The dogs are barking. The rooster is crowing his ritual death rattle. Batman is scratching at the door and has succeeded, yet again, in knocking down my perfectly placed mosquito net to keep out the unwanted – bugs, snakes, mice, spiders, and whatever else my imagination can conjure up. It is 5 in the morning, and Ryan and I have 30 minutes to pack up and be on our way to Mbabane. Today is May 6th, the first day of our Close of Service Conference. We rush out the door with our backpacks stuffed to the brim of every electronic we own because with the promise of free wifi, you bring it all. We say goodbye to our family and are on our way. The chaos of the homestead behind us, we take a deep breath and for the first time think about what leaving really means to us.
We have thought quite a bit (albeit superficially) about this moment since arriving exactly 24 months ago today. It has always been inevitable to me that we wouldn’t stay here forever (not always the case for all volunteers) and yet it is very hard for me to believe that the time to leave is now. I am very ready and at the same time not ready at all. How do you say goodbye to people who have become your closest friends and family? Am I going to adjust well to working 8 hour days and going to school full time, as compared to teaching a class of 8 for an hour in a “classroom” that is actually the outside of a clinic and then reading the rest of the day?
I am going to miss the beautiful people and strong friendships I have made, the blood red sunset over the banana trees, the laughter of bomake (even when it is at my expense because of my poor SiSwati), the children asking me, “How are yooouuu” from across the field, singing gospel songs with my host family, and obvious, my homestead dogs. During our COS conference, that was where my mind was; How much I am going to miss this place, and how it will always be a part of me and how I will carry what I have learned from this little country for the rest of my life. I have learned more about life and happiness and sadness here than in all of my 24 years of living in America. Granted I still hope to have plenty of more time to learn, I am grateful for the insight that Swaziland has given me. And even in a place with more trial, grief and loss than any I have ever seen, Swaziland also has the most hope and perseverance of any country, the kind of hope that makes you want to be a better person.
Yes, Ryan and I were thinking all of these things during our COS conference. We were also thinking about hot showers, automatic laundry machines, delicious ice water, our favorite foods, and of course, seeing our family and friends again State side.
Just maybe Ryan and I will have to do Peace Corps again…you know… when we are much older. :)
Group 9 Peace Corps Volunteers, Swaziland, Africa