On April 17th I officially closed my Peace Corps service and left Botswana. Many people who read this blog know that I was originally supposed to COS (Close my service) in May, but due to some circumstances with my family and the fact that I was so close to the end of my service I was allowed to COS a bit earlier. This meant I had to leave my village a bit sooner than planned. Although it was hard to say goodbye to my community in Werda, I feel lucky because I was at least able to say goodbye and my last days in my village were filled with some precious moments.
I had to warn my community before I left my village that I was possibly going home early and through that process I was able to spend time with people and say goodbyes. I wrote letters and gave them to people I knew and worked with, and I put letters up at the clinic to the community as a whole and to students I worked with because school was out still for Easter Break and many of the students who were boarders at the Junior school were not around. I spoke with the children who were still around when I saw them around the village, gave my last bunch of high fives to my neighborhood children, and spent time hanging around the clinic so I could be around the nurses who were so kind to me throughout my service. During my last day in my village before going to the capital to figure things out with Peace Corps staff, I spent time with my friend Elia who told me that a child who couldn't walk and had never been able to go to school was accepted into a school program outside of the village that would enable him to move around more easily because he would have a wheelchair and to learn. This is something that the two of us had been working on. I also got to spend the evening walking around the village with Elia visiting OVC families we knew and then visiting Elia's grandmother who is in her 90s. Her grandmother was wise with a beautiful smile and told me in setswana translated by Elia that "It doesn't matter that we are from different places, different backgrounds, or speak different languages because we are a part of the same universe and same God and that everything would be ok with my family". I will never forget that.
As I said, I had to spend my last days in Botswana nearer to the Peace Corps office because I was working with staff to figure out how I could get home to my family. I stayed with friends who were very supportive during a time that was very difficult for me, and I'm very grateful for that. I'm also grateful for how supportive Peace Corps staff were. My last night in Botswana I went out to dinner in the capital with some other PCVs who were around for other meetings/appointments. I was even able to lodge in the capital with a close PCV friend during my last night and help her out a bit with an event she was having at the PC office the morning of the day I COSd. It was a good send off.
People here in America and back in Botswana keep asking me how it feels to have completed my service and to be back home. I've been home for just over a month now, and the truth is that I've experienced a mixture of emotions. It feels great to have completed my service because I'm proud of what I did in Botswana, I feel lucky that I got to meet the people I met and experience the things I experienced, and I know having served as a PCV has changed me forever. Sometimes I feel sad because I miss people and things about being in Botswana or because I wish my goodbye was a bit different/feel badly about having to COS early. In moments like that I remind myself of the kind words some friends, teachers, and nurses I worked with in my village said to me before I left Werda or messaged me before I flew out of Botswana , and remembering that people were understanding and supportive helps. I also know that leaving a bit early was necessary and have had many moments where I've been very grateful that I was allowed to COS a month ago. Overall I'm very happy to be with my family and to be able to spend time with friends I hadn't seen in so long, but I also do have moments of feeling overwhelmed. At times I feel guilty about things like having so much food or when I see everything that is available in stores here or get angry when I see people being wasteful with things like water or paper products when I truly understand more than ever how precious these things are. I like my alone time more than I used to, but so far people have been understanding of that. I've been on the go quite a bit, but today I'm taking a "lazy" day to be on my own for a while. Readjustment is going to take time I think. Oh, and I'm also very excited about graduate school in July!
I'm not really sure how to sum up this blog post or this blog. I feel like being an RPCV ( returned Peace Corps Volunteer) is always going to be a a part of my identity and that as I continue on with my life this experience is something that will stay with me. This isn't really an end but a continuation...