One day, two day, three day, four.
Most days, the days here crawl by at an intolerably slow pace, while the months are flying by. With each passing week I grow more and more uncomfortable with the idea of leaving this place.
Don’t get me wrong, I miss plenty from home. My friends, my family, my culture, particular foods, air conditioning, reliable electricity, running water, craft beer…ya know just a few. But then I think about what I will eventually be leaving behind and I get a great pit in the middle of my stomach. While it was a difficult decision to leave my family and home for two years to come in PC, it was also with the understanding that when I had finished my work I would return to that world.
The dreadful, daunting, one way return ticket to the USA post Peace Corps is something rather different and all together unfathomable.
My org, my family here and my community have all been conversing about my quickly approaching April return date, and what will happen next. We have discussed ways to ensure we communicate, contingency plans on when we will see each other again, and possible nuclear options (aka me finding a nice husband here so I never go home) so that the thought of potential separation can be tolerable.
It isn’t all roses. There are days here where I just want to lock myself in my room and cry all day. Trouble is, it is too hot to stay in my room. I have ultimately decided that I can never live somewhere this warm again in my life. I am 100% a cool weather kid, and the prospect of having over 100+ days for 10 months out of the year is too much to handle. I also noticed a drastic improvement in my mood during the “winter” month. Summer is back and “heat rage” is about to be full swing.
Back to the idea of departure, the most intolerable goodbye that I have to face will be to Ma Chyntia, the granny that I stay with. She has become more than a host mom or friend to me, but in all honestly, is someone who knows and understands more about me than I understood in myself.
From my first day, where we did not share a common language, until now, where we have discussions about what here moving back to America with me, we have grown closer than I have ever been with someone outside of my family. She sneaks in my room when I am gone to tidy up my things and refold my clothes to her liking, but would NEVER tell me she did so. We sit together, each and every night, at the end of the day for hours on our outdoor steps. We talk about anything and everything under the sun (that I know how to discuss in Shangan) and mime/drawl/act out anything that I don’t understand.
We talk about what her coming to America would look like. She is worried she would be lonely because no one will speak her language. She is right. She can’t leave here, she has a community that depends on her. But I too need her. Going back to a world without her in it just doesn’t seem like a world I am meant to be a part of. Our solution? A phone I bought, that I am teaching her WhatsAp on. But what happens when I can’t send her data for the phone? Or money to buy airtime so she can call? Or electricity money? Or the phone breaks?
All of these ideas push me past the concept of sanity, so instead I just sit. I sit day after day on the porch and soak up every moment of time I have left with her. I have not shared enough with you all about that wonderful woman, and will endeavor to do better in the future.
I am also at the point in my service where EVERYTHING is breaking. My body, my mind, my technology.
Every chord, charger, and headphone I brought with me is in utter disarray. If it still works, it is held together by cheap duct tape and prayer. If not, I have bought whatever generic off brand thing I could find, because the cost of even a replacement Apple iPhone charger is half of my monthly salary. The result of my crappy purchases? everything dies SUPER quick, and takes way too long to charge (if it charges at all)
My body has aged more than I could have imagine. My skin has spots, bites, sun marks, bruises, scrapes and scars to outline the journey I have seen here. My hair is less luminous, my face perpetually tired, and my eyes reveal a new sadness reflected back from what they have seen.
When I wake each morning, I move slow. I am lucky if I complete 4 hours of sleep. When I rise, my body is stiff. It yells to me, louder and louder each day, registering new complaints. These I try to dull down and ignore, until those that insist on problem take the frontlines. It is so hard to know here what is just the expected wear and tear and what are real problems.
My mind is forever changed. You are not prepared what your mind will need to endure while here. I could not have fathomed the loss of a child you know until I held a lifeless body of a baby in my arms. I could not imagine a healthy, young early 20s first time healthy mom’s funeral until I stood next to her body as they laid her to rest, on what should have been a celebration of her first child’s birth. I will never fully understand the perpetual loss of my friends and family because I was born to a place of privilege. And to that place of privilege I will return after this experience, in desperate need of some mental health counseling that isn’t widely accepted still in my own circles.
What else is broken? My American habits! I realized the other day that I will need to start becoming aware of the cultural pieces I have adopted here that are not socially acceptable back in America.
I was standing by the road, waiting on a taxi, conferring with my friend when the wind blew a piece of hair into her face, stuck to her lip, which I promptly removed and tucked behind her ear for her as conversation continued. normal. In America….uhhhhh, why are you touching my face?????
I have a long process ahead of me. Patience is requested as I navigate the crazy transition. Until the, you can find me sitting with Gogo, dancing with my friend at traditional events, at the youth center or at my HBC. Sending lots of love to all of you.
3 thoughts on “I am broken, hear me roar.”
You must write a kids book about all of experiences: people, animals, sunsets, food and everyday life. I taught swimming with the International Red Cross out of the US in the Spanish language….but in returning I lost the art of speaking Spanish….if you do not speak it you will lose it…….I just had a thought…when you return…why not becoming a United Nation Interpreter#!!!!!!
Your travels over the years have opened my mind and heart to the communities you have lived, none more than South Africa. I so badly want to send millions of thermometers so that another mother does not have to bury their baby from a malaria outbreak and as I type this I realize that is still not really going to help, because it takes medicine and education and thermometers! I know you will leave half of your heart in Africa…. but you are our heart and we need you back, so your body and mind can heal – if only for a short while before you take on your next seva (selfless service).
you’re like a phoenix, continuing to be reborn from the ashes more magnificent than before.