What a whirlwind of a few days. I feel a little bit like life lately has been moving at rapid speeds but in slow motion here at the end of my service. Like the Matrix. Yeah, that’s a good comparison. I’m like Keanu fighting Agent Smith with rapid judo chops you can only see when the camera slows down to half the speed. Except… it’s not like that at all.
Everywhere I turn, every moment is slowed to this creeping awareness of the whole world around me. The Atlas Mountains seemed bigger than usual. The rosemary on the desert plains stretched into an infinity I couldn’t touch. The pine trees surrounding Boulemane and Sefrou were taller than usual and skinnier too. They know the cold that’s coming soon and are dreading it.
And, of course, the people. I can’t decide if it was intentional on my part but some faces seemed frozen in time for me. Last night, a large group of us gathered in Boulemane, our provincial (other) capital for what was essentially my “goodbye” party. The party was complete with old and new friends alike, including my former language-and-cultural facilitator, Driss, who taught me so much about this country in my first three months here. All told, there were eleven of us, so we did right by the old Outat gang and cooked Outat tacos one final time. Eric, Meagan, Nicole, Caity, and Avery would’ve all been proud.
Throughout the night and in my brooding sort of way, there were moments where I was able to just sort of sit back and observe quietly. I think that’s what I mean when I say their faces were frozen in time. Because I made a real point to reflect on how touched I’d been by these people. Whether it was Gary’s stories about his time in Vietnam or Anteus’ very unique way of forming a sentence… or maybe it was Nikki and Brenna’s guru hippy vibe, their love of all living creatures… right down to Sherry, who might just be the most adorably awkward person I’ve ever met. People come and go a lot in the Peace Corps. You’re constantly in a state of adjustment for all the new and old faces that pass through your life. It was humbling to realize that, for many of these kiddos, I was the first they saw go. And for me, they were able to see me into the final days of my service and celebrate some incredibly exciting moments with me.
But there was one person who didn’t make it. Jonathan got to Missour at 1:00 p.m. and got stuck there on his way to the party. He waited for a taxi for over seven hours, tried to beg the Gendarmes to take him… but it just wasn’t meant to be. In the last six months or so, Jon and I have gotten particularly close, working on projects together and being each other’s support in an otherwise abandoned section of the country. I saw him at least twice a week, and if it hadn’t been for him, I may have gone several weeks in a row without speaking face-to-face with a native English speaker. I can honestly say that I’m incredibly thankful for his friendship, and he and I both were pretty bummed out when Missour, once again, claimed another Peace Corps victim. As I said in a previous post, some goodbyes just don’t get to happen the way you plan for them, too, but that’s okay. I would’ve destroyed Jonathan in the game of Risk if he’d showed up, and that just wouldn’t have been an appropriate way to say goodbye. Sucker.
But just as all that gets etched into my memory, and though it lingers in some beautiful slow-motion scene of sorts, there’s this weirdness I feel turning around or blinking an eye and realizing how fast it has come and gone. I feel like I slowly absorbed so much and will carry it with me into the next phase. But the next phase is here. Before I knew it, it was here.
Tomorrow morning, I’m having lunch with one of my best friends in this country, an English teacher who taught for a year in my town. Then, I’m spending my afternoon saying goodbye to Omar, my host brother. A few more phone calls after that, and the goodbyes are over.
Please, do not forget to vote tomorrow if you haven’t already. I cast my ballot this week!