In my last post I talked a little bit about how I had arranged my packing during my last week, and how I had used it to reinforce my commitment to returning to Zambia. I also spoke a little bit about the sequence of events that occurred that week. I ended up with my heading back to the Lusaka to spend my last few days in country with my intake before we all parted ways and continued on with the next phase of our journeys.
For those that aren’t familiar, every six months the Peace Corps post of Zambia receives two “Intakes” of volunteers – When I arrived in country 27 months ago, I arrived with my fellow health volunteers, and two weeks later the second intake, who were fish farmers arrived. As a result my intake is referred to as the Community Health Improvement Project (CHIP) 2011 intake. The fish farmers were the Rural Aquaculture Program (RAP) 2011 intake. As a group our chip intake was scheduled to “ring out” and officially mark the end of their service on the 6th of September. This meant that the rest of my intake left their communities, packed up and headed down to Lusaka on the 2nd of September (the same day the new volunteers were headed up). As my intake began arriving, I had just said my goodbyes those I had trained under the new intake, sent off all of my gear except my two bags, and had moved back into Lusaka to complete my final duties before I left for home leave.
I arrived back, called and text my friends and we arranged to hang out and relax in the capitol city. As we gathered and completed our final preparations and medical clearances as a group we talked about how difficult it was to leave our communities, we commiserated over the relationships we had fostered, and the people and experience we had left behind. We shared our concerns and worries for the future, and talked about stories of the adventures that led ahead. Many volunteers were planning to take a close of service trip – exploring nearby and faraway places for a few months after service. Other volunteers were planning on heading straight back to start graduate school or start work.
We headed out a couple of times, dancing, drinking, and celebrating the amazing achievement we had made. We had succeeded in serving our communities, and helping our fellow man while living in an alien and hazardous environment. We had adapted, we had loved, we had explored and we had learned. It was an amazing experience, and a fantastic emotional charge as we all came together and rode through the rollercoaster of recognizing our service, making peace with saying goodbye and closing that chapter of our lives, and transitioning to a bright outlook toward our next adventures.
When Friday finally rolled around, We attended the ring out ceremony which marked the end of our service and the release of our commitment. I had a flight just a few hours after the ceremony, and unfortunately I had to leave before the ceremony had completed. I was able to see half of it though, and hear the reflections and thoughts of my fellow volunteers as they completed the symbolic ritual that set them on the road to their next path. I had hugged and said goodbye to most of my fellow volunteers before the ceremony – I wouldn’t be a participant, but instead a spectator. Although I was leaving, it was for home leave, and I looked forward to the next 13 months of my extension. Remaining and Peace Corps Volunteer as the vast majority of my fellow intake ended their service and moved on was an intriguing feeling. I wasn’t really able to delve into that feeling, as it was overwhelmed by the feelings that came in the next few moments.
A head nod, a hand on my shoulder and I knew it was time to go. Summoned by the driver, I grabbed my two bags and headed to the airport – it was time to start my 36 hour journey back home. I was excited, prepared for the adventure, ready for the experience, and I could hardly wait to see my family, home, and be immersed once again in America.