After an eventful 3+ week tour of the US (plus a 2 day Paris side-trip) I’m safely back in my home in eastern Burkina. The trip was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with friends and family, see two friends be married, the chance to do some reflecting on my experience as a PCV, and make some plans for the future (not to mention a great chance to resupply and bring things for myself and others that I hadn’t thought of or weren’t priorities the first time around).
The whirlwind tour kept me insanely busy, and I think that busyness is what mostly offset any feelings of being overwhelmed with the developed world’s amenities. In fact, I was surprised at my ease in slipping back into my former life. Though, I suppose it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise – I’ve spent 27 of my 28 years in that world after all. This fact didn’t stop me, however, from starting many sentences with, “In Burkina Faso…” or “I’m not used to…”. Sorry about that, everyone I saw.
The most obvious differences were mostly food related, but more subtle cultural differences affected me more profoundly. Leisure time, children’s role in society, waste, and the general ability to have so many options in all facets of life stood out the most in my mind. All of these ideas deserve a lot more space dedicated to them, and if you’ll allow me to wax poetic a bit, will surely be subjects of future posts. Not lost on me was that I hadn’t dedicated much time to thinking about these issues until I saw them in quick succession.
Coming back to Burkina was stranger than it ever was being back in America. Though now that it has been a few days I’m back to my usual routines and am comfortable again. Proof that I’ve become pretty adaptable, I suppose. However, coming to Burkina this time was much different this time around. While the plane was on it’s final descent into Ouaga I had this feeling come over me where I realized I was coming back to a place I could navigate. I already knew what to expect in regards to what I would see, and most importantly could communicate with people once I got off the plane. And of course this time I have clear goals and a plan for the future rather than a hazy idea of what my service would be like.
One anecdote happened at home with my family in San Francisco as we watched the 2006 movie Outsourced, which I had somehow missed earlier. The film depicts an American who goes to India to establish a phone center there. It’s a great movie, and I could empathize with the main character as he expressed surprise in many scenes that depict poverty, cultural differences, and other underdeveloped world clichés. However, throughout the film I couldn’t help but thinking how even in the scenes that were supposed to depict poverty, India looks really developed compared to Burkina Faso.
Overall, the trip achieved what a good vacation is supposed to – I had fun and have come back to work and life with a new perspective with more motivation than ever before. The key will be to hold onto it as long as I can.
Check out a few photos below from what I encountered along the way: Paris, “beaches”, hibachi, weddings, baseball, golf, food festivals, and butchery shops: