Sunday, 24 April 2011

Bye bye Bobo

A week ago today I left Bobo - for the last time at least for the foreseeable future. It wasn't easy to dismantle my flat - amazing how much stuff I had managed to accumulate over a year. Various people came round to 'help' - neighbours and some of the local children who have been regular fixtures on my balcony. This did not always speed things up. Friends and neighbours were not shy in asking for things they thought I might be leaving behind - I had several offers for my velo, for which a home - which I hope will turn out to be a good one - had already been found. Requests for sheets, kitchen equipment, and my 'shaky torch' - which needs no batteries and is invaluable in power cuts. Also a number of enquiries after items which belong to VSO, so were not mine to give away. Most requested of all? The blue plastic garden chairs - which were mine - and which I could have rehoused several times over. One has gone to Martin, the neighbourhood night watchman, who has been sitting on it every night for months now. The whole experience was a bit reminiscent of leaving student accommodation - not something I have done for a while. But unlike similar removals in the UK with which I have helped out more recently, almost nothing went in the bin, just a bit of packaging - a home and a use was or will be found for everything. That in itself is satisfying, I had no feeling of waste.

Sida Ka Taa arranged a lovely leaving do for me, with music, speeches, a little dancing and much merriment. And filmed it all, including my attempt at a thank you speech in French (leaving speeches not being my strong point at the best of times...) - which I will spare you! The rest of my departure arrangements were a bit haphazard, as the time coincided with a bit of unrest among the military in Burkina, and a few nights of curfew, which rather cut across some of my plans, although we managed to squeeze in a get-together of most of the Bobo volunteers. I'm glad to see that the unrest now seems to have settled down again, with Burkina returning to the peace which is usually one of its hallmarks.

Despite all this, during my last week many dear friends called round with kind words and thoughtfully chosen presents, which was very moving. There are lots of people I will miss,including some of my favourite young visitors with their fantastic smiles almost guaranteed to brighten the day and - when necessary - lift my mood.

But the quantity of kids knocking at the door and asking for water (at least) has gone up dramatically in recent weeks, and the last couple of days started at 6.30am - which I would have had to do something about were I not leaving!

The weather, which for the first half of the month had been kind for April, cranked up a gear, bringing back memories of my arrival, and increasing the allure of Europe!

Anyway, by this time last week I had crammed everything I hoped to bring home into some capacious bags, and abandoned the rest, with stalwart help from Kris (recently arrived volunteer at SKT)- BIG thanks to Kris for her support with this).

Distributed the final heap of toy cars, sweeties and pens to the kids. Hauled the stuff into the taxi of Ismael, one of our favourite trustworthy taximen, for the final journey to the TCV bus station. TCV are usually very punctual, but this time - perhaps due to the disruption caused by the curfew - set off for Ouaga 20 minutes late. I could have done with their usual punctuality, because there was a delegation of half a dozen people from SKT to wave me off and wish me well - so more emotional farewells - and by this stage I was ready to leave.

And then the now-familiar 5 hour bus journey to Ouaga, during which I managed to doze a bit - less than sometimes, as the soap opera featured a character called Hélène, the name I have answered to for the last year - which kept waking me up! The landscape, which a year ago looked so strange, now familiar; the mid-way stop at Boromo, where sellers of cold drinks, sesame snacks with all the vitamins A-Z, apples, eggs and the delicious local bread bombard the bus, now routine. And so to Ouagadougou, and another farewell drink, this time with some Ouaga-based volunteers old and new (an afternoon get together, because of curfew - thanks all) and a multi-lingual chat. We met in the surroundings of Nong Taaba, where I spent my first night in Burkina Faso. When I arrived last year, I was the first non-Canadian VSO volunteer - now the group includes members from half a dozen countries - to all of them, and to the VSO staff who bid me goodbye the following day, and to my colleagues and friends I wish success and happiness - and above all peace for Burkina Faso.


  1. Thanks for all your blogs on this Helen. They've been fantastic reading. I learnt a lot about a country I'd never heard of until you went there. I now have such clear images of it from your stories which have been happy and sad and always interesting.

  2. very moving and I agree with Rachel
    we do look forward to seeing you, perhaps fleetingly (?) in Warwick soon! G

  3. Wonderful blog! Thank you thank you!

  4. Yes, great blogs, Helen (what an inelegant word that is, I mean blog not Helen) - we would have loved to visit you but your posts were a great compromise. Why not write them up as a script for the BBC? Hope to see you somewhere sometime, meanwhile sail on happily.