Saturday, July 17, 2010

New batteries, same old existential crises.

[This blog I wrote last week and then accidentally saved as a draft instead of posting!]

I always get a little freaked out when I buy a new pack of batteries because I'm forced to contemplate what I'll be doing in, say, 08/2017 when they expire. When the AAA's I bought yesterday expire, I'll hopefully have completed my Master's Degree, become fluent in Swahili, learned how to drive a Vespa and/or dance salsa, traveled through Asia, gained several years of actual (paid) work experience, and maybe I'll even be married. (I also sincerely hope that I'll be completely unemployable because scientists will have found a cure for HIV/AIDS and the world won't need public health professionals with my speciality...) In a way, it's kind of nice to look at that bigger picture/timeline and realize that no matter how hard it is to get through the day/week/month/last 6 weeks of Peace Corps service, that the future is basically inevitable. Except when you're approaching a HUGE life change, in which case the inevitability of the future is just plain overwhelming.

This week, Peace Corps gave me money to buy a plane ticket home. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. (You'd think I would've stopped being shocked by the whole LEAVING thing by now, but I'm still completely in denial, I think.) I've spent the last 2 afternoons at the Peace Corps office browsing various flight options and, though I'm excited about Tanzania and going back to the US and graduate school, I'm also freaking out about how much different my life will be in 6 very very short weeks. And everything I have to do between now and September 3, which is the day I plan to leave Swaziland. Here's my list:

1. Build Eliza a dog house.
2. Put together a photo album for my host family.
3. Make gifts (jewelry) for the kids on my homestead.
4. Finish my Partnership Project (it's coming along!).
5. Paint 4 bus shelters with health messages.
6. Finish the JA Company program at Jericho High School.
7. Buy lots of dog food to keep Eliza until December when I come back.
8. Pack and prepare my home for a new volunteer.
9. Complete lots of medical and administrative paperwork for Peace Corps.
10. Say good-byes.

The list is pretty attainable, I guess, but that doesn't mean it's going to be easy. Especially the last one.

This week I had to say goodbye to my friend and former language tutor, Sam, who went off to Durban in hopes of finding a job to support her late brother's orphaned children and widow. (She's an extremely bright 21-year-old and the whole family is pinning their hopes on her being able to find a job and send back money, which is exactly how girls end up working as prostitutes.) I knew we'd have to say goodbye eventually, but I didn't realize just how HARD it was going to be until she started crying and then, because I'm a sympathetic crier, I started crying. Then there were hugs, and promises to keep in contact, and I gave her a couple of skirts and a sweater and a pair of handmade earrings as a gift. And then she was gone, walking 12k to the border under cover of darkness in hopes of sneaking into South Africa without a passport.

Meanwhile, my life goes on. I cross days off the calendar and items off my "To Do" list and think about how MY life is about to change. I wonder if I would be happier sleeping in a sand-filled bunk bed at a backpackers in sunny Zanzibar or curled up in my bed with Eliza in my very own bat infested and refrigerator-like hut. And, honestly, I'm not sure...

My plan for the next couple of weeks is to just bury myself in work so that, when I leave, I can do so feeling accomplished and knowing that my host family and my community are better off than when I arrived 2 years ago. I know I certainly am...

But enough of that. I have a plane ticket to buy! (And, for some reason, tickets are $656 every day of September except the one day I want to fly, when they're $759. Does this make sense to you??) Maybe if I figure out everything for Zanzibar (like how I'm getting there, where I'm staying, etc.) I'll feel more ready to leave the Swaz.

Still, for 6 more weeks, love from the Swaz!

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