Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chunk by Chunk

It's only 10:30 am on a Saturday morning in Xade and I'm already
bored. I wake up in the morning and the first thing I do while I brush
my teeth is run around my house and check...

Electricity, check.
Phone service, check.
Water, check.
Refrigeration, check.
Cooking gas? check.
I boil water for coffee, finish brushing my teeth, and sit down in
front of my computer.

Today's morning activity was apartment extras. I say extras because I
already found my soon to be apartment in the states. I've already
walked around it a dozen times using google maps (at a rate of about 1
frame every 10 minutes because my internet is so slow), I've already
checked out reviews of the local restaurants, found parking permits in
the area, and traveled the route to my soon to be university campus in
my mind. It's exactly 0.9 miles away, and the reviews say it takes
about 5 minutes to walk. Until I'm actually there I can't actually
walk it, but in my head and in my dreams and in the night time while
I'm falling asleep I'm walking, biking, driving around the streets of
Pittsburgh, exploring it's restaurants, cafes, boutique grocery
stores, clubs, working out at the school gym, taking notes at
lectures, meeting professors, looking for a part-time job...

They say that the end of Peace Corps service can often be like this.
You disengage, you begin to feel anxiety about the future, you start
daydreaming. I suspect the solution to this is to write farewell
letters, say goodbye, force yourself to be here. I see now why so many
volunteers have parties when they leave. It's an designated time to say
goodbye to everyone we've ever met here, big or small: people who have
had profound impacts on our lives but we take them for granted every
day. People like the post office attendants who know my name, the
grocery store lady who shares my lunch, the drivers who act as my
bodyguards when I travel.

My friend Ketelelo came over last night. He'll be going back to
secondary school in a couple days, after that, I may not see him
again. I gave him all my old art supplies and a moleskin sketchbook.
He gave me a card that he wrote and illustrated. It was very creative,
very beautiful. At the risk of embarrassing him if he finds this blog,
I want to share what he wrote on top because it was touching, "My New
Xade, Our Wame." (Wame is my setswana name). The sentiment wasn't what
touched me, sentiment rarely does. Rather it was the simplicity of the
message that brought my racing Pittsburgh-bound mind to a halt and
forced me to take stock of where I am and who I'm with. It was sweet,
it was simple, it was not necessary nor expected.

No one has ever actually told me, "Hey, I know it sucks, but thanks
for being here." I hadn't realized that the sentiment even existed.
Now that I know it does, I realize I have to be careful. I can't just
whiz in and out of here without saying goodbye. It's something that I will
regret later, on the plane ride home 2 months from now, lying in my
new bed in Pittsburgh 6 months from now, popping up in my mind as I'm
studying for a test a year from now. 2 years is nothing to sneeze at,
and if you're going to say goodbye, you better do it right.

I've boxed up my souvenirs, taken pictures off my walls, and every
time someone comes over, they leave crating a box full of my old
stuff. My life here is walking away from me chunk by chunk...

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