Weddings in the village: 2
American visitors to village: 2
Length of each side of the village garden fence, in meters: 15
Depth of water in the new well, in meters: 2.8
Minimum population of chameleons in my compound’s big neem tree: 4
Rats killed and eaten (in my backyard) by the family cat: 2
Afternoon entertainment lately—since it still isn’t raining regularly—has been watching the bright green, googly-eyed chameleons who live in the neem tree stalking flies. No matter how many times we watch them dart their tongues out a body length or more to snatch unsuspecting flies, everyone still gasps in horror. The only thing that horrifies people more is when I pretend I’m going to touch one—apparently chameleons are with toads in the Scary Everyday Animal category.
My COS packet has arrived! It’s teeming with leaflets, forms, and friendly spiral-bound pamphlets with reassuring slogans like “You’re on your way home” and “Everything you need to get started.” There’s even a sheet of full-color bookmarks showing smiling Americans engaging with smiling non-Americans. The pretty pictures are there to distract me from the sinking realization that I will soon be unemployed and homeless—ideally in one of the most expensive places in the U.S.
In many ways, I’ve hit the sweet spot of Peace Corps: these last few months when I know the language, understand the people, and am confident in my interactions—but also when my imminent departure throws all the colors and sensations of Senegal back into the sharp relief of those first few months. Details become vivid and simple moments full of wonder and meaning not because of their newness but because they are all parts of me now—parts that I’ll soon be leaving. I’ve got preparatory nostalgia.
The fact that I’ll be leaving in October came up in village conversation for the first time a few days ago. Deya was horrified and Tali didn’t believe I was telling the truth—how could it have been two years already? They told me to stay for six more months, through the harvest at least. And, just for a moment, I badly wanted to say yes. I could feel just how gut-wrenching it will be to say goodbyes and physically leave. No matter how desperately I’ve wanted to go home, no matter how excited I am to move on to something new, I’m still terrified of that moment of actually leaving.
Until then, however, I’ll be reading up on cover letters and resumes.