More thoughts on leaving

As my time remaining here ticks down to a single-digit number of days, things are becoming increasingly hectic.  Last week I went to the lake one last time, and this weekend I am climbing Mulanje, the highest peak in Malawi (about 9000 feet).  I spent much of this work week running around to various government ministries, trying to collect some basic, semi-disaggregated statistics about land use.  In short, this was not as easy a task as I was anticipating.  Having lived in Malawi for almost 10 months now, you would think I should have learned by now, right?

This has also been a week of saying even more goodbyes, and thinking about how many more I will have to say very soon.  In a place where almost no one has immediate family, friends become a close substitute, and it will be hard to leave some of the people that I am closest to here.  Somehow, this feels more difficult than places I have left before, as I know there are people here I will never see again.  International job postings usually last a few years, at most, and after Malawi we will all scatter to different corners of the globe.  Unlike school friends, our common experience here will not give us reason to return and reunite.  (I am assured, however, that there is an Ottawa-to-Iowa road trip in the works, with my friends Leigh and Anna.)

People keep asking me if I’m looking forward to going home, and of course, I am.  I’m looking forward to seeing my family, being able to talk to my friends on the phone at reasonable hours, getting a real haircut, and eating broccoli, hummus, and dairy products of a non-UHT variety.  I’m looking forward to having a real job again, where people actually care what (if anything) I do on a daily basis.  I’m looking forward to driving on roads that are actually wide enough for two cars, and not crowded by bicycles, pedestrians, and goats.  I’m looking forward to a mail service that is at least moderately reliable, and trading in the same six shirts I’ve been wearing for the past 10 months.

But – despite everything I’m looking forward to at home, I can’t say I’m really looking forward to leaving here.  When I stood, crying, in the Kansas City airport in September, I didn’t imagine that I would be able to carve for myself such a rich and rewarding life in Malawi.  But while it didn’t happen easily or all at once, I have found and made a community here, and a place for me in it.  So when I think of leaving, I find myself longing, already, for all the things and people I’ve not yet lost.

NB:  My mom is someone who cries at Hallmark commercials.  Though the TV doesn’t usually bring me to tears, I think I inherited her sentimentality.  But I also think that it is legitimately hard to spend every year of your life cultivating new friendships, only to leave them and start over again in the end.

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One Response to “More thoughts on leaving”

  1. Rachel Says:

    Excited for your return! I hear you on the new friends every year…I think I did that alot growing up with all the moves we went through. It was wierd to always leave people. Still unsure about the Red Wing Half Marathon yet…I guess my friend is having her wedding reception on that day and the two events are hours apart from one another. Soooo…I may try to find another race.

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