Here I am. Community Exit. My last three months in Mfuba Village. A time for wrapping up, and for reflecting.
For me, that process began earlier this month, at our COS (Close of Service) Conference, where everyone from our intake got together one last time – all 36 LIFE and RAP PCVs who flew into Zambia together on February 13, 2013 and have made it through almost two years of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
We attended all the usual Peace Corps administrative sessions, this time meant to prepare us for leaving our villages, leaving Zambia, and returning to the States – or to wherever else life might take us.
But mostly, we shared stories. Stories encompassing all the human emotions you could possibly imagine, jam-packed into these less than two years that sometimes feel like a lifetime. Stories that caught us up on one another’s lives. Stories that reminded us: we’re all in this together.
Those stories – and the love and emotion behind them – reminded me of all the things I love about this big, beautiful, utterly chaotic country. And all the things I love about this big group of beautiful, utterly chaotic PCVs.
In one of those official Peace Corps sessions, we got together in small groups to write up four lists: “Things We’ll Miss,” “Things We Won’t Miss,” “Challenges,” and “Successes.” I was glad that in our group – and I think overall – the “Things We’ll Miss” outweighed the “Things We Won’t Miss.” Challenges and Successes were about equally represented.
Personally, I realized that a lot of the “Things I Won’t Miss” are minor things, of little consequence, while most of the “Things I’ll Miss” loom large in my mind. Especially the people. The first words that came out of my mouth when I was asked what I’ll miss were: Boyd and Stephen (aka Bwalya).
Almost everything I’ve considered a “Challenge” during my service has been largely or entirely in my own head.
Life is funny that way. We look back at the hard times and notice how they made us grow. We remember our struggles and laugh – or at least smile, glad that THAT’s over! Any traveller knows that the worst experiences often make the best stories – after a bit of time has passed.
In that spirit – the spirit of reminiscing, story-telling, and appreciating all aspects of the Peace Corps roller coaster – I offer up here my own four lists.
Things I’ll Miss Things I Won’t Miss
Daily chaos Misunderstandings
Zambian family and friends Amaguys hassling me in town
Communal eating and sharing Always being “other”
Everyday inspiration Stress
Spending time with the kids Being surrounded by hordes of kids
PCV solidarity The phrase, “Ah, we blacks.”
Public singing and dancing Being “on” 24/7
Wild fruits Jealousy among neighbors
Bad music on buses Bad music on buses
Living outdoors Rats in my house
Biking everywhere Bats in my house
Big rain storms Termites in my house
Hitch-hiking Transport in general
Street food Littering
Slow pace of life
Lack of alone time Personal relationships
Begging Cultural integration
Lack of set work schedule Camp TREE
Zambian government Farmers adopting Conservation Farming
Finding balance This blog (in spite of formatting issues)
Isolation and loneliness Mfuba’s community demonstration field
Self-doubt Sticking it out
Anger and judgements Being called “Bemba beene beene” – a “true Bemba.”