make the 110 degree sun any less hot or your headache from screaming children go away.
August was a high point, as my frend Tovah came to visit, bearing gifts of American food and news from home. She was a great guest, up for the challenge of traveling in Burkina and armed with a spiffy new camera and an bottomless bag of precautionary medical supplies. Luckily, she made good use of the camera but was able to go without most of the medical supplies, leaving them behind for my clinic staff to use. Unfortunately, Burkina caught up with her the last day with some sort of stomach bug, but other than that, the visit was wonderful.
So now it's september, and our Close-of-Service conference is in just a few days, after which I'll return to Tin for a couple more months to wrap up my work here. After that, it's home to the USA! All plans after my arrival in America are a little hazy until next fall, when I will hopefully be starting grad school. If anyone has any suggestions/job offers for that interim period, feel free to let me know!