I had a moment today of really feeling the imminence of my leaving, several actually. This evening I sat outside with Djeneba eating the first corn of the season (grilled on a charcoal brazier for us by her teenager sister/nieces) and talking about how some day she'd like to move up in the system and become a pediatrician (she's an IB, one step above an AIS, but below an IDE and then the pediatric attache). We watched Rashid play, giggling, eating (and dropping) his corn, as we looked at Mariam's photos and commented on the ones of ourselves. When Mariam and Mohamad got back from buying juice she and Djeneba started talking in Moore. I considered leaving but stayed, enjoying just being in the presence of people who make me so genuinely happy to see them. I love that when I see my staff or my ASCs for the first time after being away I just feel so giddy, like my smile can't get any bigger because I'm so happy to have the chance to exchange the same old greetings, attempting to infuse them with the joy and warmth I feel so they know that for me it's not just the same old rote speech, that I actually want to know about their family and their health and their fields and their work.
When the mosquitoes were getting thick and it was getting dark I finally excused myself to come home and drink my tea and read my book. I'm reading an anthology of travel stories, and now have about 20 more places on my list of places I want to visit. One was about Orr Hot Springs! I couldn't help but giggle, I can't wait to go back someday. The one that got me out of my book and onto my computer to write was a guy visiting Dubai, describing his flight as he left. I remembered that I, too, will be taking an Emirates plane and changing flights in Dubai, that I'm about to embark on a series of flights that will be longer than any trip I've ever taken. I guess LA to Sydney, Australia was the longest single flight, but I'm going to have 3 flights on this trip of at least 8 hours apiece (Ouaga to Adis Ababa to Delhi, then from Doha to London). And the thought made me really excited! Even the hassle of air travel still holds a level of wonder and adventure that I remember as a kid. Then the image of leaving the Ouaga airport for the last time made me almost cry. I don't even begin to know how to work out my feelings of being here, of preparing myself and my friends for when I leave here. Every time someone asks and exclaims over how soon I'm leaving I tell them (only half joking) that they can't talk about it, it makes me too sad. Even the frustrations, the delays, the annoying idiosyncrasies of being here – I'm going to miss them. I'm going to miss searching frantically for PAM papers and notebooks all over the CSPS, miss the fact that I can show up late to anything knowing it will never start on time, miss the amusing frustration of microphones that never ever work even though people insist on still using them despite being totally incomprehensible to the audience.
That last part actually takes me to this morning. After breakfast I went over to the CSPS to help with PAM distribution. Just as I was sitting down to start matching books to papers, Major arrived and said that we were doing a presentation at the CPL (the Maison des Jeunes) and that he was going to make all the women go to that and come get their rations later. I, as always, was resistant to this change in plans, but he seemed determined and announced it and off they went. I helped move our papers and such back inside, then biked off to meet them there. Lo and behold this was a “conference”, a presentation of several hours to easily 100 women and their babies, about birth control. I declined to present anything, the guy from Seguenega almost got booed for only speaking French, but then I was handed several cameras and became the official photographer. I also took some for myself, including a series of this adorable toddler, maybe a year old, who seemed to be enthralled with a beer cap, particularly putting it on his head and then trying to toddle off until his mom gently grabbed an arm and pulled him back.
After it was over (and our supervisors came and made us do part of it over for their benefit, for the 15 women still in the room waiting out the rain), I went and bought gallettes from Alimata, who was thankfully feeling better (someone had told me this morning that she was sick), then sat at home with some jasmine tea and read while it kept raining. I left a bit before 15 to help with PAM, stayed there for a few hours, and then had my time sitting outside with Djeneba and Mariam, talking, taking photos, laughing. I love that I can have a morning full of boredom, an afternoon full of frustrations, and still get to the evening after sitting and talking with friends for an hour or two and remember my day as happy and beautiful, even in the bored and the frustrating parts.