For the entire first month, I was running on an adrenaline high. Everything was novel and exciting and I greedily devoured the tiniest details of this new place. I fell quickly in love with the heavy rains, the bike rides, my host family, the new foods. Other trainees would vent to me about homesickness, host family problems, and language stresses and I would listen patiently, but never quite know how to connect.
My tipping point came my last night of site visit. I found myself completely alone in my empty cement box of a house and the feeling of utter isolation suddenly washed over me. Night thick and black, suffocating me as I tried to fall asleep on the concrete floor. I realized that this was to be my life for the next two years, not whatever I was slowly getting accustomed to during PST. I felt myself losing control of my emotional state that night, but I pushed it back. You don’t have time for this, I scolded myself. Keep it together.
And there really felt like there was no time. We were going to the regional capital the next day, followed by a trip to Ouaga, and then back to Leo to start model school. Every summer, the Peace Corps training team collaborates with the local middle school to organize a month-long summer school as a way for the education trainees to have some hands-on practice and work with real Burkinabe students before the school year starts. Local teachers teach math, French, and science classes, while we manage English. The TEFL team split up into four teaching groups to work with the middle school classes: 6eme, 5eme, 4eme, and 3eme, the equivalent of American 6th-9th grades. I taught 4eme (8th grade) with Brady, Brian, and Issifou. They were blessedly uncomplicated to work with and I’m grateful for the painless model school experience because I was falling apart otherwise, despite my most dogged attempts to keep it together.
The novelty of being in a new place was starting to wear off and my repressed feelings from the first month slammed into me. There were the frustrations surrounding training itself and being an education volunteer. We had mindnumbing, useless theoretical tech sessions that drove me to borderline homicidal states. I hated teaching and deeply resented not being in CED. I was feeling conflicted about the entire premise of teaching English, finding it all painfully imperialistic. My patience for certain other trainees was wearing dangerously thin. On the personal side, I hadn’t spoken to my family in weeks, convinced that my mother was angry at me. I struggled with confusing feelings for another trainee. I missed Quentin fiercely. The people I loved most in the world were going through major life changes all at once. I felt forgotten, neglected, rejected, and so very far away.
It all culminated in a rather messy emotional breakdown following a particularly frustrating tech session. Hysterical tears, warm arms wrapping around me, sympathetic ears listening over a round of beers. It passed as quickly as it came, partly because of my continued determination to enjoy the little time I had left with the trainees, but mostly because of the support of friends here and elsewhere.
The rest of the month continued on. I fell into comfortable patterns. Model school during the week bought a welcome change in our training routine. Brian and I would pass long hours at a café down the street pretending to work on lesson plans over bitter coffee. There were soccer games against our staff members, cooking adventures with my beloved Lobiri tutor, covert post training dolo runs. On the weekends, we would take long bike rides to neighboring villages, even once to Ghana, to drink terrible boxed wine and share care package food under the shade of giant trees.
Then, at the end of August, PST drew to a close with two closing ceremonies. We packed up everything once again and boarded onto a bus with all of our belongings to go back to Ouaga for swear-in.