I’m at a strange place in my service now. The point between COS conference and actually leaving site is a matter of wrapping up responsibilities and weaning your community off your assistance. I’m doing my best to hand things off and write reports for my successor, but I find myself in a detached place. My mind and energy is on the next step, ready for my move.
I announced to my friends and family a few weeks ago that I would be extending my service. The decision wasn’t made lightly – on the contrary, I deliberated over it for quite a while. Only when my new position was finalized was I sure about staying. I will be working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offices here in the capital of Botswana. The tuberculosis division will be my new home, and I’ll be working on aspects of their research, data management and analysis, and reporting. Their current studies address the challenges with diagnosis and treatment in Botswana. My new job will have structure and a set of challenges that more closely resemble those of a job in the west, and I’m thrilled.
A few of my friends have closed their services a little early and have already left the country. It’s just the beginning of the mass exodus, in which almost all of my cohort will depart. A handful of us are extending our services for the next year, but the majority will leave in about a month. There’s a tinge of this left behind feeling, though of course I am excited to engage in my new job. Regardless, I think closing the door on my current site is going to feel very good.
At this point, most of the members of my support group understand the reasons for my pulling back and out of their activities. Some things will remain frustrating to me, though now I no longer have the urge or duty to fix them. It’s a relief, because this grassroots development work has drained me. The positive is that the members seem to be reinvigorated to take charge, almost as if my involvement was a bit of a crutch. I guess I never found the perfect balance of helping and allowing people to do things themselves – and I don’t know if there is one.
I can take away some final successes in my last couple months here. My building project for the support group is still moving forward, though of course I won’t be with the NGO to see it to any form of completion. I’m still unsure of whether or not the funding will ever go through, but I consider my contribution to be successful. The word at this point is that the US Embassy would like to fund the project and has, for all intents and purposes, approved the grant application I wrote. But it’s still a matter of policy allowing the funds to be used for such a project. I don’t know when that final decision will come through, but I’ll leave it to the next person with some sense of fulfillment.
The other project I have seen recent success with is a grant application I helped write and edit for the junior secondary school environmental club. They are planning to construct a fruit orchard, and the funding should be coming through soon. After all of my trial-and-error experiences with environmental projects in my village, I’m glad to see one taking root.
I have about a month left at this site. After then, I will be moving to Gaborone and starting my new job in June. My lifestyle in the capital will be markedly different from my current one. Village life is something you get accustomed to in a survival sense; it is rarely comfortable or easy, and I don’t think I ever stopped counting the days to when I was done with it. My attitude toward Peace Corps at this point is not that I loved my experience so much that I couldn’t resist staying; this next job opportunity is too good to pass up. Peace Corps made it possible for me and for that I’m grateful.
I’ve heard that a lot of RPCVs romanticize their experiences; sifting out the frustration, discomfort, boredom, and disappointment they endured to portray only the flashes of success. I had both, and while I’m still here, I’d like to acknowledge my complete experience. Talking about these last 2 years will undoubtedly boil down to a few sentences, and over time I hope that I remember the difficulty and joy with some truth.