Thursday, January 05, 2006

I'll be home for the after-Christmas sales

Alas, my dear friends, the time has come for me to bid you Adieu! (god bless you!) No, that wasn't a sneeze, that was French. (oh. sorry.) Anyway, it's true. The siren song of post-holiday clearances at JC Penny proved too hard to resist. The seat on Air France was beckoning, and who was I to refuse its call? I booked it, and now I'm bookin it. My last order of business in Ouaga before getting on the plane will be to treat my abused calloused feet to a pedicure. Tonight at midnight I'll be sipping champagne and watching Brokeback Mountain 35000 feet above Mali on my way back to civilization.

I made it quite a ways, wouldn't you say? A whole year and a half. Not bad, Philippe, not bad.

Thank you so much to all of you who were generous enough to me send care packages! (And for those of you who weren't, well, I guess I forgive you. This time.) You spiced up my life, literally. I wasn't even able to get through all of the wonderful spices, so I've left them in my PCV neighbor Imane's equally grateful and loving care.

To all the volunteers, thanks for making it worth it. I love you guys.

Thank you too for those of you who wrote to me to tell me how much you enjoyed my stories. You're the only reason I kept writing this shit down! Without your encouragement, I would have never had the satisfaction of sharing all my most gruesome and painful experiences with all of you. The promise that you would later live them vicariously was what got me through some of them in the first place.

Yes, I've been a bit quiet these past few months. Well, I had to save something for the book, didn't I? Does that make me a greedy capitalist pig? Well, I gotta feed myself somehow. There will be a book! If your 3rd cousin twice removed's boyfriend's stepdad is in publishing, let me know.

But really, my hiatus had less to do with moolah and more to do with laziness and not having enough hours on the computer to keep typing it all up.
Frankly, I was also a bit burnt out. I mean, how many times can one bitch about horrific transport experiences from hell? What's that? You want more? All right then. Here's one for the road:


I've seen cows loaded on the roof. I've been crammed and smooshed, sat upon with an old guy's knee in my crotch. As many people on top as inside. I've seen the van loaded down with so many motos that the roof buckled and threatened to cave in. Man, I've been through some shitty ass transport in my day. Whenever you think you've seen it all, just when you consider yourself seasoned, whenever you think transport couldn't possibly get any worse... That's when Burkina really delivers.

The bush taxi heading to Ouaga showed up already packed, with 30-some goats tied to the roof. So far so good! I was waiting to get on along with the French and Peruvian ladies who live in Meguet, each of us with a bike and a pack. I wasn't worried that there wouldn't be room. There's always room.

The ladies got placed up front (the seat of honor, though I don't know if you can call it such when you're sharing half the middle seat jammed between the driver and a large Burkinabé man). I got into the back, and was mildly surprised that instead of a floor, the van's bottom was covered in--yes, more goats. So I kicked off my birks and buried my cracked feet into the warm live goat-fur rug. The problem with live goat-fur rugs is that they like to nip. Hell, I would too if I were bound up on the floor while people prodded me with feet as nasty as mine.

The granny sitting beside me just got a goat-piss shower from the roof and I caught some of the spray. And, so we go, bouncing merrily along the dirt road, inhaling dust, listening to the goats' eerie child-like screams, enjoying occasional golden showers from the goats up top, resting my feet on the squirming bodies on the bottom, all while squished between 3 women and a baby. And chickens! I forgot the chickens! Welcome to the next 4 hours of your life.

The goat on the roof pissed on granny again. And this time it kept pissing and pissing. There was no room to scoot over, and no way to close the window since the pane was missing (of course). But not even the people sitting next to closed windows were spared. Granny saw me laughing and so she started flinging piss at me, and that's when I just lost it. The situation was so far beyond annoying, leaping past pain, bounding past torture, and was just so ridiculous that I couldn't help but laugh. And laugh hard. I had tears streaming down my face, and granny and the rest of the 25 passengers were laughing at me for laughing.

Granny looked to the transport guy and held up her shirt and said, I'm not paying! Look at me, I'm covered in piss! I'm not paying! I buried my face and sat there laughing uncontrolably. Granny turned to me and said, You're going to sit here and I'm going to sit there! NO! NOOOO way, granny! I don't want to! I don't want to get pissed on by goats! The transporter turned and asked me, Is there health? Oh, there's health all right! Nothing but health! Granny over here might not agree, though!

I talked to my mom on the phone just before I got into this clown car. She told me, you know, you should be grateful to Peace Corps for giving you all these experiences. Yeah, yeah, ok mom. No, really! Even though it may not be working out, Peace Corps has let you have experiences that you would have otherwise never had. Be grateful.

And now, surrounded by goats and covered in their excrements, I suppose, in a weird masochistic sort of way, I am grateful for all of it.

You know, as much as people whine about it, these sorts of things just don't happen on the Greyhound. Or on Air France, for that matter. But I'm gonna ask for aisle seats just to be safe.

Peace out!