Fini – My Last Post
I’ve been extremely busy since I arrived home in the good ole U.S.A., six months now. Huh?
I have been wanting to post an update, my very last post, with an ending that is all neatly tied up to answer any lingering questions people might still have. I offer a final statement or explanation for all those people who asked, “Why?” or “What was it like? What did you learn?” I would like some closure, whatever that means and…FINI for all those other people who could not care less about why or what it was like and do not wonder at all, what I learned. As a good friend told me, “You’re not in Togo anymore, it’s time to move on.” Thanks friend.
Coming home was a lot harder than I thought it would be. It’s nothing I’ve been able to articulate well. I wanted to act “normal.” Breeze back into life in the United States with grace and without any drama. I would be aware that there were huge waves of change happening all around me. I often reminded myself to go with the flow. I think a few people that rode those waves with me got real tired, real fast, and ended up thinking it was all just too damn much trouble, and then a few who I didn’t completely alienate with my far off stares or delayed responses decided to wait until I landed again. I was reassured by them, that I would be ok. Thanks to all those who waited! Ohhhhh If I knew then, what I know now.
Beyond happy to be home, to see my friends and family. I just wanted to sit and be quiet and be with them. I didn’t want to talk much. I wanted to listen, to observe, to find a comfortable place to just be for a little while. I felt much like a robot. “Just tell me where to go, and what to do…please.” I really did develop a new found love and appreciation for America. It felt good to be back, but so many huge adjustments. In Africa I practically lived outside for two years. When I got back it was really hard for me to be in small, confined spaces. I would have anxiety attacks. It was also very difficult for me to just stay put in one place. When I first got home I just kept feeling like there was something I should be doing. My life had been very uncomplicated for those two years. Shouldn’t I be filling my pails of water? Or fixing my bike, or going to my weekly meetings? I wanted to feel productive, but had nothing to produce.
arrived at the school. I grieved I would no longer hear my neighbor singing in her courtyard as she washed her clothes. I grieved and missed my Sunday walk to church; my favorite time of the week. I grieved that I would never again see the neighborhood kids, Regina, Gabriel, Leah, Fidel; all my little friends. In addition I had to grieve losing my house for good, and a few dear friends I seemed to have lost along the way. Friends who wondered where the Terry they once knew went. Friends who had their own very real struggles and were working to survive in their own day to day living right here in America.
Little by little I rejoined this magnificent world of opportunity and optmism I now live in. Little by little I have accepted my losses and focused on my new life.
I do have news. Good news! Sister Modesta has emailed me two times. She works at the hospital in Kouve. She tells me that Mahsoblee has been to the hospital for her checkups and is doing well. She thanks me for my support and offers God’s blessing. Knowing that I have a pretty solid line of communication to Mahsoblee’s health eased my mind greatly. For the first few months I was so on edge, for many reasons, but I think what made me the most restless was not knowing if my plans to continue to help Mahsoblee would work. It did work, and it does work.
Father Apolo, the Catholic Priest in Tchekpo emails me at least once a month. He sends his greetings and gives me little updates on Mahsoblee. I took Mahsoblee and her gramma to meet him before I left. He agreed to be part of the process that will keep her well. Mahsoblee and her gramma go to him once a month and get money from him for the bush taxi and moto to get to the hospital. It also gives him the opportunity to encourage both of them spiritually and emotionally.
I did manage to set up a nice little chain of caretakers for Mahsoblee. For those of you who helped and followed her story; she is doing well. In addition to Sister Modesto and Father Apolo, I also have been in contact with Honou Koffi and David. They all have visited with Mahsoblee and her gramma.
For more about Mahsoblee - http://terrynichols.blogspot.com/2011/07/mahsoblee.html
What I miss
I think of my life in Africa every day. My thoughts inevitably turn to…was I really there?? It’s hard to bring it all into focus. I often find myself somewhere, a super huge grocery store, a museum, a beautiful park; and wonder what someone in my village would think of all of this.
I miss my friends a lot. I miss the moto’s. I even miss the heat. I miss the beating drums and the roosters in the early morning. Now I wake to the Chicago L rumbling by. What a contrast. Was I really there? I miss the kids the most. Just as I thought I would. I integrate nicely into my new urban environment. I am one of a million blurry faces to the pedestrians who pass me by. Invisible. No ones eyes light up when they see me coming, and no one shouts my name, or runs towards me with open arms.
|Jack and Cooper....nuff said|
Except for Dorothy and Alex and Jack and Cooper. My three year old granddaughter Dorothy smiles this coy, mischevious little smile and likes to play jokes on me every morning. A few times when I went away for a couple days, upon return, she would say, “Oh Grammy, I missed you SO much!” We have Girls Night
|The Irrepressible Alex!|
I don’t think I’ll ever have what we describe as “closure.” My friends from Tchekpo are on my mind every day. Every day. Good thoughts. Imagining the weather, imagining what they are probably doing at a specific time of day; wondering if they miss me. Thinking of Aloughba’s smile or Honous laugh. Hoping they are all well; wishing I could speak to them, laugh with them, and connect.
I have made little mention of my Peace Corps Colleagues throughout my posts. From time to time I’ve talked about their programs and their dedication and how damned impressed I am with them. All of them, but especially the twenty-four I arrived with, lived and laughed with. It was a big surprise and a huge blessing to be surrounded by this group. I had my favorites….and you know who you are (smile) but I loved each and every one of them. Bright, brilliant stars. I miss their fun and energy and uniqueness. It was always quite fun hanging out with them. On a few occasions since I’ve been home I’ve been able spend a day or evening with two or three from my group. I wondered what that would be like, meeting up with them here in America, such a different environment. Would it feel the same? Would it be awkward? It was wonderful, and for a little while during those visits I didn't feel lost.
What I learned
I learned, maybe what a lot of people already know. We are all alike. We all have the same hopes and dreams. I’m convinced that the people of my village are happier, more content than we are here. I told one or two of them that and they scoffed at me. We are more comfortable, for sure, but they are more content. We work so hard at being happy, and they just are. Over-simplified? Probably.
It was the most wonderful experience. I cherish it. My most sincere thanks to all of you. You can’t imagine how connected I felt to home. I experienced so many acts of kindness from my family and friends while I was in Togo. Too many to mention, but I would be remiss to not spotlight honorable mentions:
Andrea/Mirinda, Emily/Mike, Eric/E.J. – for absolutely everything. You are all amazing! I am one proud mama.
Jody, Mike and Hannah – for your generous donation to L’ecole No.5 and the children of Tchekpo
Nancy – for raising funds for Mahsoblee
Stephen and JoAnn – for my cache of Starbucks coffee
Kittie – for singlehandedly keeping me fed with her monthly care packages; and informed with her handwritten frequent letters.
Pam – for her consistent encouragement
Tom – for his love and affection