My Chefia is gone. By Chefia I am referring to my dear, amazing, coffee-drinking colleague at the CEJ, Eneida. I didn’t talk about her too much in the blog, but she became a core element to my life in the last 9 months. As we were gearing up with tons of new projects and a massive restructuring of our youth corps, tragedy occurred. Granted it was slightly foreseen tragedy, but abrupt nonetheless. I just realized as I said tragedy that you all probably think she died. No, no, thank God no. She left the CEJ. She applied for a position working with the Peace Corps during PST, thinking she had permission from the CEJ to do both PST and work on continuing projects during her “extra” time (granted not the most realistic perspective, but could have worked). She got the position, only to be told by the CEJ that it wouldn’t work for her to do both (permission rescinded), and she had to leave the CEJ, dropping all of our projects on….me. Double sad. Now I’m stressed and alone at work.
It’s frustrating for so many reasons. 1) If I had known she wouldn’t be allowed to continue projects while doing PST, I would never have recommended her, and Peace Corps would never have hired her (they are now in an awkward position, stealing employees from their partnering institutions); 2) We worked SOOO well together and work was 10 times easier because we spurred ideas, creativity, and productivity in each other; 3) I am not a full-time CEJ employee, meaning I don’t have the time or energy to take on everything by myself—I was support rather than the forerunner, which is how it always should have been, no?; 4) So many of the youth had rejoined the group because of the team we had made, and many of them because of her open and wonderful spirit. They may now become a little more unmotivated; and 5) No more daily coffee breaks, though I have been meeting occasionally with my good friend Nitcha for coffee in her stead.
I was pretty sad about it all at first—really more exasperated, because as if I didn’t already have enough to do?? I am not just at the CEJ, but at the CJA (a place that increases your stress level by just walking through the door), and I have this huge photo project. Time is almost nonexistent. For the first few weeks I was so overwhelmed just about everyone I know made some kind of comment about my over-working. However, after a few weeks of adjustment, I am doing well with it all. Still stressed, but well. The youth are showing a bit of determination on their part, which makes me excited, and they still come to visit, which means they aren’t going to quit just because Eneida left. On another positive note, Paulo and I presented the youth corps restructure project to the National Coordinator for Volunteerism within the Secretary of State for Youth, and she was so excited and impressed, she wants to use it as example to be implemented in youth and volunteer institutions throughout all of Cape Verde. So that was nice validation. Would’ve been nice to have Eneida by my side to enjoy the praise, but life moves on.
Anyway, that’s done, and I’m pushing on forward like any good (or crazy) volunteer would do. As I mentioned, the photo project is wrapping up, and we have our exposition marked…drumroll, please….for this Saturday!! It’s finally happening, and I am neck-deep in preparations for the big event. Hopefully it will all go more or less according to plan and I can wash my hands of this deal. I am exhausted, and as much as I have enjoyed certain parts of the experience, it has been nowhere near easy. I will try and take pictures and then post them in the next few weeks.
Also, the Gambia is a go!! I am all kinds of mixed up about it, wondering if I was crazy to sign on for another year in rural Africa, coming up against many of the same frustrations I have felt these last 2 years, but I think I am ready for it. I think I will gain so much wonderful and valuable experience to then bring with me wherever I go. That alone is worth any “suffering” I can claim to go through. I am mostly excited for the new adventure, knowing it will make or break me officially in my career or non-career in international development. Assumingly after this I will either push forward or retreat to the American life. We’ll see.
For a long time I was more ready than can be expressed in words to return home, to leave this country, and to be done with the hardest 2 years of my life. I dreamt of America, counted the time, and became impatient at all the over-exaggerated annoyances of Cape Verdean culture, assuring myself that things would be better once I went home and moved on. This is changing. I am now a bit more reluctant to leave, realizing what all I have here, what all I’m leaving behind. I have so many wonderful relationships, have had so many experiences, I don’t quite know how to confront saying goodbye. And I’m worried that I will be so busy these last few months of service that it will all fly right by me and I’ll be on the plane, regretting the lack of time spent nurturing friendships and giving a proper goodbye. Because really the last few months will still be busy. I don’t foresee a great pause, though perhaps the whole number of things to do may decrease a little.
Anyway, I’m rambling, and not so articulately, which I hate. Suffice it to say that all the things that need to be said don’t know just how to come out of me yet, and will probably all come barraging at me at once, knocking me off my feet in a tumble of tears and confusion. Save that goodness for later.
I’m signing off for now, with more news hopefully to come. I am awaiting an official COS date, but it will probably be in mid-September.
Here’s a few pics to hold you all over.