Thursday, September 19, 2013

Getting ready to say goodbye

Well. I have, at this point, about 2 more months of service. About 2 more months in Vanuatu. And then I leave this place, which has been my home for the past two years.

My group of volunteers just had our Close of Service (COS) conference, when they bring us all together one last time to talk about saying goodbye, readjusting to America, and finding jobs. A good 8 to 10 vols from my group have chosen to extend for a third year of service, and hats off to them. The rest of us are facing the intimidating prospect of going back to a place that maybe isn’t all that familiar, anymore. It was the last time I’ll see many of those volunteers, who have been some of my closest friends for the past two years. They really are like family. On the other hand, I went as long as 8 months between seeing some of them before, staying in touch just by calls and texts, so it’s not actually that sad to say goodbye to them. I’ll see them again.

What’s harder—much harder—is saying goodbye to this country, and the people I live and work with here. About 9 months after I got here, it was just starting to really sink in that I truly lived in Vanuatu—that this wasn’t just a brief stint. And now, nearly 24 months after I got here, I’m just beginning to understand that I’m really leaving. I’m excited, and sad, and happy, and nervous.

Today I sat down and made a list of everything in my house that I wasn’t going to take with me when I leave. I may not have all that much stuff, but since I plan to leave this country with nothing but a big backpack, it was a 3 page list. Then I decided what I was giving to who, and what I’d sell as a fundraiser for my school. Then I started thinking about the plans I’d have to make to say goodbye—who I’d have to see, and the speeches I’d have to give. It made me want to cry. I’m not a person who cries very easily, but just thinking about leaving here made me start to tear up.

I’m proud of what I’ve done here. I know I’ve taught people valuable technical skills, as well as broadened people’s cultural horizons and view of the world. I’ve made friends and family and colleagues. I have little kids who would hold my hand all day if I let them.

I also have regrets. There are things I didn’t do, or didn’t do well enough. There are roles I wasn’t willing to fulfill, or didn’t think I could, but now wish I had. I know when I leave this place, I’ll miss it, and never feel like I really appreciated it enough while I was here.

And that’s the kind of pressure I have to try to fight in these last two months: the anxiety that somehow I’m not making the most of every single second. The feeling that I need to wrap everything up, get everything done, make everything sustainable. That’s not in the island way, after all. Here in Vanuatu, we go slow, smile, and always stop to chat. If I can do that for the next two months, I’ll leave happy. 

1 comment:

  1. ahhh I love it. not that I have ever known and possibly will never know the depth of integration you have allowed yourself to experience in Vanuatu, I do understand on some level the culture shock of returning home (which is always so much more intense than GETTING somewhere new and acclimating to it). The feeling of being the expat stranger is so particular and I never really could explain it, but you have captured it so well here. I am quite emotional reading this and I think you're doing the right thing deciding to enjoy and apply the cultural lessons you've learned. You have taught them so much and vice versa, after all, so it is apt. I am so impressed by your work there, squeeeee