As a PCV, at the end of your service you have a final conference. Similar to the ones we had 3 months in and half way through, my close of service (COS) conference was at the end of January. It was at a swanky hotel in Entebbe and consisted of sessions on readjustment, saying goodbye, and winding things down, to name a few.
COS was emotional in the sense it was the last time our entire training group was together in one place. A few volunteers worked really hard putting together a slideshow that encapsulated our last 2 years here. Looking through all the pictures made it really hit me that I have in fact been here for 2 years. Such a significant amount of time though it feels like it could have been days.
On the last night of the conference we had a nicer dinner outside under the gazebo and we all dressed up. I was walking back from dinner when one of the workers stopped me. I thought there may be a problem with the room or something and, I'm ashamed to admit, I was prepared to get fairly annoyed at whatever problem could have possibly come up. I couldn't have been more wrong. She was a student of mine from the vocational school in Rakai and she came up to me to thank me for teaching her cooking classes! She graduated and was able to get a job with the hotel. I was shocked. It was definitely one of my highest moments in country. A previous student not only recognized me among 27 other white people staying at the hotel but called me by my local name and embraced me in a genuine hug to thank me for what I taught her.
A volunteer recently asked me to recall some of my best experiences over the past 2 years and this was one of them. The other was when I was signing in campers at camp GLOW and so many of them remembered me from giving AFRIpads presentations at their schools.
That's why I'm in Uganda. And I've loved every minute of it.
Getting ready to leave my site and packing up and selling things has been kind of an emotional whirlwind. I never got the chance to say bye to my community and friends in Rakai (something I hope to rectify next week)and honestly I don't feel that Nakaseke has been as much of a home to me as Rakai was.
Even so, getting ready to leave I had an unexpected amazing time the other night just hanging out with teachers behind the staff housing. They were all cooking dinner together and standing around talking. I contributed a few pineapples and we all enjoyed them together. They were talking candidly with me about my time in Uganda and thanking me for giving up so much to help their country. What almost brought tears to my eyes was when my counterpart took my hand and held it while thanking me for teaching him how to be a better teacher. He said I inspired him and reminded him to teach the students with passion. I've only known this man for a few months but I will never forget him or his kind words.
2 years. It's been one of the most life changing experiences I've ever had and definitely the best decision I've ever made.
Next up: Thailand and SE Asia. Itinerary to come soon. Mark your calendars, I'm back in Texas on May 20th!