So it’s rather ironic that, about 4 hours after my last post (all about the crap in Mali), the biggest deuce of all was dropped.
Because so many things went (surprisingly) wrong so soon, PCMali was evacuated in early April…. On top of a famine, disgruntled soldiers, upset with lack of pay and government support of their efforts to fight Tuareg rebels up north, stormed the presidential palace and declared the Malian constitution void and ousted the president (“ATT” around here). Rebels took advantage of the military’s divide and promptly took over many northern towns. The West responded by pulling out aid money (except for this year’s emergency famine relief); Mali’s neighbors (ECOWAS countries) responded by imposing sanctions (which stopped petrol imports and froze bank assets) and closing borders. (This article from CNN explains the situation–and what’s happened since PC’s decision to pull out–more thoroughly: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/04/12/world/africa/mali-revolt/index.html )
After over a week of waiting with other Kita-based PCVs in consolidation, it was very hard to accept the evac notice. I was one of the few PCVs able to return to site for a day to gather my things and say my goodbyes, but my villagers didn’t seem to understand why exactly I had been gone for so long, why I was leaving again so soon….after all, “there was no fighting in Behon; why couldn’t I just stay but the other PCVs in more northern sites evacuate?” In rural Mali, village life continues. It was both really sad to say goodbye to so many nice, helpful people who’d taken me in and befriended me over the past several months, and really frustrating to not be able to convey the severity of the political/economic/security situation.
After hastily convening at Tubani So to finish up some financial and admin work, we spent almost a week of surreal pampering in La Palm Resort in Accra for our early/forced COS (close of service) conference and transition. That was definitely one of the most stressful weeks of my life–no one had any clue what we were doing post-Mali, our employment and financial states were completely in the air, and we all missed our sites. Each training stage also had their own unique struggles–the older stages were sad to be leaving people they’d been with for over a year and unfinished projects; the newer ones were feeling short-changed with our PC experience. Mad Hatters, especially–we were a week away from our 3-months-at-site mark; we’d endured the toughest part of service, but hadn’t been able to start any projects or contribute to our sites in large, meaningful ways…..Despite the strains of the evac on us, I have to give serious credit to PC staff (PC Mali staff is incredible! And they got such great support from our PC Ghana hosts and the Washington staff that was flown in)–they did a great job. For nearly 200 PCVs to COS simultaneously (and all too early, meaning many of us wanted the opportunity to transfer) is an ordeal, to say the least. At least the huge pool with its swim-up bar, delicious and endless buffets, and the king-size beds eased some of our pain…
I was fortunate enough (given my language/tech skills and possible openings in PC) to get invited to a transfer assignment in Senegal–leaving later this week. Luckily, 9 of us from Mali are going to Senegal (3 of us right away; the other 6 to arrive in June as part of Senegal’s newest stage), so at least I’ll have a nice support system and some friends in Dakar.
For the next few days, until I fly out to Dakar, I get to play tourist in Ghana. After a few days in Accra (where I enjoyed an Italian circus and freaked out in the Toubab supermarket, which carries all sorts of Western candy/chocolate/cheese and puts any Toubab store in Bamako to shame!), I took off to the Volta region near Togo to see the Wli Falls. I got up incredibly early to start the really strenuous climb up Mt. Adafjato, ended up swimming in the falls, and may have inadvertently crossed over into Togo (I started seeing signs only in French). I knew I was signing up for an adventure when I joined PC; I just never thought this adventure would span across much of Western Africa.