It’s been incredibly hard for me to adjust to my departure from site.
I’ll admit that this isn’t the way that I thought I’d feel. Two years ago, when I pictured the end, I pictured myself feeling done: satisfied, proud, and ready to go back home.
What I didn’t except was to feel incomplete. Like I was leaving too soon.
The thing is, I’m a late bloomer. For the first twelve months at site, I felt more like an observer than an actual, integral part of my Mozambican village. I was still learning the language, and I was often nervous or mildly uncomfortable. I didn’t have fast friends or dependable relationships. I was a loosely floating leaf, lightly touching down from time to time without really establishing roots.
I wanted to belong. I just wasn’t ready yet.
But when I started my second year, I found everything so much easier. I spoke better. I interacted better. I understood jokes. I understood the school. I understood the students and my neighbors and all the other teachers.
I started building friendships. Real friendships, based on humor and interests and mutual respect. My language skills were stronger, and continued to develop. I found more energy and direction for my projects and my classes.
My last four months at site, I found, were by far my most productive. I found that I was braver. I was happier. I was stronger. I made more progress in the last few months than I did for the first year and a half.
And then, at the very top of my game, I packed my bags and walked away.
I think that’s often the way that it goes. Some Peace Corps Volunteers seem to adjust immediately, while others wade in slowly, watching and waiting and peering ahead. By the time that I adjusted, I was almost halfway through.
I could have chosen a 1-year extension, to ride the crest of my recent momentum. I could have started the literacy group that I’d always hoped to start, and developed some of my budding relationships. I could have stayed with my dogs for that much longer in their lives.
But Dan, unlike me, was ready to go. He felt fulfilled and proud of his service, just like I’d always thought I’d feel.
“It’s time to go,” he told me, softly. “We have other things to do, as well.”
And he’s right, of course. We have other things to do.