Onward

I’m sitting in my house on my final night in Andapa. I’m at the table, where for the last 2 years, I have enjoyed many meals, written many lesson plans, hosted many guests, and composed many of the stories you have read on this blog. The electricity is cut, again, like it occasionally has been this time of the evening. I can faintly hear the conversations of people passing outside my house. I’ve paused from packing up my belongings to collect my thoughts and share them here.

During the past few weeks, leading up to this pivotal time, I haven’t really felt any different. I logically understand that I must leave Andapa, but the days still felt very routine and “normal”. It doesn’t feel real. When I explained this to a friend, she suggested that I was in shock. “In a non-dramatic way,” as she put it. Maybe that’s true. Maybe I’ve been unconsciously pushing away some of my feelings in order to focus on what needs to be done to prepare for my departure. I also think this move hasn’t really sunk in because I know that while I’m leaving Andapa in the morning, I will still be living and working in Madagascar for another year (spoiler alert). I don’t have to say goodbye right now to Madagascar and Peace Corps and everything that has been a part of my life for the last 2 years, rather, I’m just wrapping up this chapter in Andapa and moving on. So I’ve been having some conflicting emotions between sadness for leaving the familiarity of Andapa and excitement for starting the next part of my service.

Tonight, I went back and read the blog post I wrote on the eve of leaving America. In that, I saw a different version of myself. One filled with so many questions and the courage to fling myself directly into that ambiguity. I was reminded of the immense support of my friends and family at that time and how they have continued to support me throughout my adventure. I also recognized that many of the rituals performed at that time (saying goodbye to people, packing my luggage, changing routines) are ones that I am again performing. Earlier today, I visited a few people to say goodbye and I found myself enjoying the chance to walk around town one last time and soak it all in. Taking the long way home. With a newly developed appreciation, I was looking at things, smelling scents, hearing noises that have become familiar.

When thinking about what I’ll miss most about my time here, I kept coming back to “my” things. My house, my garden, my view from the house, my cooking area, my squeaky old bed. Maybe this is the only child in me taking over, but I didn’t quite realize the extent to which I cast a blanket of possession over so many things. I’ve found a lot of comfort in the routines and safe spaces that I’ve set up for my self here, and I’m anxious about leaving those behind. Of course, the memories and images will stay with me for a long time. But tonight, just before I pick up and leave, it’s hard for me to trust those memories and to feel confident about walking into another unknown chapter of this adventure.

Alas, the time has arrived whether I like it or not. Tomorrow morning, I will leave Andapa and, with it, a part of my soul. I am comforted by something a friend told me just before my departure from America a couple of years ago…

“Onward”

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4 thoughts on “Onward

  1. Mike, you will do great. You are very adaptable in any situation and very sociable, so you will continue to make a lot of friends along the “road of life”……..enjoy your new adventure!

  2. Oh Michael, you are such a beautiful writer. This takes me back to the emotion I felt a little less than a year ago, leaving my home in Sambava. It’s true what they say, travel can bring heartache because your heart is split and left behind in the places you loved. But it’s a beautiful heartache. I hope you will have the opportunity to visit Andapa again before you depart from the island at the end of your extension! Good luck!

  3. With your dedication to serving others, God will be with you no matter where you are, and new experiences and joys will come to you. Every time our family moved from state to state we always made good friends and were blessed with memories that have lasted until today. Your world is getting bigger, enjoy. Love, Auntie, Myra

  4. There are many of us (Humans) that never endure the heartache of leaving a cherished community, because they never leave their home town. You are blessed with the willingness and ability to travel to new environs. You are cursed because you easily become ensconced into a community willing to share in their lives. Learning new cultures (and regions) widens your knowledge of humankind and their simple struggles and pleasures with life.
    Parting can be “Sweet sweet sorrow”; yet new friends and experiences are a blessing.
    Keep on blessing, my son.

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