Sunday, May 20, 2012

Enjoying a hot cup of coffee, listening to the sounds of Beyonce-mixed techno and the thunk thunk thunk of grain being ground in a wooden mortar and pestle, Sunday morning.

I just said goodbye for now to Thato. I gave her some things I had lying around my house for her and her kid. Charlotte used to run around my house and pick through my magazines, flipping the pages like a bored woman in a waiting room. She points to the pictures and tells stories about them. Thato looks at her with mild entertainment. I'm fascinated. I didn't actually say goodbye to Thato. I said see you later. It's always see you later. There is always a later.

What is the customary way of saying goodbye in Botswana? You know what I realized this morning-- there probably isn't a customary way. Botswana is so small, I bet 99.99% of goodbyes between 2 people are really just "see you later"s. I bet it's rare that someone actually leaves for good. I wonder what they think of us, so many of us, coming in and saying goodbye. Saying goodbye for good. How has knowing I'd leave in 2 years affected my friendships here, from the start... from day 1? I am just 7 in a stream of many. I brought mild entertainment, I built a garden, I gave away my shoes. My shoes wouldn't even fit Thato cause they're too small. I wonder what they think of me?

When I first got here 2 years ago, unpacked my things, cleaned out the cupboards, and sat on my front porch cellphone-less, electricity-less, and friend-less. Thato came and connected my water pipes, "This one's pretty" she told my counterpart. I thought to myself, "This one...?"

In order to survive here the past 2 years, I've had to pretend that I was the main character in this story. I've had to make my service about what I can do, what I can offer, what I can learn. But now that my role here is diminishing, I am happy to give back my script and realize the truth: I'm not the protagonist of this story. It was never about me, my adventure, my life journey. I came, I played my part, and now it's time to move on. This story is much longer than me, it began centuries ago in the Okavango Delta, spread out across Southern Africa, escaped to survive in one of the most hostile environments in the world, and finally settled in a 5 x 5 km area that a foreign tribe named "New Xade."

2 weeks 2 days until I go home. I like to think that this adventure in my life is over, that my Peace Corps service is finally ending now and I can return home to continue my normal life, but I have a suspicion... I'll be watching the story of New Xade for the rest of my life.

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