This is my last post on this blog. Or perhaps penultimate post as I may be seized by the need to elaborate on some details once I recover from the pure surprise of finding myself back in the states. To put it concisely: last weekend I ended my stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer and flew home to California.
About a week before leaving my community I made my rounds to say goodbye to my friends. I baked a cake for my host family and Selma’s kids became confused and sang “Happy Birthday” to me as I frosted it. My friend Auntie Capilene made plans to stay in contact with me through her son’s facebook account. Selma’s kids made me painfully cute cards and commandeered my frisbee for their own personal use.
On my last day at school, my colleagues arranged a braai: Ivan explained that the only way to say thank you in Baster culture is to prepare massive quantities of meat. I woke up the next morning with something that can only be described as a meat hangover After the braai we took a staff photograph. I have never seen so many Namibians smile in one photo, and suspect that I have set some sort of record with this shot (Namibians mug in most photos).
My students’ goodbyes were heartbreaking not only for their sincerity but also for the terrifying spelling mistakes that made me again silently thank Ivan for not assigning me English classes.
Peace Corps’ superb travel agents booked me a flight to San Francisco through Accra, Ghana. After confirming with the desk agent at Air Namibia that my bags would be checked through to my final destination, I boarded the plane to Accra. Arriving in Ghana at 10 pm I was confronted my a much rawer and busier African atmosphere. Even at night it was hot and humid, and the arrivals terminal was crowded by a wall of aggressive taxi drivers and food vendors. At immigration arrivals the officer waved me through when I explained that I was not staying in Ghana (remember this plot detail); I then hurried past the baggage claim and out onto the street.
After some searching I found the departures terminal which inexplicably was not connected to the arrivals terminal. At the check in desk (i use this term loosely, as it was a podium sitting in the middle of what looked like a small warehouse staffed by a lady with a netbook) I tried to present my passport.”Where are your bags?” asked the lady. “I think they are checked through to San Francisco,” I explained. “I don’t think we do that….” countered the attendant. Looking up at the chaos around me, I was convinced and turned to run back to the arrivals terminal.
Luckily, there were not many rules at this airport so I was able to run upstream through customs and immigration and find my bags on the floor in the arrivals hall. With my baggage cart I began running back towards the departure terminal. I kept encountering stairs and having to run my bags up the stairs, then run back down to retrieve the cart, and then continue on my mad dash through the airport.
With my bags checked I had 15 minutes to make it to the terminal. I hurried upstairs to another immigration check point. The officer examined my passport. “But where is your Ghana entry stamp?” He asked. After deliberation, he decided that I needed to go back to the arrivals hall. “But I need to go now,” I begged. The man turned to go find a superior, and I saw my chance. I scooped up my passport and boarding pass and dashed into the crowd heading for security. I didn’t look back until I had cut in front of the security line and slipped into the gate as it was closing.
That’s the thing about Peace Corps; nothing is ever easy, not even leaving.
For the next six weeks, Greg and I are heading to the Eastern Sierras and Utah for a last gasp of pure freedom before we start medical school in August. Thanks to all who have read and commented on this blog.