Thursday, January 5, 2012

"Welcome home... now it's time to pack"

No, it is not quite as dramatic as this post title indicates but, nevertheless, that is essentially the comment that I came home to...

This morning, just ten hours after returning from a week in Cape Town, South Africa (more on this in another post), I received a telephone call from my APCD ("Program Director") telling me that I needed to come into the Peace Corps office to discuss my site placement. More specifically, about relocating me. (What?! Now?! Ah!)

Now, for those of you who have stuck with me and know about the trials and tribulations of my work at site, you realize that this has been a constant discussion for the past seven months but that nothing has happened and I have been in a state of perpetual limbo. I had become resigned to my NGO being closed and focusing more on the happy things about living in my peaceful little village of Kumakwane, like playing with the Kums Kids and my compound dogs. The idea of moving at this point made me feel anxious. Hadn't this been what I had thought needed to happen since July? Why was I feeling upset? Shouldn't I just feel relieved that some progress was being made? Why couldn't this have happened when I told Peace Corps so long ago, before I had made these connections and fallen in love with my sleepy little village? Maybe I was feeling this way because I received the phone call while I was laying in the shade with Bokena and two of my dogs. I took a deep breath and decided to keep calm and go straight into the office and hear what my APCD had in mind. I got up, dusted myself off, hugged Bokena, and boarded the next bus towards Gaborone.

An hour later, I met with my APCD. She explained that we had labored long enough, had exhausted our options, and that I had put in enough effort - it was time to move on. (It's true.) In association with my Country Director and the District AIDS Coordinator, my APCD had decided that the best thing for me and for fulfilling Peace Corps' mission to capacitate host country nationals was to relocate me. What this means is that, by the end of the month, I will be relocated to Mogoditshane (a large village just outside Gaborone, essentially a conurbation of the capital, with nearly 45,000 people) to work for an NGO that is both a support group for youth living with HIV/AIDS and an orphanage/halfway house for children. They want a volunteer to help mentor their teachers and work with them on ways to effectively communicate and motivate children and youth. This is definitely an area of interest of mine and I think that I can be beneficial in that capacity. (Bonus: they have motivated staff that have worked very hard to secure funding for the next three years and to expand programming. Yes!) As my APCD talked to me about the organization, the anxiety started to fade and  the more comfortable I started to feel about the move. There seems to be a lot of good that I can do there. (Not only that but there are a lot of other options for projects in the village, including schools, other NGOs, and a rehabilitation center for youth.) So far, everything sounds fantastic and something that I could really get behind.

Even still, I am somewhat apprehensive about the move. While it's true that the organization and the work sounds like exactly what I would love to do right now, I am content in my village. I have made friends and created a foundation here. I have friends and a community and some projects that I don't want to walk away from. My house is wonderful and truly feels like a home now. I have become accustomed to living a rural life where everyone knows me and I can hear my name being shouted by the Kums Kids from the moment I step off the bus or out my door. It will take some adjustment and will be a challenge at first I am sure. But I am reminded of my Peace Corps Recruiter, who told me that she had been moved during her service. I recall her saying she felt similarly to how I do now - mixed emotions, sad and speculative of the change, and excited to see another side of Peace Corps life. This brings me comfort. I know that I am up for this and will do my best to make the most of it.

In the end, I am sad to be leaving a village that I love so so much but I am also excited about the potential for the next 17 months of this journey and am hopeful that life at my new site will be every bit as wonderful as my first seven months have been in Kumakwane.

And, for those of you worried about my Kums Kids, have no fear! I intend on packing up my backpack full of toys once a week or so and coming to play with them! It's not too far away and those kids are far too special to me to lose touch... 

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