Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Many Good-byes

This is probably going to be the penultimate installment on this blog. I’ll post one last time once I’m back in the U.S. bringing everything full circle. But for now, I’m very much in South Africa.

The last few months have been intense and full of activity. Mostly though, it’s been full of good-byes. Here is a sampling of some of the things that come to mind.

Peace Corps Plus

In June, I saw two friends take the plunge and choose a life that is sure to be interesting. One took the Peace Corps plunge, extending for a third year as a PCV in China. Another took the marital plunge, choosing a life far from her American family and full of goats and cows. She jokingly says she’s signed up for “Peace Corps for life.” To these two young women who have been close friends and counselors over the past two years, I am very thankful and wish them all the best in their futures.

Journey to the East

In June, I left the African continent for the first time since I set foot on it in 2007. I went to India where I met with my family. Though I’ve been to India several times before, my experience this time was quite different after living abroad for two years. Things seemed to make more sense and I found myself connecting with people much easier. Also, I realized I’ve picked up some good skills for communicating with people that speak broken, heavily accented English. I filled up on food and reconnected with relatives that I hadn’t seen in many years. But the main reason to go to India was to say farewell. After a year, I was finally able to pay my last respects to my grandfather. The end of the trip was filled with more goodbyes as I parted with my grandmothers and other relatives, knowing it may be the last time we meet.

Closing out

Back in South Africa, the last weeks have been a whirlwind. Two weekends ago, I had my farewell party in the village. I bought and slaughtered a sheep. Friends and co-workers gathered and cooked up a feast. The day of the event, some teachers hastily put together a program. In the end it came out more beautifully than I could have planned. Members of my schools, the library, the community, and my host family all spoke. I made a speech thanking them all as well. Twice I stumbled and had to collect myself; once while talking about the ways in which I’d grown and once while expressing my respect for my departed host grandmother. So much has happened in two years. I leave satisfied that I’ve done my best, been thoroughly tested, and seen myself for what I really am. I truly hope the relationships I’ve built here will survive the distance and time that we will spend apart. In the end the only thing that really matters is our humanness, our Ubuntu. Thank you South Africa, for bringing me to my knees, for crushing my pride, for bringing me face to face with the darkness inside me, for giving me the space to pick myself up and prove to myself and those I have grown to love that I can still succeed and do some good. Thank you to all who supported me, near and far. You helped me to never lose faith in myself during the worst times. In turn, I was able to believe in people here and help them believe in themselves. And finally thank you to all of you that have followed my blog. It’s been nice to hear from some of you and know that I’m not writing into a vacuum. I’m glad I’ve been able to share my experiences here and hopefully give a little perspective into life in rural South Africa and one facet of the Peace Corps experience.


john said...

it's been a pleasure reading. i can't wait to hear all the interstitial stories from you in person.

Gabriel said...

A.J.- I've really enjoyed reading your blog. It has been a while since my skin got bumps thinking of the continent I fell in love with almost two decades ago and realize that there are people out there like yourself who feel and think in a similar way after living with a tribe in the outback. Hopefully we'll get to chat and exchange memories in person some day.