I have exactly twenty-two days left in my comfortable little village and only thirteen days left working at my NGO and with the ladies that have become my family in Gabane.
This is an emotional time.
It just doesn't seem possible that my two years here are up and I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around leaving here. Even though my ticket to America is booked for my home leave and I can see the upcoming date on a calendar, it still doesn't feel real. It is as if my brain has employed a defense mechanism to keep me from feeling the anxiety and heartache of leaving something I love so much. Even if it is just to start something new nearby. I have to consciously remind myself to cherish each moment with the ladies of my NGO, to take the time to do the "secret handshake" with each kid in the pre-school, and to greet each person I meet on the dusty paths around Gabane. In a matter of days it will all be a memory. When I think about how fast two years went, it is overwhelming (even heartbreaking) to think how fast these last few days will likely go.
This is also a time when I am pushing to get projects and things finished but also trying to disconnect from the work in a more meaningful way. This is something I have blogged about a lot - the idea of true sustainable development. Of course, I have things I want to get done and see through here before I go. For example, the house building project is complete but the sanitation component - the pit latrine - is not quite finished yet. Same goes for some aspects of my organizational development project at the NGO. But, at the same time, I need to back away and make sure the ladies can do everything on their own. I need to observe them and support them in their own personal development if the things we have worked so hard on are to be sustainable. And, so far, they are.
I have watched the ladies take ownership of projects and work diligently to get the financial systems in place or to improve the teaching curriculum and our reports. The Board of Governors has finally been elected and they are taking an active role in helping scale up our operation. The members are coming to the office and conducting their own mini trainings and helping the ladies network with local people who can assist them. Local people helping local people to help the local community. This is a huge accomplishment. I have always said that, as a capacity builder and development worker, if I am able to make my job obsolete and unnecessary because the staff and community are able to do it on their own, then I have done my job well. Being able to witness this happening first-hand is bringing me peace and soothing some of the sorrow of leaving as I hesitantly look forward to the end of this chapter.
Saying goodbye is probably one of the hardest things anyone can do. This is a time filled with that - goodbyes to my fellow Bots 10s as they embark on their next adventures (on their own), goodbyes to my village and my work, and goodbyes to a life where I could be anything I wanted on any given day of the week (a farmer, a social worker, a teacher, a consultant, an accountant, a youth leader, an artist, and so on). Goodbyes are made harder when you deeply love all the things you are bidding adieu. And that is where we stand now.
For me, this goodbye is also met with some exciting hellos - to a new life, to a new job, to new challenges, to new faces. There is glory and elation and vitality in moving forward from something achieved and towards the great unknown. It is, after all, how I got to this place in my life that has become so special to me.
I am going to try and take the next twenty-two days to "hug" this world I am in now and shower it with all my love. I want to feel the emotions of it all and embrace them. I want to leave all of who I am right now in the sand of my village and with the people who have helped me grow here so that I can start this next chapter in Botswana anew.