Sunday, March 17, 2013

March 17, 2013 8:30 AM—Leaving Site

Leaving site is a difficult thing.  Most people will tell you that ending your service is bitter-sweet, but I think the “leaving site” part of this equation is just bitter (at least for me).  For the most part I’ve really enjoyed my site.  The people have been really friendly and welcoming and I had a decent amount of worthwhile work to do.  However, to say that I’m not at all happy to be leaving my site would be a lie.  I feel that I’ve finished my work here.  For months now I’ve been waiting out my time.  Not that I’ve been sitting here doing nothing.  I’ve been working really hard, especially for the last few weeks, on my “30 Sites and 30 Nights” project.  I think for my school, as much as no one there would want to admit, it would have been better if I left months ago, because they would have stopped holding out hope that I stay and they would have been able to use my house for other teachers to live in.  Although, my schedule with Peace Corps didn’t allow for this.

As part of my “30 Sites and 30 Nights” project, I asked each volunteer a series of questions before I go to their site; questions such as “what is your favorite thing about your site?”, “what was your favorite moment at site?” and “what is your biggest challenge at site?”  Asking these questions of other volunteers, I feel it’s only fair that I first answer them myself.  So here goes…

My favorite things about my site are the location, the students, the teachers and the sustainability.  My site is right on the main Mbarara-Kabale highway, which makes it really easy to get to town.  I’m also one of the closest volunteers to Mbarara, which I think is one of the best towns to be in close proximity to.  My students are hardworking and respectful.  I’ve never heard any of them call me Mzungu, even when I first arrived and they still weren’t use to me.  Even then they had respect for me as their teacher and not as a random white person that they should yell at.  I also have more respect for some of them than almost anyone else in the world.  They get up at 4AM and keep working throughout the day until 10PM 5 days a week.  I don’t know how they do that.  I would never last as a student in this country.  The teachers here have also been one of the greatest things my site has to offer.  They have always tried their hardest to help me integrate and they are always so interested in discussing the differences between our cultures.  Lastly, I’m very appreciative for the sustainability of my school.  My school was already well established with an amazing staff, so I can clearly see that any project I start here will most definitely be continued in the future and I’m pretty sure that’s what every volunteer wants.

As for my favorite moment at site, I have two.  The first one happened early in my service, when my mom came to visit and she spent about 5 days at my site.  My school was so welcoming and they really wanted her to feel at home and they wanted to show her around.  They felt that it was very important for her to see that I was being taken care of and I really appreciated that.  And even to this day people at school ask me how my mom is.  My other favorite moment was when we finally got the new computers that we got from the grant I wrote.  It was very fulfilling to see that project completed.  It took most of my service to complete and I was really glad that I got to see it to the end.

My biggest challenge at site was that my school was already so well established.  It led me to realize early on that there wasn’t much for me to do other than teach my classes.  I managed to find things to do at school and outside of school (with other volunteers and within Peace Corps itself), but this made it hard to feel that sense of accomplishment that many volunteers achieve at their site.

Now I still have a month left in my service and I’m fully prepared to work on my “30 Sites and 30 Nights” project, but as for my site, it’s over.  So, “Goodbye Kinoni Girls’ Secondary School.  It’s been real!”

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