Saturday, April 13, 2013

Full circle

Power is out, and my candles are about to be. I've done my last load of dishes and laundry, which was honestly just a handkerchief that I'd used to make cheese; the rest will be done in Kampala by hotel staff. I spent the day today sorting through my last few items and packing my little grey backpack with what I've deemed necessary for the next two and half weeks. I've included two pairs of pants, a pair of leggings, four tank tops, a tee shirt, a dress, undies, flip flops, running shoes, my planner, pertinent paperwork, shampoo & conditioner, face & body wash, face & body lotion, travel perfume, makeup, toothbrush & paste, my mini med kit that I always travel with (ibuprofen, Benadryl, melatonin, pepto, Imodium, bandaids, malaria meds, and sudafed) steripen, headlamp, travel towel, sarong, iPad, iPod, kindle, journal, stuffed elephant, rain jacket, and cameras. It seems like so much when I write it out like that...

Anyway, the last week at my site has been nothing short of delightful. Never having visited Murchison Falls national park, we took a last minute, seat of our pants, impromptu trip there on Monday. It was incredible. We did very little planning and thus ended up paying way more than we should have, and taking a route that was absolutely absurd. On the drive through the park tsetse flies swarmed our car as we almost ran out of gas, so annoying. We just missed the two o'clock ferry and had to sit for two hours waiting for the four o'clock boat, but we saw a hippo so it was totally fine. We spent the evening eating our fill of the buffet and drinking boxed wine on the balcony overlooking the Nile. The next morning we drove to the top of the falls and then hiked around for a couple of hours. It was so so hot but so worth it. That was really the last place in Uganda that I'd really wanted to see. Over the past two years I've been able to visit an incredible number of places and see the majority of the country.

Driving out of the park that afternoon we were somewhat late according to our pass. The pass we paid for was good for 24 hours, and we'd stayed 27. We had a little kerfuffle at the exit gate where the park warden was skirting around the idea of a bribe. I offered 20,000/- (about $8) which wasn't enough for him, so I pulled out a wad of ones and twos, conjured up a few tears and told him that was all I had (lie). He eventually let us go for free, I'm sure because of the waterworks. Success. Driving out of the park was beautiful; I absolutely love the landscape here, after the people in the north it's my favorite thing. A huge bull elephant blocked the road for a bit and I finally saw giraffes in the wild. Still no lions, but I have a lot of my life ahead of me.

The day after we returned I had a goodbye ceremony at the college. I was hoping that it wouldn't be overboard with the formality and pomp and circumstance, as some events can tend to be here. It wasn't, it was perfect. Of course it started late, but only by about a half hour. The first year students preformed some songs (which I'd tried to record but my camera battery died in the middle of it) the bishop came and made a speech about how everyone should be encouraged by my volunteerism and do things for the community without expecting to be paid for it. He studied in America and told them how much comfort I'd given up to come here. Some of the other tutors gave speeches about how I encouraged timeliness and professionalism, and how I taught one of them to be kind to animals. I gave a short speech thanking them for making this my home for the last two years, I thanked the reverend and another tutor for always teasing me and talking to me about the cultural differences, and I thanked the women from our baking club for cooking with me and sharing that aspect of our cultures. We ate dinner at the school afterwards and they made.... FRIES. And chapatti, and spaghetti, and tons of veggies, and chicken. It was delicious.

Since then I've just been hosting a couple of other PCVs, making friendship bracelets, and playing with baby goats. I leave tomorrow morning. I remember my first night here like it was a month ago, it really doesn't seem like this has been two whole years. It's scary how quickly life moves.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Loose ends

This post is long overdue, as Jacque was kind enough to point out in a text message a few minutes ago. It's hard to put into words the last few weeks here in my village, mostly because nothing has been happening and most of what's been going through my mind are feelings and reflections. All of the pictures, cards, letters, mementos and such are off my wall and the paint has been touched up. My things have either been sent home (thank you thank you thank you Rachel & Nora!) given away, burned, thrown down the latrine, will be packed up in my one little backpack, or left behind for the next inhabitant of the little teal house that somehow became my home over the last two years. Finishing Peace Corps service is strange and I'm at a loss of words for how to describe it.

I've thought a lot about extending in the past few months, more seriously than I have at any other time during my service. I think this was probably a result of a combination of things; the new principal at my college is making great changes and I'm sad that I won't be here to see them take effect, people who I've grown to truly care about have told me how much my presence means to them, I'm scared about not finding a job, having to pay exorbitant prices once again for a cell phone and fit in with American culture, and lastly I'm sure there is so much more I could do if I stayed. When all is said and done however, I'm done. Yes, it would be great to see improvements at the school, but my day to day would still be the same. I'd still be frustrated over having to wait till it stops raining and warms up a bit to go take a shower, I'd still be trotting out to the latrine any time I had to pee, and I'd still cringe every time a child screamed "Munu!!!" at me. And regardless of how much I love or hate my experience here, it wouldn't be more of the same, it'd be different. Am I completely ready to go home? No. Do I need to wait until I'm completely ready? Absolutely not. Plane tickets have been bought, plans have been made, and my mind is already sipping on something refrigerated, or perhaps even iced! That kind of momentum is really hard to stop.

In a couple of days Jacque and Stella will leave their sites and come live at my house for a few days until we all travel together to Kampala. This is entirely appropriate since my house has kind of been a catchall for those traveling to, from, or through Lira. Jacque and I spent a good seven or eight minutes one day pondering what our service would look like if we quantified it in terms of movies watched, jars of Nutella eaten, bonfires stared into, text messages sent, etc. All those inane things that ultimately made up our lives here. It's strange to think these will be the last.

Until I get back to America my life looks like this:
April 4 - 13 - laze around the village, awkward goodbyes, try to eat all the American food I haven't gotten to yet
April 14 - head down to Kampala
April 15 -17 - three day medical check up to make sure I'm not leaving with anything particularly nasty
April 18 - Peace out Uganda! Bus to Nairobi, game drive on a bike, and dinner at Carnivore (yes, there are two in the world, and I will have eaten at both of them)
April 21 - 23 - Istanbul with Jacque and Stella
April 24 - 30 - Egypt with Stella
May 1 - Egypt to Florida!

After that I'll be attending a bachelorette party in Key West, a wedding in Tampa, a graduation in Gainesville, flying to Ireland, taking a train through the UK and France to Italy, flying home, driving to Chicago, visiting North and South Carolina, moving to Boston and hopefully settling easily into a new phase of a life I love.