It’s an overcast morning in Lesotho. The dark blue clouds flirt with rain, but Mother Nature may break our hearts again. The land needs the precipitation. The animals need the precipitation. We need the precipitation, so we wonder if today will be the day but continue on as if it will be another unwelcomed sunny day.
I’ve refilled my orange mug – my only ceramic glass suitable for hot liquids – with more hot water for black tea. I’m tired of black tea as well as the oatmeal that I consumed for breakfast and the lentils I’ll eat at lunch and the beans at dinner. Mealtime has become another a reminder of monotony. These food choices are not forced; rather they are decision of savings, the idea to appreciate bland food and the recognition that my meal repertoire will greatly expand in three months (minus a day).
This week’s new character experiment is writing before school. Often, I scan blogs and websites while I prepare myself for the day but a recent article on a hipster, woe-is-me site that is a collection of blogs about 20-somethings complaining how terrible life is, which I hate read and don’t like to admit I visit but still do every day, said some of the world’s most powerful business leaders – Steve Cook, CEO of Starbucks, Benjamin Franklin – all begin working at 5:30 or 6 a.m. because that is our creative peak time. It occurred to me that I do enjoy writing in the morning and I’m trying to spend less time at my computer while and more time in the staff room during my final days as a teacher, so here I am trying to fill a Word document. The previous two days were inspiring and set the tone for an effective day, but my general mood is as gloomy as the clouds.
Today is September 19, meaning there is still a good three months before I am home (two and half before I leave Lesotho). Morning and the time just before sleep is when home is on my mind the most. I’ve nearly got my first week home planned out and my thoughts swim with ideas that are not of immediateness – what to bake Christmas morning, what to wear to the Mangan Christmas party, what to order when I go to Queen City Bakery for the first time (yes, most of my thoughts are about food). I think about coffee bistros, shopping lists, yoga classes, a night watching TV. I picture myself exiting the 20-seat plane and walking on the smooth runway cement toward the main building, with my family in view from its windows. Or walking down the steps into O’Hares on a chilly January day and seeing beautiful faces from my past in the corner booth, drinks full and popcorn scattered across the table.
These thoughts make me feel guilty. My village days are numbered and I should be embracing each smiling face I pass or the sound of sheep welcoming the day. My nights of reading next to candlelight should be a treat, so should the graceful mountains that provide the entertainment on my long walks. The time with my students should be a treasure instead of just another class I need to get through. I know myself well enough to know that I’ll pine for all of this when I have all I dream about now.
There are moments when I can feel the end. Sitting outside, grading papers and I look up to admire the blooming peach trees. The idea this will be gone punctures the moment and fills me with a warm uneasiness. Or when I am sitting with my family, watching our nightly soap opera, and my nephew giggles at me. I’ve witnessed his first seven months of life but I’ll miss his first steps and words, the days when he just wants to run around for the sole purpose of kicking up dirt. I’ll be someone they tell stories about but he never knew. He won’t be able to imagine me because I am a woman from a country he can’t comprehend.
Knowing this is it, I make sure to great everyone while walking to school, spend more time in the staff room and play with that baby at least once a day. Still, those thoughts of three months from now cloud my perspective.
Presence is not a skill I’ve mastered, but I am trying to remember its importance for the future. If I am not present now, I’ll have wasted these months and I can’t bear to think of such a thing. Still, it’s time to go home. It’s time to close the chapter on Peace Corps – one that has lasted nearly five years – but remember it fondly.
Yet, what I keep forgetting is that all I have is today. And my clock says it’s time for school. The sun is sadly peaking out and there are students who need to be taught. The rest will be what it is, but my only job is to live this one moment. If only it were that simple, I think, but it truly is.