The most difficult part of a Peace Corps service is ending it…
Don’t worry, contrary to what the title of this post is called, this will not be my last post, but it will be my last post in Tanzania, as I am currently at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam. A few big things have happened the last few weeks (chronological order):
- I finally did an interschool science competition with my favorite students (my Form IVs)
- I taught my last class
- Steve and I had a going away party at my house
- I was a host PCV for a few “shadows” (brand new PCTs from the Ed 2014 class)
- I said my final goodbyes to my village and school, which they made into a “sherehe” [party]
- I got my “R”
Before I left, I promised to do a science competition with my Form IV students, who I have taught since my first year as a PCV. I wanted to hold to that promise, so I contracted a “traveling science man” for the job – Steve! (As part of his extension, he went around to different PCVs’ schools and provided all of the necessary supplies and the planning for science conferences and competitions.)
Beth Behrens, another PCV in Tukuyu, also wanted to do a science conference since our last Critical Thinking Mbeya Conference, so this time we did one with just our two schools (my schoool, Mwatisi, and her school, Kayuki Secondary). Steve brought the supplies and all Beth and I had to do was find a venue, which was easy since she teaches at an all-girls boarding school! All was set, I took nine of my students (three females and six males) to Kayuki Secondary, and we had a two-day science conference for a total of 21 Form IV students!
We did the famous Egg Drop, Shika Express demonstrations, a Water Transport competition where they had to build a system that could transport the most water in two minutes using only a set number of supplies [awesome!], scientific method experiments, and science fair-type presentations. The students LOVED it!!! We even made sure to go over some NECTA topics in the midst of the activities.
I also had the Biology teacher from my school, “Mwalimu” [teacher] Chawala, go with me so I could further promote the Shika na Mikono teaching and learning methods. :) And it definitely worked! Now at least one more Tanzanian teacher will be trying to incorporate hands-on activities and LASM-made teaching aids!
The whole conference was a success and my students were thrilled to get to work with more students from a different school! Many of them exchanged contacts on the last day, and all the students got a positive boost of energy before taking their Mock Form IV NECTA/Regional Exams.
Last Class Day and Going Away Party
The last day of classes were jam-packed with practice Physics and Chemistry practicals. I wanted to prepare them as much as possible for the NECTA, and one of the best ways is to go over practicals again and again, since they are worth so much. On the last day of teaching for me, we talked about life and about how proud I was of them, and to me that was just as important as teaching them how to perform an accurate volumetric analysis practical. When we ended class and I told them how much I would miss them, my heart had never felt so warmed by their kind words of saying they would always remember me. I just about cried, but I didn’t…that happened a little later. Haha. I was honored to teach them and I cannot wait to see what they do with their lives. :]
Immediately following my last class day, the Form IV students had to take their Mock Exams. I again prepared the lab for Physics and Chemistry, and I got to wear my lab coat for the last time. After that was said and done, the party started!
Steve and I had decided a while ago that we would do a going away party at my site before we left. We had to give The Cabin one last hurrah, and that was the perfect opportunity! We also knew we wanted to decorate the house, so we figured why not make it a themed party? And the theme of the party was….
Both Steve and I love Christmas, I had TONS of Christmas decorations from packages sent to me, and I was going to miss celebrating Christmas with a few folks in country, so we decided to just move it up a few months lol! Besides, we cooked a feast big enough to be a Christmas feast and we just wanted an excuse to cut down one of the many pine trees that I had been surrounded by my whole service.
It was a great turnout! Five other PCVs were able to make it and we cooked A LOT of food! In the course of the two nights, we made and ate: hashbrowns, banana pancakes, guacamole with chips, hummus, pita bread, mashed potatoes, gravy, Thai pork spicy basil fried rice, fried eggs (Thai style), corn chili, fried sweet pork with rice, eggnog, kettle corn, and fried hotdogs. If Steve and I could cook all those things in Tanzania from scratch, think of what we could do in America! [I cannot wait to cook in America!] Everyone was sick of food by the time they left my house lol. I guess food-pushing really does run in the family! ;)
We also had a monstrous bonfire the last night, and we took PC family Christmas pictures by the Christmas tree which Steve and I made ornaments for and decorated before everyone got there!
