Closing

After a week of office paperwork and goodbyes, I am finally sitting in the waiting area of Entebbe airport. I have waited over two years for this moment when I can say that I finished my Peace Corps service and can continue on my life with the next adventures. I like to think that I will look back on my experiences here from time to time and think about how they changed me in unimaginable ways. To attempt to sum up my entire service in a few measly sentences would be futile, so instead I present the three Close-of-Service reflections during the three days that I remained in the Peace Corps Uganda office in Kampala.

End of Peace Corps Service (Post 1 of 3)

Engatto zange, my shoes. Since November 2013 I have worn this pair of shoes and experienced the entirety of my service in Uganda while supported by them. I hiked up volcanoes, squatted in pit latrines, canoed/swam across lakes, danced in dancehalls, biked across the country, taught lessons, walked over 1000km, waded through muddy impasses during rainy/landslide seasons, braved the dusty dervishes of the villages during dry seasons, and literally experienced all the highs and lows of the past two years while walking in these shoes.

Paraphrased F. Scott Fitzgerald: “So we beat on, wanderers against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the dust.”

shoes

End of Peace Corps Service (Post 2 of 3):

Abantu = People in Luganda, which is a branch of Bantu languages spoken in over 500 dialects throughout subsaharan Africa. It’s meaning is related to the South African Zulu word “ubuntu” which means humanity and the belief in the universal bond of acknowledging one another’s worth as a human being. I am because of you. In my experiences, I have understood the importance of great ideas, philosophies and words. But I have also come to know about the importance of people; the people who make up cultures, enact beliefs, and whose very existence make up who we are.

I won’t be able to tell the “African story”, and I won’t be able to even tell the “Ugandan story”, but I will be able to share the story of my time in a small village called Luteete that was my home.

abantu

End of Peace Corps Service (Post 3 of 3):

At 5pm today, I hit the Close of Service gong with a branch of matooke and officially ended my Peace Corps service. I have no more words to share about these past few days other than the ones that have inspired me and stayed in my heart and mind: “Do it for the story.” It’s the stories that stay with us and allow others to travel in our shoes for a short time and share our humanity.

Peace Out!

gongout

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Burning Out

24/9/15 – 30/9/15

I feel that I have very little control over my feelings these days. I oscillate between feeling pure excitement for the future and then sadness at how things fall apart. I spent all of Thursday editing my resume and contacting old references from college, my internship, and Peace Corps in order to complete a job application in Maryland. I had to reread some of my old blog posts from study abroad and college in order to piece together the dates of my old employment and internship. The weirdest part was opening up my old college .edu email account where all of my old emails were stored. I had forgotten the people and administrators with whom I used to talk.

I spent the majority of the day working on applications and then treating myself to sandwiches and salads at Kampala cafes. I got emotional as I saw Ugandan families treating themselves out to nice restaurants because it was Eid. On Friday I finally closed my PCPP Grant with Peace Corps and Washington, which took much longer than I expected even though I had tallied all of the numbers together on an Excel spreadsheet. I then traveled to Fort Portal to participate in the West Welcome Weekend where the newest PCV’s in the Runyoro-Rutooro speaking areas of Uganda came together to celebrate with the older PCV’s in that region. I was honestly surprised at how cool the new PCV’s were, and how I wanted to get to know them better.

Usually at this point, PCV’s don’t really want to invest the time in getting to know the newest PCV’s and instead want to just spend quality time with the older ones. I guess that I felt excited to hang out with some PCV’s who reminded me of friends I used to have back in the United States. During the weekend we ate Indian food, drank, went out clubbing at Forest, swam at Ndali Crater Lake, drank some more, ate some pizza, and chilled hardcore as we pretended that it was Fall and Winter in the cooler western region. It’s been a long time since I laughed this hard or enjoyed myself as much as I did swimming in a beautifully sketchy crater lake or convinced everyone to play a categories drinking game involving a shuttlecock and rackets.

However, the hardest part was making it back home. We left the “high” of the weekend and were welcomed by the hot, stinky atmosphere of Kampala before a rainstorm. I just didn’t want to return home. After a last-minute burger at Iguanas, I made it to the Wobulenzi taxi and then boarded my dusty bicycle. A few minutes into the ride I started feeling better because the bodamen and children greeted me by name. My happiness soon faded as a truck full of Ssebo’s (men) passed by me and one of them threw a rock that hit me in the face. I was so stunned that I stopped the bike and stared at them as they whooped and hollered at me. I brushed the dust off my face and continued on my ride as the sun set. I made it back home well after dark, and wanted to pass out on my bed and cry. I can’t explain why I’m so emotional these days, but I’m a complete wreck.