I spent the last 2 weeks in limbo, with one question on everyone’s mind, “Are we are going to be evacuated or not?”
The situation in Burkina continued to worsen, with the people rioting in the streets of Ouagadougou and other major cities, the Peace Corps decided to consolidate every volunteer (over 100) in Burkina to a central location for our protection- thus why I suddenly stopped posting for a bit.
The “time to consolidate” text went out September 20th, and by the 21st everyone was on the move. I told no one but my neighbor (my community partner) where I was going, and spent most that night packing an “essential items” bag to last me 2 weeks, and taking inventory of all the things I was leaving behind- in case we got evacuated.
Unable to get transport out of my little village, since all bush taxis stopped leaving my village for Banfora starting the day of the coup, to Bobo-Dioulasso PC office I had to be picked up by a PC driver, along with 2 other volunteers in my region.
In my regional capital we were forced to pull over and make way for a demonstration. A steam of motos rolled by, a man shouted in Jula on a megaphone, and a group of people on foot followed behind. It lasted only 5 minutes, then we were able to continue on to pick up the 2nd volunteer.
Attempting to leave Banfora, a small road block was headed by a small group of men. This one was negligible. They let us pass after making sure there was nothing in the car but us and our baggage.
We stopped in another village to pick up the 3rd volunteer. Thus, 3 volunteers and a PC driver continued on the route to Bobo to pick up another group of volunteers waiting in the Bobo office to be taken to the final consolidation point.
The road between Banfora and Bobo is all paved, cutting through lush green expanses littered with trees and spotted with low hills. To me, it’s the most beautiful part of the country.
I sat in the front seat, eating away at a bag of raw peanuts, handed to me by another volunteer, as we approached Bobo, and a more serious road block.
Buses and cars were lined up along the side of the road, stopped before meeting head on with a man made barrier of logs and tires, surrounded on one side by a crowd of people. At the barrier, those trying to pass and those blocking the way blended together.
As we pulled up, coming to a stop well before the crowd of people, the PC driver warned me, in French, “If we can’t pass, you might need to be sick. Arrange your peanuts.”
I’m still not sure if he indented for me to look pregnant and in labor with a bag a peanuts as my belly, or if I was supposed to throw up into the bag, or if I was just supposed to stop eating them because my acting skills were never needed in the end.
The three of us waited in the hot car, talking about Pokémon, as the driver got out to assess the situation. Needless today, we weren’t too concerned, and rarer confident that we could pass.
However, we were quite wrong. After the driver was told to wait for a bit, some men came over to the car and told us we couldn’t pass. The driver made to pull away, and managed to turn the car around before being approached again.
They told us we could go around the blockade of we cut through a village and th bush, and if we waited a bit they would find someone to help.
After waiting off to the side on a dirt road, for about 5 minutes, we were joined by a young man who said he could show us the way. He crammed into the front seat with me and gave the driver directions.
Speaking in Jula, he directed the driver to continue down the dirt road, and had him make one turn too soon. We back tracked, took the right turn, followed the road trough bush, high grass, between trees, behind some people’s yards, and in the wrong direction.
Stop. Reverse. Tree branches scrape along the side of the car, reaching into the open windows. A lady watches us from her yard.
Stop. Our guide gets out, looking for the right path.
“Do you think he’s showing us the wrong way on purpose?” “Maybe. Maybe he’s going to go get all his friends and we’ll get robbed.”
He comes back alone. We thought I’ll of him for no reason besides the bizzar situation.
He wants the driver to back up some more, and take a left turn down a barely visible path. He pops back in next to me.
I felt like I was on a simulator ride at Disneyland. The ones where the seats move as you go on a “1st person view” adventure.
The foliage starts to thin out as we bump down a rocky hill, turn right slightly, and pull to a stop on the bank of a river.
The river isn’t swollen but the water is rushing. The guide slides out of the car in order to find a safe way across. The driver clicks on his seatbelt and I immediately do that the same.
“Ericka why are you putting the seatbelt back on? That guy is gunna need to get back in.” I know. But if he wears it, I’m wearing it. Just in case.”
Our guide is in the middle of the river standing on a rock peaking out of the river. The driver follows the same path and it’s really a simulator ride now. Our guide is running out in front, waving us forward, across the river, and up a steep incline on the opposite bank.
At the crest of the incline I’m shuffled over again for our guide. I can’t tell if we are actually closer to Bobo if we are just lost.
Within 5 minutes we pull into a paved road. It’s a good sign, we should get to the Bobo office soon enough. If we don’t run into more roadblocks first…