In Sesotho, we do not have a word for Goodbye, instead we say "Tsamaea hantle," which translates to "go well." Today, I find myself leaving Peace Corps early, three months before my intended COS (Close of Service) date. I am sitting on an airplane coincidentally next to a fellow RPCV, although his service ended over 52 years ago (Colombia 1963-1965). I asked him what his favorite part was..
"Oh, well.. I liked riding the horses. We would ride horses to meetings at villages nearby.. well I don't know if you could call them meetings. We didn't get much done. But I enjoyed it. I guess it was life-changing."
I read back to the blog detailing the month I spent in Maseru waiting for my house to be finished and ready for move-in. The anxiety I felt then seems funny now as I wrap up my service, although it is what led me to the decision I am making today.. a battle between two jobs and two locations. Since I swore in as Peace Corps Volunteer there has been a conflict, both in my head and geographically, of where my organization exists and the work I do there versus where I was placed and the obligation I always felt to serve that community. For the first year of my service I productively did so; organizing a BRO camp, teaching Health at primary schools, coaching volleyball and more. However, there was never a moment where I didn't feel pulled in another direction to serve another "site" or work. That was my Peace Corps assigned organization in Maseru, my supervisor and the people who asked PC for me to be a part of their work. Traveling to and from Maseru was then only wearing on me slightly because I felt empowered by all of the work I had created in TT, regardless of my organization being there. Nevertheless, I continued to juggle two jobs by writing grants, proof-reading research or reports and planning advocacy events in Maseru versus teaching youth and working with the radio in Thaba Tseka. And in the end, neither of these felt as productive or professional in my work as I was wanting to be and I continued finding new opportunities to fill that hope.
I returned to Lesotho in November eager to finish up projects I had started earlier that year and hopeful to create new ones as the end of Peace Corps seemed incredibly near now. 75 large portraits from the Inside Out Project waited for me in the office when I arrived. I went to Mokhotlong to finish painting the Touching Tiny Lives Safe Home and returned to Maseru and then Thaba Tseka to make plans to paste the portraits. I will post another blog soon to detail all the exciting, frustrating, and truly awesome aspects of these street art projects!
Tired of the drive up and down the mountain and unstructured scenario with my organization, I made an attempt to find a solution that I thought would help me continue working productively and in good mental health as a PCV by moving to Maseru. Unfortunately, safety and security regulations prevented this from happening.. SO, I started to apply for jobs.. in America, in South Africa.. In Indonesia.. For many reasons a large part of me was not ready to leave southern Africa and when the opportunity came about to work as the Communications Coordinator for the NGO Thanda, I could not pass it up.
I'll be home for 3-5 weeks to sort out my visa then back to continue working in a field I am so passionate about and to contribute direct skills to an organization I believe in. And hopefully, to travel more of southern Africa :)
Peace Corps service may be one of the most unique experiences I ever have. I am so grateful for the people and friends I worked alongside, the beautiful beautiful mountains I lived in, and the culture I will never forget. I will always miss the pink flowering peach trees, the smell of those swirly Thaba Tseka makoenyas, the cheerful greetings from my students, and maybe even the "Guard" geese on my compound. I asked myself a lot during my service if my work matters in the bigger scheme of things. I wonder if the person I was 23 months ago would be happy with what I've accomplished. And I think she would. Her eyes are much, much more open. My work does matter, because I could not do what Peace Corps allows you to do working from a desk in the U.S. (not at such a young age at least). Every day I spent in Lesotho I gained more cultural sensitivity, work experience in things I had never imagined I would be doing, and developed a deeper passion for people by understanding the complexities of poverty, or just human struggle and where I fit into the working world of development. These two years taught me more than my bachelor's degree ever could have, but more on that later. Point being, I wouldn't trade this experience for anything.
Khotso, pula, nala! Lesotho!