The Homestay Goodbyes
The last Thursday I was in S New, I was brushing my teeth, almost ready to go to school in the morning. My mom walked up and told me she had to go to her village. Her uncle had passed away, and she was leaving right away to be with her family. She didn’t know when she was coming back, but it wouldn’t be before Sunday, my last day in S New. Immediately, all the blessings I learned to say when someone passes away (May they rest in a cool place, may it be a Muslim corpse, etc.) slipped from my mind, and all I could think of were polite English phrases that don’t translate. I could feel myself starting to get teary-eyed, knowing this could be my final goodbye to the woman who had spent the last 7 weeks cooking for me, teaching me, and caring for me. She told me she would call my dad’s phone to talk to me before I left, which made the whole thing seem even more final.
I had been meaning to invite my mom to a host-family dinner at Tubani So the following week, but hadn’t had enough confidence in my Bambara to explain that I could only invite one person, and I wanted it to be her. And now she was leaving. I ran in my room, grabbed my Bambara notebook, and read her the sentences I had written down to invite her. She smiled and looked a little relieved herself, saying ‘See you next Saturday, then,’ before leaving.
By the time I left S New, I was entirely comfortable with my family. I enjoyed my evenings playing with the boys, joking with Aby or Batuma, chatting with my mom. While I was ready to move on from training, and start doing actual work in Mali (that is why I came), I will certainly miss my family. By the end of the second week, I had packed up all my things, and before I knew it, most of my family was helping me carry it to the dugutigi’s house where the white Peace Corps van would pick us up and take us back to Tubani So. I wished I had the language skills to tell them how great they had been and how much I appreciated everything they had done for me in the last two months. Instead, I just said thank you and goodbye.← The Training The Interim →