Close of Service: The End

Thanks to all my readers, stranger and friend, regular and occasional. For better or for worse, this is my last post. All good things must end, and thank you for your readership.

The last few weeks were a mess. Visiting people, farewell events, and just trying to spend as much time as possible with people that I might not see for a very long time.

My school gave me a big send off. They got me Swazi traditional dress:

And then they made me dance, in one of the most awkward moments of my life. The facial expression is one of pure awkwardness:

The Swazi traditional dress is formal wear, so invite me to your wedding and I’ll wear it.

After the send off at school, we had some bonus fun. This is me with my colleagues (and friends) Madzumzane and S’bu. To their credit as farewell ambassadors, I remember neither this photo being taken nor smoking the cigarette clearly hanging out of my mouth:

And so begin the lasts. The last Saturday I gave my Mama a farewell gift, a picture of her (our?) house:

Then the last haircut:

And the last meal:

And the final goodbye from the whole family, who drove into town to see me off:

Saying goodbye was profoundly bittersweet, the joy of knowing you can return to your “normal” life soured by the sadness of feeling you have a second home but need to leave it. When I rolled up to my Peace Corps home, everything was uncomfortably new. Time passes, and you get used to it. More time passes, and you come to love it. More time and everything eventually feels predictable, comfortable, and routine. Finally, right when life has reached a new “normal”, it’s time to drop everything and go “home”. Writing this in the United States, and looking at these pictures, it all feels like some sort of dream. And despite how much time passed, how much work I did, and how much pain and loneliness I went through adjusting to my second home, looking at these pictures is like peering into someone else’s life. It’s completely real, yet totally unreachable. That’s a sad feeling. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I hope to visit soon.

The only thing that made it possible to say goodbye to everyone is South Africa was all the people in the US who I care about and who care about me. Every time I got something in the mail, it ended up on this wall. Throughout my service, it remained a very concrete reminder of the other life I led back in the USA:

I love you all, and I’ll see you all soon enough.

1 Comment

Linda Tammen says:

Well written Michael. Those are feelings that are difficult to express.

12 Jun 13 @ 5pm