It’s official. I’m no longer a Peace Corps Volunteer. I can now join the elite club of RETURNED Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV). That part of this transition is way awesome. But the other part is still pretty scary. I feel like I owe everyone who’s been riding along with me for the past 2 years an update on how my service closed, so here is my first attempt. The truth is, there are way too many feelings, thoughts, ideas, concerns involved to really go into much detail about what it’s really like to complete your Peace Corps Service. Anyways, I’ll skim over the big ones and then we can chat about it in person in a month :-)
First: I DID IT! Yay me!! It’s still, to this day, 27 months after the heart wrenching goodbye the night of my sister’s wedding, impossible for me to fathom that those 2 years have already passed. In a way, I feel like I’ve been here FOREVER. On the other hand, I just got here yesterday. The days drag, but the months fly. To be honest, coming into something like this you really don’t know if you will make it. As an American, we are cultured to believe that anything is possible, shoot for the sky, the sky is the limit, etc etc etc. So coming into this, I thought “why not?” It never hurts to try… and if you don’t try, you’ll never know. Guess what? I tried, and I succeeded. Pretty crazy, huh? And to be honest, I can only recall one point where I was actually low enough to consider making that phone call which would land me with a ticket home. That was the only time I really had any doubts. Of course there were other challenges and difficulties, but never anything devastating or upsetting enough to actually persuade me to leave Kenya. And I want to add that those challenges and difficulties probably would have been a lot worse if I didn’t have so much support and love coming at me from all directions – from my family, my friends, Peace Corps Staff, my counterparts, and even just my acquaintances here in Kenya. Without all of you, this wouldn’t have been possible, and I wouldn’t be here in Kenya today, wishing for just one more week. Thank you all so much for the gifts, cards, emails, messages, etc. I can’t thank you enough, honestly. Until you live in another country, away from all that you know, you won’t understand how special a direct facebook message just saying “hey, hope you’re doing ok” really means. Even if I didn’t always have the chance to respond, those messages meant a lot to me. Thank you.
About leaving: It’s so bittersweet. I feel like I’m having to leave right when I’m really getting the hang of everything here and feeling comfortable. I know the learning process is never ending, and even if I stayed for 5 years, I would probably still make the same argument. Regardless, I think that now is when I’m making the most out of living here. Maybe it’s because I know I’m going home and I’m letting all of my guards down and really pushing to make these precious last days count, but maybe it’s because now I know better ways for communicating and utilizing my time/resources effectively. Idk. But either way, these last weeks have been so awesome, and I’ve really enjoyed my time with my Kenyan friends and counterparts. I’m going to miss them all so much.
You know me, and I love making lists. So here is one I’m going to leave you with:
Things I’m going to miss:
Market day! buying awesome second hand clothes from piles on the street, getting fresh produce from local mama’s for 5-50 cents.
Bargaining. I’m going to miss hunting for the best deal, and if I can’t find it, give someone else the task of finding it for me.
Transportation. I know this is a funny one, but it’s kind of nice to NOT have to drive (sometimes) and it’s awesome to just wave someone down and they take you to your door.
Cooking with my jiko. I’ve developed a special relationship with my charcoal stove, and cooking without it just won’t be the same.
Forced creativity. In the beginning it was a pain, but now I enjoy having to come up with a new way to cook onions, tomatoes, and the “daily special” (potatoes, eggs, fish, squash, beans, lentils, etc)
Tea. Not just tea, because I know I can get that back home, but the concept of sharing tea with my friends or “tea time.” Some of my favorite memories are just having tea in my house with Mr. Ambalo late in the evening, or going to visit a friend and the first thing they do is whip up some milky chai. It’s the social factor that I’m going to miss, even if there’s not a lot of talking going on, it’s just special.
Appreciation? I don’t know exactly how to phrase it, so I’ll elaborate. Back home, we take things for granted. We all know this, and I knew it when I came, I know it even more now. I’ve lived 2 years without electricity, running water, a toilet, internet, freedom to talk on the phone any time, TV, driving, personal transportation, going outside at night, cheese, ice, etc. When I get to Nairobi, I’m ECSTATIC about having a toilet and shower. Even more if that toilet really flushes and the shower has not-cold water. I appreciate these things and look forward to them. I get excited about them. They aren’t a right, like most Americans are raised to believe, they’re a privelege. I know when I get home, it’s going to be something I take for granted once again…. but I really have enjoyed looking forward to those treats and I’m going to miss how much I appreciate them, if that makes any sense.
There are many, many more, but for the sake of time and your sanity and my need to not start missing them already, I’m going to stop there.
In the meantime, I”m soaking up the sun in Diani, South Coast. I’ll be here until Zach arrives on the 11th, and I think from there we’re going to visit Nakuru for a few days. Vietnam on the 15th! Woo Hoo! Home in one month, so I’ll be seeing all of you soon!