Burkina was fantastic, as were Tanagou, Nati, Péhunko, and Sinendé. Parakou was somewhat less so, but that may be more a function of the fact that I was working than any inherent not-fantastic-ness on the part of the town.
I went to Ouaga (that’s Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, for those of you not used to the “I’m so old-hat I refer to African capitals by their nicknames” jargon) for SIAO, a bi-annual artisanal festival that brings in about 100,000 exhibitors and attendees from all over the continent. I didn’t have any real purpose outside of seeing what kinds of art are happening outside of Benin, but of course, I managed to spend hours talking to various artisans, as well as meet several interesting volunteers.
No, I didn’t get ripped off on any prices, mostly because I’m awesome, but also because I’m completely unwilling to tolerate any “you’re white, you have money” crap. I know how much each booth cost! More than I’d spend on my entire trip, including transportation and food for two weeks. I ended up with some neat miscellany, including fruit wine, shay butter soap to support various women’s collectives, a ton of Tuareg jewellery, other jewellery, clothes, and hella interesting batiks. And all at great prices.
After Burkina, I came back down south with some interesting Americans I’d met in the Ouaga Peace Corps Hostel (those lucky bastards). The waterfalls in Tanagou were as gorgeous as they were the last time (although with significantly more water due to intervening rainy season). The workstation was the workstation, simultaneously sucking the life out of me and showing me a good time, as always.
The next few towns were fantastic, both for their warm hospitality and the chance to hang out with volunteers I rarely see. And then of course, Parakou to give an HTML formation with Lyle and work PSL-19’s SED/ ICT Early Service Training. I arrived in Parakou the most relaxed I’d been in months, and it was insane how obvious that was to everyone there.
EST was cool. I didn’t party very hard (Sara, my co-trainer, and I, had a lot of early nights). I also wasn’t helped by the fact that Bertrand was in town, and hey, given the choice between hanging out with him and a bunch of drunk volunteers . . . well, he won about 50% of the time. Haha.
So now I’m back in Cotonou and struggling to get back in the swing of things. Life is . . . not anything like I expected a year-plus into my service, but it’s interesting, that’s for damn sure.