Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

I am no longer a Peace Corps Volunteer and it is weird.

I got down to Lome Monday morning about 6 am and began my Close of Service procedures.  Herein lies the tale . . .

Many PCVs, in our self-centered arrogance, believe that leaving village, and service, is all about us.  "We" are leaving, going "home," getting the f*** out of Togo etc, with all the attendant emotions and stresses.  We often overlook how hard us leaving is on the people we leave behind.  We've lived and worked with our communities for two years.  We've formed networks and relationships with people.  We've become fixtures in our communities.  Then "boom" we're gone.  As Kodjo said, "you come here, we just have time to know you and get used to you, then you're gone."  The look on Ntido's face as I waited for my car to leave from Nampoch was enough to tell me that me leaving was screwing with her life.

I just realized this post might not be completely coherent.  I am running on a sizable sleep deficit right now.

Leaving, logistically, sort of sucked.  I had a plan. It was a good plan.  It was optimistic.  Plans do not work in Togo.  I planned to leave Nampoch on Sunday with a morning marche car, have a leisurely day in Kouka, then take a car to Bassar, then an overnight bus to Lome. Saying goodbye to people all the way.  Ha.
About 9 am Sunday morning, it started raining.  Kodjo and Djidjil started laughing and were like "haha we called for rain cause we dont want you to leave."  I didnt laugh.  My blood was singing songs of angry men. By about 1300 the rain pretty much finished.  I took wet pictures with people then we went out and waited for the car to fill up.  Got to the marche finally.  Ntifoni and Djabob helped me take all my stuff over to the marche station.  The road looked like chocolate mousse.  Kader and Kevin came.  Kevin and I went to drink tchakpa and hang out while I waited on the car.  It was good to see him again.

Kader was coming down to Lome with me to see me off.  We waited about 3 hours for the Bassar car to leave.  Got to Bassar about 19h00.  We drove through the ejecta of a massive termite orgy on the way.  The rain prompted flying termites to do whatever it is they do.  The yellow street lights in Bassar hosted clouds of termites.  From a distance it looked like snow flurries in the lurid yellow glow.  Or at least what I imagine snow flurries to look like.  Kids were running around under the lights with bowls of water to trap the termites.  They make a good snack when fried up.

Anyway.  Kader's friend got us seats on a bus going down to Lome.  It picked up passengers at the Ghana border, then stopped in Bassar for a bit.  Our seats were  in the very back of the thing.  I hate sitting in the back of the bus, but I thought, whatever, I'll sleep most of the time.  Time came to get on and the bus filled up quickly.  Then the conductors whipped out plastic stools and started filling up the aisles.  This triggered my incipient claustrophobia in the worst way.  I was counting down heart beats to a freakout.  I was sitting by the window- I made Kader switch seats with me.  The guy in the aisle in front of me didnt even have a stool.  He just stood there.  The windows didnt open and the atmosphere in the bus started heating up.  I pictured the next 7 hours like this.  The countdown sped up.  Then the bus left and some quasi-A/C kicked on and I calmed down.  Then I woke up in Sokode.  Then again in Atakpame.  And realized that as long as the air was on and I didnt think I was not going to completely lose my shit.  Excuse me while I go shudder. 

We made it to Lome without incident or screaming

After 3 years here, I have developed the ability to be able to wake up at 230 and tell where I am in Togo within 50k solely by the sound of the wheels on the road.

Ive also lost the ability to distinguish, in casual conversation, whether someone is speaking to me in French or English.  Sadly, I have not subsequently gained the ability to speak in tongues.  I think maybe I am just tired or something.

My going-away party in Nampoch was nice.  Although not for the 3 chickens we ate.  It was the first time I've had a party and not had to pay for it or arrange anything.  We had fufu from new yams which made me incredibly happy.  There was speechifying, and toasting.  And everyone told me at least once to say hi to my parents and not to forget the people of Nampoch

You never know when you are doing something or seeing someone for the last time

My cat is gone.  Kader took him down to Saye's house on Thursday, but he missed her by about 15 minutes.  He left the box w/ my cat at her door cause he couldnt find anyone else around.  Apparently the dogs freaked my cat out, and he chewed his way out of the box and ran off.  Now he'll have a short, mean life in the bush until someone cuts his throat and eats him for a fete.  Sometimes the universe sucks.

It still does not seem like I am not going back to Nampoch.  I am getting a plane in a couple hours, but it reality hasnt set in yet.  Leaving here is so much harder than coming.  I left a life to come here.  Now I have to leave a life and go reconstruct my old one.  Or find a new one. 

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