I woke up grinning on January 1st at the thought that I'm going home this year. While I've wondered many times over the past year and a half whether time could possibly move any more sluggishly, I'm pretty content with its current pace. The holiday season was well-spent with friends here in Ouaga, down in Bobo-Dioulasso (Christmas), and up in Yako (New Year's Eve). I couldn't decide until the morning of the 24th whether I was going to spend Christmas here in Ouaga by myself or head down to Bobo to meet up with friends. Because Emilie's and my house here in the capital has really come to feel like home, I was tempted to open the last window of my advent calendar in bed Christmas Eve and read myself to sleep by candlelight. In the end, however, I decided that even if I couldn't spend the day with family I should probably spend it with friends and not alone. So, I managed to get one of the last bus tickets available and headed South that afternoon to meet up with a group of about 10 other volunteers in Burkina's second-largest city. I knew it was the right decision as soon as I showed up at the apartment the other PCV's had rented for the occasion, as I arrived just in time for stocking-hanging, Christmas carols by candlelight, and stories of favorite Christmas memories.
For the first time in memory, I was the last to wake up Christmas morning and coffee, cinnamon buns, and scrambled eggs were already being served. We opened presents secret Santa style and watched Love Actually. The rest of the day was spent talking to family on the phone, preparing a Christmas feast and just hanging out in good company. We capped the night by wandering over to Bobo's attempt at a public Christmas tree lighting, which was more of a giant, bizarre abstract light sculpture which attracted a strange crowd of characters (not including us).
I stayed in Bobo for a couple of extra days after Christmas in order to attend the wedding of another volunteer's friend, whom I'd met on another visit down South. Weddings here generally last for several days, so we chose an evening to join in the celebrations and showed up not quite knowing what to expect. What we walked into was a crowd of 200-300 women, all circled around Meduse, the bride. They were taking turns entering the circle and dancing up to Meduse to present a gift, one by one. Rachel and I hoped we would be exempt from the dancing since we were Nasara (and I was the only man), but no luck - we were called upon and awkwardly took our turn center stage, dancing to the deafening howl of hundreds of highly amused Burkinabè women. Special times....
After a few days back in Ouaga, I headed up to celebrate New Year's Eve with another group of friends in a town about an hour and a half north of the capital. Not a terribly eventful celebration, but fun nonetheless. There wasn't much to do in town, so we hung out at the Red Cross drinking Brakina, one of the local beers. Apparently the only service the Red Cross there offered was from the bar. We went out to a nice dinner at a restaurant with tables strewn among a garden, hedges and gazebos. The highlight of the night by far was dancing with a few children in the gardens. My partner, a toddler of about 3, fell asleep in my arms as we glided around a gazebo. She tired me out sufficiently that I fell asleep at my friend's house well before the proverbial ball dropped.
I'm back in Ouaga now, settling back into something of a routine. We have a guest from the States in town, a professor from the University of San Francisco who will hopefully be working with Reading West Africa and FAVL this Fall. Emilie and I have been showing her around Ouaga for the past couple of days and tomorrow morning we'll be leaving bright and early for a tour of FAVL's libraries down South. We'll be gone for about a week, touring the villages, talking with the librarians and implementing a monitoring and evaluation system for the libraries.