As Pre-Service Training is coming to a close, the first milestone that we have successfully reached and completed today was leaving our homestay sites. I wrote previously about how amazing it is that we can make such strong emotional connections with people so foreign to us, and this notion was reaffirmed these past few days as I was preparing to leave B-Camp.
It is customary to give a gift to your host family upon your departure, so we decided collectively to each give 10 kilos of sugar and a package of tea to our respective families. When I brought out my gift after dinner, I gave a small speech thanking my family for everything they had done for me. They were so overwhelmed and grateful thanking me in turn for being an easy guest and for being a postiive rolemodel for the younger children. The next morning, after taking some pictures with my family, I finished packing and then waited for the bus to arrive. I knew that my departure was going to be emotional for me, as I am going to miss the young kids terribly, but I was not prepared for such a strong reaction from my two host mothers. As the bus pulled up, I grabbed my bags and gave the keys to my room to my first mother. As Malians don't hug, we shook hands and then she proceeded to cry while giving me blessings. I was so moved by her emotions that I couldn't help but begin tearing up myself. Then, as my second mother began crying as well, it became quite a scene of tears, blessings and 'Amens.' I was greeted in the street by a whole crowd of Malian friends and my fellow B-Camp trainees who, it was apparent, had had the same emotional separation from their own families.
I am so thankful to my family for everything they have done for me. They were so welcoming and helpful that they made what could have been a very difficult first few months a pleasure and a breeze. Malian hospitality is truly amazing. I am going to miss my new family a lot, and I am already excited to return for a visit in a few months time. By then, my language abilities will have significantly improved- Inch Allah (God Willing)- so it will be an even more enjoyable trip.
While leaving homestay was difficult, it is has only brought me closer to swearing in and becoming a real volunteer. As the training comes to a close, I am becoming more and more excited (but also nervous) about moving to site and fulfilling my purpose as a Peace Corps Volunteer! Yay!