40 random thoughts about completing my service

40 random thoughts about completing my service
By Emily Johnson
Sept. 16, 2015

My Peace Corps generation's Completion of Service has been weighing on our minds a lot recently. 

Conversation centers around how weirded out we are about having to reenter the real world and – gasp – figure out what we're doing with our lives. Those with grad school dreams are testing and applying frantically to meet deadlines; others are obsessively researching Peace Corps perks to snag a job.

What about me? Well, on the one hand, I haven’t really accepted that my time in Senegal will be over soon and that the life I’ve spent two years cultivating will be completely uprooted; that the time and energy I’ve spent learning the local language and traditions will be irrelevant in day-to-day interactions; that I’ll have Internet, electricity, running water and a variety of food options; that I’ll have to leave everyone I’ve come to know and love here.

On the other hand, I’m excited and ready to return home to my family and friends, to endless hot showers and brunch and my dogs. Daily fantasies about stuffing my face with everything cheesy (and then going to an actual gym to burn it off) are soon going to be reality – and that is a magical thing.

On the other, other hand, I have no idea what awaits me back home. Things I thought I wanted when I first joined the Peace Corps don’t match up with what I want now; things I want now are still only half-formed in my mind. And that’s terrifying and exhilarating and daunting and lonely and uncomfortable and eye-opening and wonderful all at once.

2. Oh god. Do I still know how to be a functioning human being??
4. I get to see my parents, my friends and my DOGS!
5. And I don’t have to sleep under a mosquito net! ALHAMDOULILAH!
6. Wait, can I still say “alhamdoulilah?” Or “bismillah,” or “inshallah?” Will people get it? Or will they think I’m insane?
7. Whatevs, I’ll make it happen. People will think I’m super cultured and they will want to start throwing random Arabic phrases into their daily lexicon, too.
8. They aren’t gonna really get it, though.
9. No one is really gonna get any of this, come to think of it.
10. No one back home is going to be able to relate to me. I won’t always be surrounded by Peace Corps Volunteers who understand the value of a really good poop or the deep-seated need for human touch.
11. In fact, all of the people upon whom I’ve come to rely are going to be scattered around the country, doing their own things.
12. Meanwhile, I’ll be sitting at home, alone and friendless, unable to remember how regular people socialize and utterly lost as to what I’m doing with my life.
14. Okay, let’s be real. Of COURSE I’ll see my PC friends again. We’ll talk on the phone all the time (unlimited texting plans, mashallah) and we’ll definitely organize trips to see each other!
15. We’ll search out Senegalese food!
16. Ugh, Amerik won’t have anything even close to the deliciousness that is garage maffe tiga.
17. We’ll have brunch!
18. OMG. Brunch tho. Coffee tho. CHEESE THO.
19. Why did I leave Amerik again?
20. I can’t wait to eat all of the breakfast foods. Bismillah to my MOUTH, amirite??
21. To be real, I am going to miss the monoo, our daily village breakfast porridge.
22. I’m going to miss the kids running to wake me up every morning to tell me the monoo is ready and racing me back to eat it.
23. I’m going to miss those little rascals climbing all over me and fighting to sit in my lap.
24. And at night, when kiddos climbing into my lap leads to them falling asleep there.
25. I’m going to miss making the babies laugh hysterically by holding them upside-down.
26. I’m going to miss making the women laugh by dancing/pretending to play goalie/reenacting machete fishing.
27. And making the guys laugh by announcing that they like to eat frogs.
28. And making my dad laugh that amazingly throaty, contagious laugh by being the ridiculous human I am.
29. I’m going to miss sneaking pebbles into my brother Lassana’s pockets when he’s not paying attention, and the way he will randomly talk about his “best friend” Barack Obama.
30. I’m going to miss the spontaneous pebble-throwing wars my counterpart Mbemba and I have when we are sitting in his compound.
31. Oh god, Mbemba.
32. Oh god, everyone.
34. Oh god. I’m really leaving.
35. How did I never know these people existed before I came here? And how is it that they own such a huge part of my heart now?
36. How can I ever tell them how much they mean to me, how much I love them and how much I’m going to miss them?
37. I’m going to cry for a week straight before I leave.
38. I can’t believe I’m really leaving.
39. I have to make the most of my remaining time here.

40. And, inshallah, I’ll come back to visit if it kills me.

Emily Johnson