Last week I learned that a close friend in my village received a notice of transfer. In the Botswana government system employees sign short contracts, generally 3-5 years long. Transfers come suddenly and the person leaves quickly afterward.
This person was a doctor at the hospital in my village. We worked together closely for the past few months on circumcision projects. It’s common for volunteers to have a variety of counterparts for different activities – this doctor was one of the best counterparts I have had throughout my service. He is passionate and hardworking, which are not the most common qualities even in the developed world. I’ve written a lot about my involvement with circumcision here, and none of the success I’ve had would have been even remotely possible without his help. Although he will still be in Botswana I am going to miss having him here, both as a counterpart and a friend.
The news of this departure came during the visit from my shadowing trainee. Halfway through pre-service training, Peace Corps trainees in Botswana travel to visit a current volunteer. I enjoy hosting shadows because it offers a chance to pass on some of the wisdom I’ve gained since arriving, plus it’s an interesting gauge of how far I’ve come. The trainee I hosted was an older gentleman; it made for an odd dynamic to be a sort of teacher to someone with so much more life experience than myself. But we have a lot in common and consequently had some really thoughtful conversations. I always like having visitors, and they get the rural village experience in Rakops.
Having this Peace Corps neophyte in my midst showed me the unique place I’ve reached in my service and some of the challenges to which I have adapted. The reality is that I’m on the downward slope of my 2 years. It’s an accomplishment to be sure, but also indicates a change in attitude toward my organization. Most important is the need to instill some sustainability and wean the NGO off of my help. And of course, that means saying more good-byes. Will we either of us be ready? This won’t be quite as abrupt as my doctor friend’s departure, so I can hope.