Updates by Michael Lavoie
Not long after arriving I was forced to resort to the wisdom of our anniversary's proverb. "When the creek zigzags, the crocodile has to zigzag too." My checked luggage of 3 large bags did not arrive. So, I did not come out of the airport immediately and Simeon, Noelie and their families were left to wonder whether I was coming at all. Simeon later told that his son, Daniel, just 3 years old, said that Michel was still coming. And we talked about how 5 years ago the same thing happened when Noelie and Simeon came to Michigan and their. luggage did not show up.
Then, we had a hug-fest. No amount of emails and telephone calls--and there have been hundreds--can substitute for the joy of being face to face. We last saw each other 4 years ago, and then in 2000 before that, and in between in 2005 when Simeon and Noelie came to Michigan. We all went to a restaurant for Cokes and Fantas and frites. So cool. I asked to begin by saying a prayer in Moore about "Karemsamba", Simeon and Noelie's father, who passed away in July 2008 and who was such a great life teacher for all of us. We started to talk of all the plans for the 50th Anniversary celebrations and how they can be better. And we took some pictures, including one of the "3 Michels" shown below: Simeon's wife, Micheline, Michelle, the first ever woman PC driver here, and me.
And finished off the day with a very nice Burkina welcome from PC Country Director Shannon Meehan. I quickly saw that she brings impressive experience, concern, and innovation to her work. Particularly, her plans for the 50th this year are busting at the seams with creativity and effectiveness.
At Shannon's invitation, I already attended an exciting training meeting with about 10 PCV's on Saturday. They were so impressive and passionate--you would be so proud of them! Examples about their work and creativity and determination in health and education work, for example, was really interesting.
Celebrated another anniversary quietly but well and proudly today. My birthday. Went to an Assembly of God Church with Simeon and his family today. Same church I went to 4 years ago when the Pasteur asked me to say a few words. I just referred to Acts 10 from my old Moore Bible and the story of Corneille and Simon and its message that God does discriminate between people. The person that reveres God and does justice will gain His approval. Today, songs and the sermon were tempered due to the death of someone yesterday. Spent after church with simeon's family in their very modest home. We looked at their old family pictures and talked about kids, school, work and planning for the celebration in Namtenga. Arranged for a house to stay there for myself, PCV's and hopefully PC CD Shannon Meehan. And found out the Masks will be coming out in Namtenga!
Also watched the Brookside and Cranbrook Weaving Studio videos with Simeon's teenage daughters on each side, relishing the views of the children and confirming Simeon's affirmation to a newspaper reporter back when he was in Michigan 5 years ago that children everywhere are the same.
And great news about my 3 lost bags. 2 of them showed up and Simeon and I picked them up at the airport at about 9 pm.
The 3rd one should arrive tomorrow night.
And, we made the 1st Cross Continental connections of the 50th BF and PC Anniversaries!
#Skype telephone call with Denny Fitzpatrick--the guy who has done so much so long for FBF and who 11 years ago made the Kwilga Bridge between me and Ambassador Kolker. Video did not work with him but audio allowed me to tell him that the score so far, on a 0 to 10 scale, is 100!
#Had a Skype call with Mary and Evan Johnson too. Although I could not see them, they were able to see me and hear my report of the safe arrival of the laptop that I will deliver to their son, PCV Evan Johnson who is doing fantastic work in Yako and with the development of the PC BF website.
Learned some impressive things about PC's Country Director Shannon Meehan. There is a chapter about her in a book called "Those Who Dare" by Katherine Martin (look for book on Amazon). It describes in detail her frontline humanitarian, and often risky, work in Kosovo, Liberia, Iraq and elsewhere. She concludes with this observation, "We all have the responsibility of helping our neighbors in some way. Not that everyone should do international charity work, but we all must reach out to people in need."
Received a wonderful tour of the PC office from Aicha, Shannon's Executive Assistant who also provided a much needed French translation for the Resolution from Central Michigan University. And I would be remiss not to observe the tremendous warmth and encouragement that was extended by every member of the PC staff.
Xavier Bationo was exceptional and came to the rescue with computer tech issues and he also agreed to handle all my photograps--sending them on to Guy Fipps and also keeping track of them for PC records of these events.
And we also contined with increasingly powerful connection events:
1. I met with Prosper, Denny Fitzpatrick's friend, this afternoon at the peace corps office. It was beautiful. We talked of each others friendship with Denny. We talked of the importance of liberty, independence and peace in these 2 great aniversaries. And upon receiving Denny's 50th Anniversary teeshirt and the photo of Denny wearing it, he was visibly touched and immediately put it on. When leaving, he folded up the teeshirt with reverance as if it was a flag. We tried to call Denny but there was no answer. Of course, Prosper invited me to his house and I will try to do that. Actually, both he and my friend Simeon are members of the Assembly of God church. In short, Denny, we had a good day at the well!
2. The meeting with two ouagadougou students who lived with the host family of RPCV Amanda Whitty(Sweeney) was no less emotional. They are named Kinda Rodrigue
Jonathan Rodrigue. Amazingly, Amanda called me literally as I was walking to the front door to greet them. We passed the phone around while in turn each one carefully, in full smile mode, checked out all the wedding pictures from a special Colorado mountain escape. Amanda's engagement with them was captivating. She got up to date with them and they learned all abour her wedding to fellow rpcv Kevin Sweeney and that her dog was named "Aurora". Separately I chatted with each about the 50th and their educational pursuits. I observed that Jonathan, the more talkative of the two, might consider a career in the law!
3. I. Also met with 2 different BF associations. The first was a group of 4 representatives from the Association of Friends of America. They described their objectives of promotiong friendships with pcv's current and former and of pursuing democracy and nationwide integration or a "melting pot". We also made arrangements for them to attend the celebration at Koupela.
4. The second group was the Association for the Development of Namtenga. It consisted of 4 representatives who were raised in Namtenga and sought to develop projects assisting with education and awareness in Namtenga. We discussed in detail the 50th Anniversaries and JFK's quote about service to one's country. They agreed that the same principle applies to their village and the country as a whole. I showed them the video of Brookside School, the sister school of the Namtenga school. We all agreed that it showed again that children are universally the same. One of the representatives had given me a translation to a beautiful Floby song called "Kiema" many months ago and I gave him a gift of a cd player in appreciation. We parted with warm salutations and eagerness to reconvene at the Namtenga celebration on February 16.
Also heading to airport again later this evening to hopefully retrieve the final 3rd missing bag--this one with the health, educational and sport supplies to Namtenga
Stay tuned for more news. We are off to a great beginning.