Thursday, August 13, 2009

Going Home

The day has finally come. We fly out of Ouagadougou tonight for Canada via Paris, arriving in Toronto mid-afternoon on Friday. The last few days have been spent packing our bags, preparing our house in Ouaga for a three-month absence, saying goodbye to friends and colleagues, and wrapping up our work responsibilities here for the time being. It’s not as bad as packing up house and moving in Canada, but it does have some different challenges.

For instance, we have to plan ahead concerning our guards, something which is not normally an issue for us in Canada :) Every week they get food money to pay for lunch or supper, depending on their shift. We’ve discovered that paying ahead further than that doesn’t work. If we give them food money for the whole month, they’ll end up spending it on something else somewhere along the way and then just not eat for the rest of the time. Then there are the occasional pay advances. Payday is too long to wait. And then there are the salaries to be prepared for, calculating how much they actually get paid at the end of the month, taking into account base salary, extra wages for official holidays worked (since thieves don’t recognize these holidays, the government allows guards to work these days), social security and unemployment deductions, salary advances, and loan repayments. Fortunately we have a Services department at our Centre that can help with all this. I still have to prepare the pay slips, but they can do all the payments and charge our account. Then there are the utility bills that will need to be paid. Yeah, you guessed it: Services to the rescue again.

We may have shot ourselves in the foot with baggage, though. Since this is just a three-month trip back home, we didn’t think we’d even need all our baggage limit. So we readily agreed to take some stuff back for a colleague. What we hadn’t counted on was the number of gifts our Burkinab√® friends here would bring for us to take back to Josh & Melissa! We actually might end up having to pay excess baggage fees!

This morning I handed off my administrative responsibilities to a colleague. It was kind of fun being Acting Director for a while :) I’m not going to miss having to carry that extra cell phone around all the time, but going from the almost full-bore responsibility of being head of an administrative team to virtually nothing is going to be a bit of an adjustment! I’ve heard that this kind of experience can be hard to handle for people who have carried tremendous responsibilities in their overseas assignments and then come home to function as just ordinary folks. I guess that in such a case, it helps to know and remember who you really are as a person rather than calculating your self-worth on the basis of what you do. I’ll never forget something a NASA astronaut once said: “Remember where you’re standing when the spotlight goes off because you’ll have to find your own way off the stage.” Good advice.

I’d better call our credit card company to let them know we’re traveling. I don’t want them cutting off our card in the middle of our trip again!

Anyway, I guess we’d better go and finish all that last minute stuff. And get a siesta. It’s a long flight home and we won’t get much sleep on the plane. Thank God there’s a Starbucks at the other end!

1 comment:

Laura Dun said...

Have a great time in Canada!!