I apologize for my slowness and almost absence on this blog for the past week. It was partially due to some other things going on in my life, and partially due to the fact that I sort of lost my place in my story (due to responses to readers, emotional breakdowns, and guest entries), and wasn’t quite sure where to pick up and keep going. So, now that I have some free time, I want to share a little more with you about how I left
Africa, and about some of the goodbyes that I never got the chance to give…
When I fell sick, school was on
Holiday. The pupils (my pride and joy) were at home, and the teachers (my best friends) were traveling. I lived with a polygamist family and had the privilege of having a father, three mothers, 20+ siblings, and a whole village of extended family.
When I fell sick, I shut myself inside my hut for 2-3 days. I didn’t even go to get water. I think I mostly ate bread and peanut butter, and the snack foods I had just recently received in a care package from college friends. I laid in bed or on the floor all day and all night.
My family kept coming and knocking on the door, “Madame! Basisi!”
In my broken
, I just called back, “Ndaciswa (I’m sick/paining)”. Tonga
“Mwaciswa?!?! Mwaciswa nzi? (What is paining you?)”
Uhhhh… “Ndijisi Malaria? (I have Malaria?)”
“Ah. Jabija (Too bad.)”
By the third morning when the PC cruiser came to pick me up, I could barely lift myself off the floor and climb into the vehicle. I didn’t even bother to say goodbye to the family. I didn’t take another look at my hut or my yard or any of it. I had a backpack in my hand with a pair of jeans, a couple of citenges, and some underwear. I thought that I was just going into the capital for a few days to get treated for Malaria. I had no idea at that point that I was driving away from my hut and family for good.
I never got to go back… I never got to say goodbye…
I’m sure that they were confused. One day the village Mukuwa (white girl) was there, and then suddenly she was gone forever. I later wrote my family/school/village a goodbye letter, though I do not know for sure whether they ever received it. Here is some of what it said…
September 16, 2011
, Teachers, Pupils, Friends, Family, and Community, Dear Nteme SchoolIt is very difficult for me to write this letter to you all. Due to certain serious medical issues, it has been decided that I will not be able to return and continue as your Peace Corps Volunteer. I will actually be “medically separated” from the Peace Corps and will be returning to very soon. Unfortunately, I will not even be able to come and say goodbye. These events have come about so suddenly and unexpectedly, and I am still a bit in shock about it all. I am so devastated that I was only able to spend 3 months with you. We were just starting to develop some good strong friendships and relationships. I had so many dreams and ideas and hopes for the school and area. I was so excited to get started on teaching and other projects. America
I want to thank you for all of the support and kindness you showed me during my time in Nteme. Thank you for building me such a beautiful house and placing me with such a loving and caring family. Thank you for teaching me to make fire and carry water on my head. Thank you for being patient with me and my sometimes culturally strange or inappropriate behaviors. Thank you for being friendly and inviting me over for meals or just to visit. Thank you for teaching me about Zambian schools and culture. Thank you for talking and laughing and joking with me. Thank you for loving me and welcoming me as one of your own. Even though my time with you was so short, I will remember it and all of you forever.
I apologize that it has to end like this. I know that many of you will be just as sad and disappointed as I am. I’m sorry for all of the unfulfilled promises and projects I am leaving you with. I hope that you are not angry with me and know that if there was anything I could do to change the situation, I would in an instant. I hope that we can keep in touch, and I wish the school and the whole community the best! I love you and will miss you all!Looking back, I definitely have some regrets. I wish I would have spent more time with them. I wish I would have cooked and ate with them more. I wish I had been more patient and more outgoing. I wish I had taken more pictures. I wish I would have at least hugged them before getting into the cruiser that day.
I also left the entire PC community without any real goodbyes. I was sick and miserable in the bunkhouse for a few days, then next thing I knew I was in the hospital hooked up to IVs. After that, it was straight onto a plane to
. I STILL had no idea that I was leaving South Africa for good. Zambia
I never got to go back… I never got to say goodbye…
After my diagnosis, I also wrote my cohort of volunteers a goodbye letter. Here is a bit of what it said…
Dear RED 2011’s,
As some of you may have heard, I was recently med-evacuated to
I always considered myself a pretty safe person. Most of you know me as the kind of person that likes to follow the rules, pretty much when it comes to anything and everything. And although I can be a bit “boy crazy” at times, I am actually just a big tease and am actually quite sexually conservative. I only ever had sex with 2 people in the states, and those were both long term serious committed relationships. I never had casual sex before. Well, as we all know- our situations and environments and behaviors change in
It happened in
Just over 2 weeks (17 days exactly) later, I fell violently ill with malaria like symptoms. I suffered for a few days at home, before they picked me up and brought me to
It’s kind of hard to describe my reaction- far less dramatic than you might imagine. I’ve been surprisingly calm. I don’t know if it’s because of the gradual nature of how I found out the results, or if I’m just in shock and its all going to hit me later. Right now, I’m just taking it one step at a time. I’ve been in the hospital for 5 days as my condition stabilizes and my blood results improve. Now, I’ve just been discharged to the Med-Evac Guest House in SA for a few days while logistics get figured out. Then I will fly to D.C. where I will finish up the allowable 45 days of “Medevac”, receiving the best treatment, care, and counseling from PC Headquarters. Finally, from there I will return to
I can’t believe this all happened so quickly, and that my experience here has come to such an abrupt stop. I never thought a week ago that it would be my last time ever in my hut and village. I won’t get to say goodbye to my family, friends, pupils, or any of you. I didn’t really even get to say goodbye to
I don’t really feel angry right now, more just stupid and embarrassed. I can’t believe I only made it 7 months here before something like this happened. I feel like I’ve let so many people down- my village, Peace Corps, friends, family… I had such high dreams and plans for my time here- and now it’s all gone- I accomplished nothing. I’m jealous of all of you that get to stay and keep working towards your goals. Please stay safe and strong and accomplish much where I no longer can! Please feel free to e-mail me or send me PRIVATE Facebook messages. PLEASE DO NOT write anything concerning my illness or going back to the
Thank you! I love you all and will miss you bunches! I’ll be supporting you all wholeheartedly from stateside! Do big things!
It has been a few months now, and naturally time has healed some of the pain of saying goodbye, or rather of not saying it. However, I don’t know if I will ever be able to get over the shock of the abruptness of it all, or ever really have full closure.
It has been just over 4 months since the day that I walked out of my hut, unknowingly, for the last time. I have yet to receive my computer, camera, or any other personal belongings from
. I hope that PC will actually ship them one day. I hope that if/when they arrive, there will be a picture, a video, a citenge, or something that will help me to remember it all better. And maybe, just maybe, it will help to bring some closure to me… Zambia