Time has a funny way of passing over here. I used to think that the busier a person is, the faster time goes. That had been my personal experience at least. And then I came here, where my days are much less structured and flexible and time is moving faster than it ever has.
I’ve been in Senegal for just over 8 months now and at my permanent site in Kolda for 6. The days are long, but the weeks fly by, if that makes any sense. This is the longest I’ve ever been away from Chicago let alone the U.S. of A.
Even though two years sounds like a long time, there’s a lot of turnover in Peace Corps. Every 6 months, a group of 60 or so volunteers arrive to replace the ones going home. The group of people you come in with is referred to as your stage (french pronunciation). A new stage arrived about a month ago, and it’s weird to not be the ‘new ones’ anymore. It makes me think about a common question Pulaar people ask me: “have you been here long?” To which I instinctively answer “not yet.” I don’t know when/if I’ll make the transition to answering yes.
With the new stage, I’m getting a new site-mate (another PCV who shares my site). My current site-mate, Ali, left Kolda today for Dakar, after that she will leave Senegal for Europe and then go home to the States. She and I only overlapped for 6 months, but we got very close. I spent a lot of time with her in her final days saying emotional goodbyes, packing, running around with last minute errands. It reminded me of my departure for Senegal 8 months before. But in some ways this goodbye struck me as harder. When I left for Senegal, it was incredibly difficult to say goodbye to family and friends. But I knew that I’d be coming back to them in two years. Saying goodbye to Senegal, usually there’s no way to know if/when you’ll be back. Every statement about the future comes with an inshallah.
It was strange to picture myself going through this goodbye process in a year and a half. Like I said, two years seems like a long time, but it’s already been going by so fast. And the circle of Peace Corps life continues. In December, I’ll have a brand new volunteer moving in to my town.
My family has told me that, ready or not, I have to be the guide for this new volunteer. I have to show her the way. It’s kind of scary to realize that I will now be the one answering all the questions and trying to help her with her Pulaar.
But they’re right. Ready or not, here we go.