Shadow Week and School Sherehe
Everyone, including myself, left my house after the party on Sunday early morning because it was time for SHADOW WEEK! Mbeya got a crazy number of PCTs this year (13 total) and I was shadowed by five of those shadows. Luckily, I had some help the first couple of days from Beth with the two sites near Kyela (a town near Malawi), so I only had three shadows going back to my site with me. Yes, THREE, because one PCT (Allison) will be replacing Steph and a married couple will be replacing me! Yay!! My headmistress and I requested a married couple and we were so thankful to get what we wished for. Their names are Chris and Ali Spangler, and they will be teaching math and science subjects! :D I love all three of them so much and we all got to know each other quite well before I left. I am sad that I only got to know them for a short time (one week) but I am sure that we will definitely keep in touch until they get back to the states too!
Allison is from Arlington, Texas, which was so exciting for me because she and I got really close, and the Spanglers are from Jersey. I was so glad to have them be in Mwakaleli village and I already know that they will do great! I feel so glad that Mwatisi will be left in such good hands. :)
During shadow week in Mwakaleli and Kandete, not only were the school and village communities welcoming the new PCTs, they also took that time to say their last goodbyes to me. I would be leaving my site for the last time on the same day that I went with the PCTs back to Mbeya.
That week of welcoming, saying bye, and packing was such a blur for me, but parts of it were very vivid. One of which was when my school surprised me with a whole sharehe to say goodbye, which included performances, speeches, awards, and food. There were two performances from my students, drums and a song in ENGLISH by two of my Form IV students. I couldn’t help but shed a tear during their thoughtful song that they made up themselves to say thank you to me and sorry that I was leaving. The water works actually started when I was giving a speech in Swahili to my school and my students. I got emotional when I said that I was going to miss Mwatisi because it was my home for two years and that I felt so proud of them. I also told them that each and every one of them were champions and that they can do whatever they want to if they just believe. I looked straight at my Form IVs when I said that, and I meant every single word of it. They were the reasons I was here and they were what kept me going on low-tolerance days. And I thank them for my amazing experience here.
Another memory that stood out among the blur was saying goodbye to the Mwakibambos, my family in Kandete. I hadn’t seen them in a while, but I knew I made the right choice to bid them farewell with guests under my wing – it prevented anyone from crying. I knew I would not have been able to take it if Baba or Mama Mwakibambo started crying.
Baba and Mama loved Allison, Chris, and Ali and they were so thankful that I brought them to their home. They said such lovely words about me as their daughter and their gift to them the past couple of years, and we said our goodbyes. I know that my shadows loved them as well, and I am sure Baba and Mama are going to take such good care of them.
I said my goodbyes to a few other villagers and community members, and the presence of my shadows definitely eased the pang in my chest as we drove away from my home and down the mountain. Once we got to Tukuyu and met up with more shadows, the pang was gone entirely. I gave a quick tour of Tukuyu to the seven Tukuyu/Kyela PCTs, we hopped on a coaster to Mbeya, toured Mbeya with the rest of the Mbeya region PCTs, and I sent them off to Iringa to go back to training.
All there was left to do was wait for Steve to fly to Dar and get my R.
Getting My R
Getting your R means that you are no longer a Peace Corps Volunteer – you get your “R” and become a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV). It used to be that once you were done with your COS checklist (final VRF, closing grants, getting medically cleared, administrative paperwork, closing your bank account), it was very anticlimactic. You would get your COS checklist signed and paperwork turned in, and that was it. You got your R.
Now, once you get your paperwork done, you get to triumphantly and vivaciously ring a splendid bell in the main office, which reverberates off the walls as you become surrounded by ringing. Then everyone who is at the office hears it and comes rushing up the stairs to give you congratulatory hugs and handshakes. It was pretty cool. :) It was EB’s (our Country Director’s) touch to make it more obvious when another PCV closes his or her service.
Steve and I got to ring the bell together on Monday, September 15th and that was when both of us officially got our R’s.
We celebrated the moment by eating frozen yogurt that day and boy was it delicious! ;D
We were officially done and it still hadn’t hit us quite yet, but it is starting to become a reality now that we are sitting here early in the morning waiting for our flights to Ethiopia to start our trip around the world.
I will probably write a couple more posts on this blog once I get back to America, and maybe I will realize that my two years are up then, but regardless, this end is just the start of a new beginning.
One of these new beginnings can be followed here (belleandstevesexcellentadventure.blogspot.com) at mine and Steve’s new blog about our adventures around the world for two and a half months before we return back to the United States of America.
The greatest trip in the history of history!