I wish that there were some effective method to prepare oneself emotionally for drastic change. Graduations, big moves, the loss of friends or families--these things are all foreseeable intellectually, but when it comes to our emotions, there is just no way to avoid feeling lost. I have known that my date of departure from the Gambia was not too far away on the horizon for the past year. It was something that I thought I had prepared for, and yet, now that is unavoidably close and there are so many major decisions to be made and good-byes to be said, I feel blindsided all the same.
My first week in The Gambia I felt adrift. The shoots of what would become good friendships with my fellow volunteers had sprouted, but there was no one close to confide in, and home seemed a long way away. We all sucked it up and dealt with it, throwing ourselves into language learning and technical skills, and by the end of training I felt comfortable in my skin and ready to get things started. Since then, The Gambia has been home, and I only occasionally felt short pangs of homesickness. I had friends in the Peace Corps, friends in my village, and good friends and family at home who sent e-mails, cards, and packages.
Now things are unravelling a bit. Many of my friends in the Peace Corps have already gone home to be with their families for the holidays. Several of my close colleagues in village have been transferred, and I don't really have as close a connection with their replacements. And, while I am looking forward to seeing everyone at home, it still seems like an abstract future that is hard to really imagine, despite how near at hand it is. Feeling lost at sea, it's hard to feel close to people who are here, let alone people thousands of miles away across the ocean.
What is keeping me strong is the music project that I have started, and plans for grad school. Although I have been living in Africa for a couple years, it's evident that I am still very American, as I feel alert and focused only when I am hard on a task that I deem worthwhile. I am extending until the early spring to raise funds and finish the recording project, and, while this is a big undertaking, I find comfort in the motivation it gives me to keep striving and doing something meaningful. Once it's successfully completed, I know that it will be a difficult transition back to life in America, but with the research done and a lot of talking and presentations to give, I think the motivation driving me should continue over the Atlantic.