I just returned to site after quite the whirlwind of activities in Dakar and Thies. First, we had All Volunteer Conference, where all 250 Senegal volunteers plus more from other West African countries came together to share best practices and projects. After this, was the West African Invitational Softball Tournament, or appropriately, WAIST, where I wore a sweet outfit that looked like League of Their own and ‘played’ softball and went to prom themed parties because sometimes Peace Corps is just high school 2.0.
Finally, we had our Close of Service Conference in Thies. My entire ‘stage’ or training group, all 39 of us (started at 42), got together for the very last time to begin the process of leaving Senegal and returning to the everyday life in America. This conference was a mix of learning how to fill out paperwork (yes, because Peace Corps is part of the U.S. government there is a lot of paperwork), how to say goodbye to what we called home for two years, and how to stop picking our nose and talking about our bowel movements in public. Unfortunately, this conference did not include lessons on how to use iphones or kindles.
These three days, while lovely to be with our group again (there was a lot of crying and cuddling happening, obviously), was incredibly anxiety inducing for me. While sometimes I say only three months to go, sometimes I need to say I still have three whole months left. I still have two big projects to finish, reports to write, and babies and friends to spend time with. On top of that, we had anecdotes from former PCVs who said it took up a year to feel ‘normal’ again in the United States. Thinking about being ‘that kid’ who will not stop talking about living in Africa to all of her friends makes me feel nauseated, and the thought of catching up on two years of movies, drama with friends and of cell phone technology is giving me an ulcer.
Of course, we idealize America as well. The land of milk and honey as we call it in Peace Corps Senegal. I am going to be able to drive to the store to buy anything. The other day I was telling my friend LaRocha that I am sad that I will not have my Nokia Cell phone with the flashlight in America, and she said Leah, you will always have lights in America, there is electricity, you flip a switch. That made me real excited. Plus of course being back with the people that I love and miss very much. But am I idealizing it too much? Who knows, I think the expression the grass is greener will apply fully here.
What I do know is, and again why COS conference is so important is that the people with whom I trained will be right there with me. We will be able to call each other while hiding in closets to talk about our bodily functions and get pedicures together. These last few months I will spend not only attempting to live in the moment, but how to keep my stories from the past two years alive in my heart, even while eating salads and ice cream on the couch in an air conditioned room.