Monday, March 1, 2010

Heat, Time Travel, and Foreign Language

First off, appologies for the sporatic nature of this blog. It’ not so much that little is happening as it is that internet is such a rarity. In Sabou—the town 13km from me, on the paved road—there’s a cyber cafĂ©, with computers, a copier, electricity, etc. They put up a new sign (in addition to the old one), advertising INTERNET, PHOTO COPIER, COMPUTERS, so I thought maybe they finally got things hooked up. I made it out there to ask: Nope. They bought the sign advertising internet before buying the actual internet. Africa.

Today, we’ll talk about time travel. Not in the Wellsian sense, over billions of years. More in the Vonnegut sense, time within one person’s life, and it’s effect on outcomes… We’ll start about 17 months ago, when I first began my application to Peace Corps. I remember back then, in the cold Champaign winter, thinking, “Two Years? Easy! What’s two measly years in the grand scheme of things?” The error in this line of thought is, of course, it’s Wellsian nature. Sure, in the entire course of human history and future, one man’s two-year absence is pretty much nil. But what about that man’s history?

The four years of college seemed to go by rather quickly. Of course, retrospect accelerates those perceptions. There were certainly days that seemed to never end, distant final tests and papers whose approach reflected personal doom. During those four years of college, a lot certainly did happen. Many things whose importance I hardly realize—after all, I was there to witness them. They weren’t such a big deal.

Of course, I was wrong. A LOT can happen in two years: It only takes a day, for example, to get married. Some of my closest friends and relatives—the same age as me—are engaged! Some have already scheduled dates that seem far off, but are dates I’ll still be here, with only my imagination to illustrate what I’m missing. Others are having landmark birthdays. People are graduating, switching jobs, moving to new cities. Our first black president will be 75% finished with his term when I make my return.

So, selfishly, two years ain’t much. For me, it’ll be a few days I killed sweating and reading books. But I’m realizing that the place I’ll return to qt the end of 2011 won’t be the same as it was last June, when I left. Some of you will be married or living elsewhere. My gravest fear is that some won’t be around at all. A short trip home will be enough to give me a taste of how things have changed, but not enough to be much of a witness to them. While, overall, I don’t think I’ll regret my time here, there are a few things I’ll never forgive myself for missing. My apologies to those of you who hoped I’d be there. Know that your progressions perhaps mean more to me than to you, now that I know I’m missing them.

Well, how about an update? Teaching is going without problem. I can speak words in French, satisfy needs, discuss prices, but there’s a big old iceberg-like quality to a whole new language’s use. Many things—turns of phrase, colloquialisms, proper grammar—I am not learning here. It’s a foreign language for people here, too, and as long as it works for basic communication, there’s no need to be picky about it. Save existential thought for your natural language. I can barely understand Radio France International. Chances are; when I’m done here, I’ll be no more an expert on French language than I am on internal combustion engines. (I get the idea, but that’s about it.)

The school year is about 2/3rds finished. I’m really looking forward to the summer. I’ll get a chance to do a little traveling (let’s be honest; it’s the real reason I’m here), concentrate on language skills, and (maybe) work on some extra-curriculars. That little trip home will be awful nice, too. I hope you’ll be around! Thought, don’t peg me as a hypocrite: I’ll understand if you can’t be.Word is your winter’s extra long. Which really sucks because it’s looking like the hot season here will be uncharacteristically long: other volunteers say it’s never been this hot in February. Burkinabe say there wasn’t really much of a “cold” season this year… How unfair that my favorite season is extra long at home, snow still falling!

We’ll leave it there until next time. Gotta go chalk up my hands. (Sometimes, it does feel like gymnastics).



  1. I am so glad you blogged b/c I was becoming concerned about your saftey and missed the stories of your adventure. You are not missing much in terms of weather. Cold, wet, messy, but it is pretty the first few hours after the snow falls. Jennifer Chapman

  2. LOVE YOU! I will see you in exactly 3 months from today!!!!!!!!!!!!!