Please follow Anne Spear as she trains for the “Ironman 70.3 Eagleman” in support of Burkina Faso. Instagram: @dr.ironroots. Email: email@example.com. Share her journey with your networks and help her raise funds for community-led projects via FBF.
It’s 4am on December 15th, 2019. I am in Daytona Beach, FL, putting on a borrowed wetsuit. As I start to warm-up for the Challenge Daytona triathlon, I am taken back to a time I was awakened at a similar early morning hour in August 2008.
I had just arrived in a medium-sized rural village of Tangaye, in Northern Burkina Faso. A family had agreed to host me for the two years of my U.S. Peace Corps Service. Even before the sun was up, I heard pots boiling and the shuffling of feet across a dusty courtyard. I barely knew how to ask for some water to take a “bucket bath”, whatever that was.
I had one thought: What have I done?
11 years later on that December race day, that same thought ran through my head. Only instead of being in the middle of the Sahel, I was in open water, in full panic attack, during the beginning of a half ironman distance (70.3 miles) triathlon.
What have I done?
While I had planned to go in to the Peace Corps, I hadn’t planned so much to do a half ironman. It all came to be through some shocking events. In September 2019, I was in my comfortable, dry bed when I received a What’s App message that Tangaye, my host village, had been attacked by terrorists. The two schools there were burnt down, along with the health clinic.
It had been unsafe for me to visit Tangaye for quite some time. Even when I was in Burkina Faso for two months during 2018 doing my dissertation, I was told not to return to the northern region for a visit. By 2019, I followed even more restrictive advice, to stay put in the capital, Ouagadougou.
This was especially hard, to stay away from people I cared about so deeply. During my two years in Tangaye, I had become “bien intégré”, a third mother to the four children in the family, eating and sleeping on the same mat with the women and children. I shared everything, and in return everything was shared with me.
Ramata and Abibou, the two wives of Saibou, knew me. We had gone through our share of misunderstandings, frustrations, and miscommunications. Yet we persevered through patience and, I dare say, love. Even after returning to the U.S., and despite the bad phone reception, I did not have to say much for them to understand how I felt and what was going on in my life.,
Aissata, the second child of Ramata, who was five years old when I came into her life, was my constant companion for those two years. I will never know what it was like for her when I left...