Monday, August 13, 2007

I have less than three months in country. I can't believe I will be leaving so soon. I have mixed feelings about going home. I'm excited to go back to the comforts of America, to family and friends but I'm sad that I will be saying good-bye to so many warm, friendly people. The majority of people I see everyday, I most likely will never see again. There is also some guilt - yes, I've been here for two years, but now, I am able to go back home, leaving this behind.

Well, let's get caught up with what has been happening the past 7 or so weeks.

I went on my vacation to Mali, via Burkina Faso. Another volunteer, Tim, and I went. I took off about three weeks, but was back in Ghana before my vacation was over. It was a great trip but I was happy to be back in Ghana. I don't speak any French and Tim only spoke a little so that was stressful. I felt dependent on him to get us around, which I am not used to. The bus system in Burkina Faso was really good and actually on time - that was a pleasant surprise.

So, we made our way north at a pretty relaxed speed. We crossed the border into Burkina Faso on a Sunday afternoon. We made it to Ouagadougou (pronounced Wagadoogoo) and crashed at the Peace Corps hostel. It was nice to be able to meet other Peace Corps volunteers. The food was fantastic - yogurt, baguettes and steak sandwiches. After two nights in the hostel we headed northwest, toward the Burkina/Mali border. We ended up staying the night in another medium-sized city prior to crossing into Mali. So we crossed the border into Mali on a Wednesday. Up until this point, the trip was uneventful. Getting across the Mali border was a little difficult but we managed and it worked out.

We stayed the night on a rooftop in Bankass, Mali and the next day met our tour guide, Hassimi. Hassimi is a tour guide for Dogon Country. We had been warned by other PCV's that he was a big guy and they weren't kidding. He climbed out of his car, aka Grandma, and he was a BIG man - perhaps the largest West African I've seen. Estimates around here are that he's about 6'3, 320. We piled into his little car and headed into Dogon Country.

It's not required to get a guide to tour Dogon Country, but it's highly recommended. We paid Hassimi a flat fee and he paid all the village fees, photography fees, sleeping and food arrangements. It was three days of no-stress, which was wonderful.

The Dogon people live in villages along the Bandiagara escarpment (here is some one's website with more information and a few photos We would hike in the mornings, when it wasn't too hot, then arrive at a village, eat and relax until late afternoon, when again, the sun wasn't too hot. We would then hike to our next village and camp overnight. The last night we camped at the top of the escarpment and it was beautiful. Getting up and down the escarpment wasn't so easy and stress-free, but we made it. I was sweating profusely, and right in front of me was big Hassimi, walking up the rocks like it was nothing. Amazing...

After our three days in Dogon Country we spent the night at Hassimi's house and then on Sunday, made our way to Djenne, with a brief stop in Mopti. Djenne has the largest mud structure in the world, the Konboro Mosque. To be honest, the arrival into Djenne was a anticlimactic. We ended up sleeping on a rooftop of some one's house, right next to the mosque. It was okay and slightly cheaper than getting a hotel - we were feeling brave. Luckily it didn't rain. There were two dessicated rabbits on the roof, which we didn't notice when we agreed to sleep up there - I'm not sure how rabbits got up there and why they were never taken down (I hope they were rabbits and not huge rats or something...yikes). Once we figured out where we were spending the night, we walked around Djenne a big and it was cooler than I had initially thought. There was some interesting history and architecture, all mud. After a half hour though, we were finished. Early Monday morning we headed back to Mopti, debating whether or not we would continue onto Timbuktu.

Once we reached Mopti we decided not to go to Timbuktu. I was pretty tired and we weren't sure if our money was sufficient. We sat all day in Mopti until we could get a vehicle to Koro, the border town. The next day, Tuesday, we crossed back into Burkina Faso, in the back a Peugeot pick-up truck. It was the best ride of the whole trip, breezy, not crowded and some reggae on the radio. Plus there was the most beautiful Tuareg man in the back of the truck with us, so I could stare at him (discreetly) when I needed a different view. Plus, along this road, you sometimes would see camels working in the fields with people. That was really cool. I was happy when we got into Burkina and saw donkeys everywhere, but the camels were really cool. So, before we knew it, we were back in Ouaga. The very next day, I headed back to Ghana.

When I reached the border town I was so happy to hear Ghanaian English and local languages. I was walking to Immigration and this man started yelling at me "Adwoa, Adwoa," which is the name of a girl born on Monday. I just chuckled to my self, happy to be back. The ladies next to me looked over and asked me if I understood Ghanaian language and I replied I did. They were so happy when I greeted them in Twi. They said "Oh, you are a good girl!" I love Ghanaians!

I quickly made my way back to the southern part of Ghana, just in time to go to Patrick's send-off party. It was great and I am so happy that I was able to attend. Patrick was my closest volunteer and I really liked the people in his town. He coached a basketball team at the secondary school so for the send-off the team played PCV's. The team ended up winning but we took it in stride. The whole town was so excited, and the players were really proud. Patrick was also installed/instooled as a ceremonious chief. This was really cool too. They carried him in a palanquin and everyone wanted their picture taken with him. I am thankful I was there, enjoying the celebration.

After this I headed back to site. It was good to go back. My cat has had three more kittens and they are all doing well. I have a new dinner mate - this little boy comes over almost every day to eat. If he comes early enough I'll include him in my portions but sometimes I don't cook so I have to send him away. He's about five or so, really nice little guy. After we eat he doesn't seem to want to leave, so I end up walking him to town, to his house.

Our Close of Service (COS) conference was two weeks ago. It was excited to see all the volunteers that I flew here with. Pretty much everyone is preparing to leave. A lot of people talking about grad school, med school, jobs, etc. The overall conference was uneventful, I think everyone can't believe we're already preparing to go. It feels like we just got here (okay, some days).

I guess I had more to say than I realized. I'll try to post more the next three months. Sometimes it feels that nothing exciting happens, it's all so normal now. If you have any questions let me know - questions always get my brain working. Take care!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe it's almost over! I remember when you applied to enter the Peace Corps! I am so very proud of you, and I am amazed by your strength and continued dedication. You are truly beautiful! I love you!!!

11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's so nice to see your smiling face again. Sounds like you are doing well. Glad to hear it. Things are good here at IHQ but we still miss you. It's fun to tell stories about the good 'ole days with that silly Sarah Schweizer. Take care,

6:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I love to hear what you are doing it sounds wonderful! "You have come a long way baby!" I am very proud of you.


5:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what are you doing when you come home. i know you will be coming to IHQ. love ya Anne

11:15 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Sarah! I remember meeting you the day you received a bid from AGD. I was your sister-mother and somehow I had managed to have never met you. I thought to myself...I hope this girl is nice. I remember we became instant friends because of your adventurous spirit and sense of humor. Even though I haven't see you in way too long :), I can tell by your blog that you haven't changed a bit. You are even a stronger woman that you were then. I am so proud of you, and I miss you so much! I can't wait for you to be back...and now I live so close to Alaska! I am planning a trip for when you get back so I can hear all of your wonderful stories and adventures.
Love you lots! Hope to see you soon.

8:14 AM  

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