Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It was the best of times... it was the worst of times...

These last few months have been emotionally difficult for me, in different areas of my life. When we were in our Pre-Service Training of Peace Corps, they told us how this experience would be an emotional roller-coaster, full of our highest highs and our lowest lows. They said how difficult it would be at times to cope; I pretty much laughed it off. I’m typically a happy-go-lucky person, really easy to please, and hard to upset. I make the best out of what is given to me, and I try to always look at the bright side of things. I had no idea that this flurry of uncontrollable emotions was going to hit me during my last 6 months of service. I’ve become so emotional lately –maybe it’s my hormones going crazy- but literally everything makes me cry. When my best friend got engaged, and then married, I bawled my eyes out. When I read a book about a Holocaust survivor, I tear up. Watching people hug in greeting or goodbye at the airport brings ever-flowing tears to my eyes. Thinking about my service ending…well…nothing upsets me more, or more often.

Walking around town today in my provincial capital, I realized a few things. One: that I look at this place a whole different way now. I try and soak it all up, because I know that very shortly, I will be leaving here.. I’m consciously trying to remember the sites, the colors, the smells, the people. Two, I feel completely at ease and in my element here. No longer do I ask other PCVs to head to town with me, so that I don’t have to go alone (only to split the cost of an outrageously priced $2 taxi). While company is always nice, I feel comfortable alone. I feel like it is also my home, no longer that I am a stranger in a foreign land. I know my way around, and if I don’t, I have no reservations in stopping and asking someone where something is. I don’t feel out of place, I don’t feel like a fool. I’m so settled that it’s not even strange to me that I’m hearing conversations in a foreign language. It’s no longer strange to me that I’m greeting random people, in another language. It doesn’t even phase me when I switch between 4 different languages as different people greet me in 4 different languages. It all comes and flows out naturally, it’s not something that I have to think about. This place is in my blood. This place is my home. This is what feels natural to me. There are no more surprises.

I’m no longer in the designing-of-projects-and-programs-at-site mood, I’m more in the mood to just sit and be. To be with the people of my village, my kids, my students, my staff, my counterparts, my friends, my family. And as much as I feel like there’s still so much more that I could do and want to do, I realize that I don’t have enough time to get involved in a lot of things anymore. I realize that time is probably better spent, and more meaningfully spent, if I just be present. If I sit and have sima and speak Tumbuka with the only people I’ll ever be able to realistically sit and eat sima and speak Tumbuka with again.

I’m no longer as adamant about improving my hut and adding to it, but rather in taking it down and starting to give all of my things away. I want to leave here with nothing more than a backpack on my back, a facebook full of pictures, and a lifetime full of memories. It’s insane how easy it is to detach myself from worldly goods, as now I know that I can live and prosper with nothing. I prepare now to pass instruments, information, and tools on to my replacement volunteer, rather than prepare personal trappings to make for an easier time on myself. 

Getting ready to leave this awe-inspiring, timeless place is bittersweet. I think I was very fortunate to have been in Lusaka as the last group of volunteers that precedes my intake rang a bell, signifying the end of their service in Zambia. It was really heart breaking, but also eye opening. Seeing their camaraderie as they hugged each other congratulations and good bye- people whom have been on this roller coaster with them for the last 27 months- really touched my heart. It made me think about how I’m not really close with many people in my own intake, but rather those of other groups. It made me think how I wish I were closer with my intake, as we should be a family, being together in Philly on July 17, 2012, up until this date in Zambia. It made me feel sad, as they all sat there and reminisced, because it made me reminisce too. It made me realize how much I shouldn't take for granted over the next few months; how I need to embrace and cherish every last bit. This has been the quickest two years of my life. This has been the best two years of my life. I can’t believe how quickly it’s winding down; how soon I’m going to have to be saying my good byes as well. I don’t want this to end. I would do it all over again, in a heartbeat. How can I walk away from all of this? This is tearing me apart inside, even as I sit here writing this, with 4.5 months left to go. I can’t believe I have to say goodbye to what has become my home, my family, my life, my heart. I’m not ready for this to be over, and I have no idea how I’m going to survive it.

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