Leaving

This was published in the Capital Journal.

There are times when I am walking through the village or sitting at school grading papers when this warm but uncomfortable feeling enters the pit of my stomach. Soon, it reminds me, this will all be over.

I first applied to the Peace Corps in 2008 and it took nearly two years until I received my invitation for Niger. Seven months there and another eight months in Pierre before I left for Lesotho. Then, finally, I began my 27-month commitment. Peace Corps has been my goal and focus for five years and it will end in December, and I am ready for the next chapter of my life.

However, Lesotho is now a part of me and it will be forever, so it’s hard to understand their will be a day when I am not walking through my village, greeting people hello on my way to school. Or that I won’t giggle with my host father or sit with my host mother anymore. Not only will those days no longer be my reality but I will never have them again, not like this.

In between writing final reports and planning my trip home, I’m trying to soak up all the little moments, even the ones that I am not particular fond of, because I know I’ll crave them when I deep into the harried American life.

I’ll miss the sun coming up over the mountains in the morning or the thick clouds ringing around their tips after a satisfying rain. I’ll long for the night sky, full of more stars than I imagined existed. And the smell of smoke coming from brick huts as people prepare their evening meals and the taste of a juicy peach on a hot summer afternoon.

One of my favorite parts of these two years was living a simpler life, as if I went back in time to a period, maybe one in which my grandparents lived, that was less focused on machines. I’ve come to rather enjoy my evenings with candlelight, supper cooking on a gas stove and a good book. Although my host family has a television and we watch it together every evening, my favorite moments together are sitting on the porch and watching the village pass by.

What I’ll think of and yearn for the most, especially during those times when I am not sure I fit into American life anymore, and I know that I will have them, is the people: my host family, other Peace Corps volunteers and staff and my students and teachers.

The highlight of this experience – or really any experience – is the people. The little girls knocking at my door asking to sweep just so they can be in my house for a few minutes. The students that may not always understand me but still light up when I walk into the classroom. The family that gave me space to react to this different life on my own but still excepted me as one of their own, no matter the difference in blood. These people, with their unending kindness, gratitude and love, define my service and why it means so much to me.

It is time for me to return and reunite with those that I love there, but Lesotho will forever be in my heart and I hope to share that kindness, gratitude and love back home.

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