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Updated: 1 year 5 weeks ago

Beginning to Say Farewell

Tue, 11/27/2012 - 07:40
Burkina Faso We Can Only Speculate 2012-10-27 21:07:00 I've left Burkina and am back in Dallas, in case you haven't guessed. So it's time to begin the wrap on this blog. To begin a final series of postings, I thought I'd begin at the beginning. Yes, we'll get to the accomplishments, sad goodbyes, and all of that; and I'll strive to see that future postings won't be such a departure from West Africa. That said, how did I end-up in West Africa with a blog entitled We Can Only Speculate? One word: Penguins!

I like penguins. No, I love penguins. I remember the days of Jacques Cousteau on PBS and I well recall his penguin specials. I’ve been asked by many dear friends (including those of you who endured my ten months of meltdowns back in 2009), “from whence did this Peace Corps idea spring?” I realize was a surprise to some of you. You’ve asked, “How on earth did this happen?” Here’s the long-winded and relatively boring (albeit bizarre and oh-so-Kathy) tale.

Once upon a time not very so long ago I used to sit at my desk during lunch time and watch the Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s live, noon-time feeding of their penguins. Remember, I’m a penguin-holic. The addiction reached its height back in the days after Hurricane Katrina when the New Orleans penguins (including the grand dame of penguins, Patience) were housed at Monterrey Bay. So I’d sit and smile watching the penguin feeding while listening to the live Internet commentary. One day I realized what fun it would be to see penguins in their natural habitat. True, the Antarctic might be a bit too far. Then again, maybe not . . . one day. So where could I go to see penguins like they have at Monterrey Bay? Where could I go to see the South African Blackfoot penguin? ‘Tis with shame that I confess: the answer took days to discover. Where could I go to see South African penguins? Seems rather obvious, doesn’t it? South Africa, of course, Kathy. And thus I instigated my plan to travel to Boulder’s Beach, just south of Cape Town in South Africa.

One day a dear co-worker, originally from South Africa, said to me, “Kathy, you can’t go all the way to Southern Africa without going on safari.” Safari!? What? Hmm. Well, I suppose it might be possible, right? And thus began an entire new twist on the penguin-viewing trip . . . and another of those life-altering experiences.

From the moment I stepped off the plane in Cape Town I was in love with Africa. By the time I arrived in Maun, Botswana, I was head-over-heels in love with Africa - the culture, the people, the land, itself.

Next step. I arrived back in Texas in the summer of 2007 in love with Africa and already making plans to return. In fact, I did return less than a year later . . . the 2008 trip back with Rusty to Botswana and South Africa. This time I returned to Texas resolved to move permanently to Botswana . . . one day. Then the U.S. job market fell apart and I was suddenly unemployed for the first time in my life.

After months of job hunting in 2009 I decided that I should look into volunteering. Maybe SANCOOB needed volunteers to wash penguins. Maybe HOORC needed help in Botswana. I finally contacted Cross-Cultural Solutions about a position in Bagamoyo, Tanzania (one of those “you pay, you get to go” volunteer programs). On June 30, 2009, I received a telephone call from the director of CCS. After a lengthy conversation she said to me, “Kathy, why aren’t you talking to the Peace Corps?” Well, the obvious reason – I don’t have an MD, RN, Ph.D., or MBA behind my name. Why would the Peace Corps want me?

A quick Internet search seemed to indicate that the Peace Corps might indeed be interested in me. Wouldn’t hurt to try . . . and perhaps they’d even consider a post in Africa. And thus the saga began. So when it came time to create this blog, with myriad questions of whether or not I’d ever even receive an invitation to serve (LOL), where would I go, and how would I last 820 days without a flat iron, the choice for the name of this blog was, naturally, We Can Only Speculate. These days I like to believe that I'm mentoring a few current Peace Corps nominees. I'd like to share a few tips and tricks of my service in Burkina Faso and my love of the people and culture. Am I really helping current nominees? Maybe. My current very-real question: How long before I return to visit Yaya and his family, Martin, Leon & Elizabeth, and little Victorine and her family? We can only speculate . . . but I'm hoping next spring.