Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: africa, blogs, conincidence? i most often think not, moments, new york, peace corps, sierra leone, the emotional souffle that is me
I get the email first. I roll out of bed that morning, up early to meet the lovely miss Emily Joy for breakfast pre-826 and there is another “Peace Corps has updated your application status” email. I’m sort of sleepily puzzled, more than anything. I just got one of these, some maybe promising, slightly inscrutable blip about my placement review being completed. I log in, just as I have to nod in agreement with many small checkmarked milestones before, and there it is, and my whole nervous system goes BAOOOOGA and I gasp. I slap my hand to my mouth because the screen says something about Congratulations! You’ve been invited to serve and shiminyywhoblahomgwhatwhatwhat. That’s all it will tell me, though, that I’ve been invited, that a packet is in the mail. I tell Emily and no one else until it tumbles out before Kortney and make our customary split at the corner of 5th and 9th that afternoon. It’s managed to fall into the background of the day’s routine and it feels a little like huh Peace Corps invited me isn’t that kind of funny?
I shop for game night treats ingredients, wander the TJ’s aisles in no hurry, sip free sample coffee and hunt around Atlantic Ave. for cream of tartar. It’s raining a little, and I’m calm. It’s out of my head in a way my one-track mind isn’t used to.
When I get back to Greenpoint I have to run to catch the B48 back to my apartment and I get on, unsteady in soaked shoes, heavy bags in each hand. There’s an older, scruffy man sitting towards the front of the bus and he puts out his arms to sort of spot me, makes sure I have a seat. His arms are wide, bracing. I ran no more than half a block but my heart hasn’t stopped pounding. It’s back. I try to rehearse what will happen in the next few minutes, when I get home. I’ll put the groceries away, sit on my bed, and calmly open it. But with every beat and breath and bump its Africa, Africa, Africa. The trees in McGoldrick have never been greener as they blur past and the sun is out now, a little, Africa, Africa, Africa. We get to my block and it feels like the ground is unsteady and the street is now very open but tunnel visioned, turning in on itself, my door is eluding me, I can’t walk fast enough, it’s there in a FedEx envelope (3 lbs!) and I grab it, run upstairs, tear that fucker open.
I’m barely breathing when I see the letter and the “Congratulations,” yank out the Assignment Description and say it aloud for the first time, “Sierra Leone”, my shaking, rain smudged fingers over my mouth again as the quick tears come and I leap to Google, dig hungrily through the rest of the packet and repeat it over and over again, Sierra Leone. I have thought about the word “sierra” recently, how I would some day like to live or at least spend awhile in a place called Sierra ___. In the same way months ago, I rolled the word “fiance” around on my tongue and in my brain after overhearing a girl on the 4 platform say it, and when I got above ground my phone rang. It was Emily calling to tell me she was engaged.
The “June 2-3” part of it all sticks out like an exclamation point and it’s all so soon and sudden and utterly incomprehensible but my god it all feels a little right. And this is what I tell my parents after I wait, pacing and anxious and frustrated for them to call me back when they were distracted, my dad yelling in the background the first time I called them. We all calm down and they let me talk, and I cry and cry and tell them that it’s not because I’m scared even though I am it’s because I think it’s what I need to do and it is.
(The groceries, for the record? Stayed bagged, sweated it out on the kitchen table for a goooood while that night.)
It was three weeks yesterday that the Big Blue Envelope came, and three weeks from the day before that I’m on a plane to DC, where I’ll be for staging and orientation for two days before we’re Africa-bound. The weeks between then and now, between now and then, are their own stories. I’ve been tripping around between excitement and fear, between more complicated stories of wrestling with my relationship to the moment, to my final days (for now) in this city. New York is a difficult place to be in transition. It’s whole schtick, it’s whole lure, its reliable flirtatious works-every-time magic relies on possibility, the keep your head down and work for it and bam, it will deliver, the “making it” part of it all. This is a place for discovery, inside and out, for whatever it’s worth. So it’s harder than ever to find my footing lately, because the conversations that brought me back down when New York left me flailing, the new corners and quiet moments that become only and suddenly mine, these stir me differently now. I’m leaving, this much is known. I don’t have enough of a routine here to enjoy a goodbye at a slow burn. Until my (bittersweet) final days in the places that have nurtured me most here, I’m still ambling around in a place that is at once still new, and one I am, in many ways, ready to leave. I’m a little antsy now, in conversations with newer people, because the inevitability of my leaving weighs heavy, pushes down on the potential that keeps those conversations feeling warm.
Nina pointed it out so well a couple weeks back, when I told her I swore I had things to tell her but couldn’t at all remember them. She nodded. “It keeps happening to me too. It’s cause you’re leaving. Loose ends.” It hasn’t stopped since. I’ve had the same sensation with nearly every person I’m close to. I’m unspooled, somehow transient, unsure of where to direct my heart. I’m ready, I think, for a little closure. Goodbye parties and packed boxes. I’m ready for Buffalo. (Remind me of this, will you? When I have to say these actual goodbyes, leave the little families I’ve become a part of here, when I’m falling apart at the goddamn seams? Ah New York, in my heart you are nothing if not your contradictions. Looking forward to what nostalgia dreams you up as. Will report back.)
I did 400 repeats with NBR the other night, reaffirming that my love for sprinting in running is consistent with that in swimming (amount of love: LOW). I met a girl who’s headed all over Africa for close to a year working with the WHO, and she talked about her PCV friend in Ghana, caught her breath while I gobbled up her steady monologue about the “bonding” between expats, let her metered, pre-med way of speaking, her easy smile, root me to the spot, send me running home glowing. Earlier, when we were rounding the last corner on one of the toughest 400s, I could see the whole other side of the park, a wash of bodies amid the green, the dusk setting the whole thing ablaze in late April orange and the same nameless voice that says run. go. faster. come on. said simply: remember this. Africa, Africa, Africa.
*For those of you following along with my shamefully intermittent ramblings, I’ll be keeping this blog when I’m in SL rather than making any kind of new PC-specific incarnation. It just feels tedious, mostly, and it’s not like I’ve been so utterly prolific here that I need to start a WHOLE NEW BLOGGITY BLOG to match mah new adventures. So, yup. A blog with a url in neither English nor Krio to chronicle my life in Sierra Leone. Internet access will be shoddy at best, but I’m looking forward to all the indulgent reading/writing time, and hope to put a few brain dumps here whenever possible–a peek back into the blog world to keep myself good and narcissistic while in the bush, if you will. Also, pls to note the new legal jargon up there in the top left. Fancy!