Friday, June 4, 2010

GOOD-BY LESOTHO- June 2, 2010


During my two years in beautiful Lesotho, I spent some of the time teaching counseling skills for issues around grief and loss. And now it is time for me to deal with my grief and loss around leaving the people and the place I have called home for two years. I have always disliked good-bys and have much preferred the “see you later” version of a good-by. But here, there is no escaping the finality of these good-bys. I have no fantasies of returning and no dream that anyone here will be able to visit me in the States. I have some hope that one or two people may find a way to stay in touch with email, but this is an unusual communication style for Basotho and not one I can expect.

I am finding that the Basotho are pretty darn good at good-bys as long as it isn’t dealing with someone who is sick and dying, as in these cases they are not supposed to acknowledge that the person is dying. This would indicate that they WANT them to die. But regarding my departure, there is a lot of anticipatory expression of loss “I am really going to miss you”, starting weeks ahead of time and expressed often and very heartfelt. During this last week, I am blessed to be the focus of three celebrations of appreciation. And as it is with notable events, they deliver speeches and ceremony, song and dance, food and drink. This week the high school had a big good-by celebration for me and it was marvelous. I have the God-given ability to spurt tears at any expression of sentiment, so there I was in front of 600 students, trying to express the love and appreciation I had in my heart, but mostly just choked out a few words. Ahhh, but I think they received the message.

I just delivered my two kitties to their new home across the border in Clarens. This is an extremely pet-friendly place where I don’t have to worry about whether they are going to be turned into a meal or a hat. They are now living with an animal lover who already has 5 cats and 3 dogs. I told Kerry-Ann, their new mother, that we are now family since she is adopting “my children”. The Basotho laugh at me and think I am nuts – one of the cultural differences!

I have noticed the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” arising at times; that internal monologue that examines all the things I didn’t do, all the possible opportunities for interventions that I didn’t take; the ways I might have adapted/pushed/reached/interjected/created more connection, more meaning, more understanding. The “if-onlys” can be even more ridiculous: if only I was more out-going, if only I had tried harder, if only I had more experience in…., if only I knew how to do…., if only I was more assertive, if only…. I WAS A DIFFERENT PERSON. Yes, it does start to sound silly. I was never out to save the world or save Lesotho, but I think, I mostly wanted to deepen and expand myself and a big part of this is through connection with others. And although I have Basotho friends here, I have missed what I would call the deep connection that would have kept a heart-thread alive between me and Lesotho. And I question why this didn’t happen – what part is me, what part is my site location, what part is the Basotho character, what part is being a foreigner, being White, not knowing the language?

There are so many things that go into the mix of making each and every person’s experience unique. But in the end, I am left with a deeper understanding of myself, a keen appreciation of the faithful friends in my life, a new found desire to live “in community”, and a sense of satisfaction that I have contributed in some tangible and intangible ways.

I am not deeply hopeful that Lesotho is going to change anytime soon. The greed and selfishness seems to find its way into the power positions and there just isn’t enough support for any single person to create significant changes in the system. There is also the issue of HIV/AIDS, which has so many layers of complexity. Education is a part of the answer, behavior change is part of the answer but those haven’t made a big impact in the spread of the infection. After two years, I am still befuddled by the thinking, denial, and resistance around HIV/AIDS.

Tomorrow I will be a “Returned Peace Corps Volunteer”. I know these two years have stretched, stimulated, frustrated and opened me in ways that I cannot yet know. I am grateful for the lifelong friends I know I have made here. I will love to follow along with many of the “youngers” in my group who are launching into graduate school and careers. No matter what stage in life one enters into this, there are always going to be uncountable blessings.

I am off to two weeks on the Mozambique beaches before heading to the USA. I am mostly feeling calm, settled and deeply grateful.