And just like that, in the blink of an eye, 25 months and 1 day (yes, I counted) are in the books.
All things considered, in the overall scheme of things, we’ll call the adventure a success. As Randy’s been known to say, it’s been a good life, after all.
Professionally, I escaped without a single life-threatening emergency medevac. No words can ever express how thankful I am for that. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to all my people who kept themselves safe and healthy throughout. Even Chuckles managed to wait til he arrived in the US to break his leg! I still cannot believe my fortune.
AND I didn’t resign or curtail (cut short my commitment), although paperwork toward both those eventualities lived on my desk for some period of the last 12 months. We made it! And I have to admit I’m proud of that. It wasn’t always a given. (And to all my friends who did curtail, know that I supported you every step of the way in your decision.)
Personally, I fell in love with Africa. I suspected I might, and I did. I feel like I can really relate to all those people who arrive under varying circumstances and then find they cannot leave. It is a special place that defies description, at least, the tiny little corner of it that I experienced here in East Africa is.
And while I certainly can’t speak for Randy, I’ll go out on a limb and say this country has definitely crawled into his heart more than he expected.
Randy and I endured our separations due to back to back evacuations without long term negative consequences. (Absence makes the heart grow fonder maybe??)
And I made it those 765 days without a car accident. Not even a fender bender. (OK, maybe once I scraped the side of the gate, because, as my friend Chuck commented, the opening is only like 12 feel wide.) But with as much driving as I did (I was always the one up for a local adventure and ready to chauffeur), it is nothing short of a miracle. I am completely confident of God’s protection and grace from start to finish.
And now I depart with precious memories and treasured friends. And a little piece of my heart I’m leaving behind. Priceless.
Leaving is bittersweet, as it should be.
I know that moving around in the FS can never ever be compared to giving birth to a child, but recently I have read several people’s musings about how, when they were preparing for the birth of their second child, they couldn’t imagine how they could ever love another child as much as they loved their first. And of course they always do. Right now, as I look ahead to the future, I can’t imagine ever loving another country as much as I love this one.
But this I know: never again (never say never) will I have the incredible experience of a first tour, where every cell in your body is electrified with the newness, where everything is novel; everything exciting; everything memorable; and yes, everything devastatingly frightening.
As we sit in the airport, Quandary all checked in and hopefully settled, I’m in awe of the privilege we’ve had these past two years to stand alongside so many people, watching history unfold from a front row seat. I never want to repeat 2015, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
And I’m leaving with about two dozen kitenge dresses. I may never be able to wear solid colors again.
Next up: a series of latergrams from some adventures that were never recorded. And a few choice photo essays because I can’t figure out how to get photos off my phone into this post. At least, that’s my goal for the next couple of weeks while I’m resting and recuperating during our mandatory and well-earned Home Leave.