Here at the end… 15 February 2017

“The end of a melody is not its goal: but nonetheless, had the melody not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable.” –Friedrich Nietzsche

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I leave my village in less than two weeks, two weeks that will absolutely fly by. I think the fact is starting to sink in, but I also think I won’t fully realize that I’m leaving until I’ve left – and maybe not even then. Because I’ll be continuing my work with the PC in familiar places like Dar es Salaam and Dodoma, I’m guessing it will simply feel like I’ve gone for a training, or a meeting, and will return home after the fact.

After a while of not going back though, and after I’ve grown accustomed to the different lifestyle and working situation, it will sink in, but it won’t feel like a sudden end to my life here in my village. I’m anticipating a much smoother transition to what’s next than I would if I were directly returning to America. Hopefully this will make returning to America in 2018 a bit easier. But I’ll just have to wait and see for that – I’m in no rush really.

Whether I feel it or not, however, I will be leaving my home and my village and all of my friends and counterparts in less than two weeks. I know this, even if I don’t feel it yet, and am doing my best to finish projects and say my goodbyes. One project I am hoping we can finish this week is the movie we are making for my Environmental Conservation and Agriculture Club at the Secondary School.

A few weeks ago, the teacher who helped me facilitate each club lesson throughout last year approached me with a great idea for a movie. It will show three examples of human impacts on the environment, and three ways to mitigate/lessen those impacts (all topics we covered in the club). We’ve finished filming and now the task is on my shoulders to work some simple magic in imovie, and hopefully turn out an acceptable product. I’m enjoying the creative outlet while trying to finish the other main project of my final weeks: gardens.

Yes, while the well and gutter parts of my big Feed the Future funded project are complete, we still have yet to finish the gardens. We have been taunted and confounded by the weather this rainy season. Early on, in October and November, we had the only real window of time when people were not weeding or planting their farms. Unfortunately, we wasted that window by trying to form garden groups of five or six households when people just wanted to do individual household gardens. We didn’t realize in time that the reason no one was preparing their fences and soil for garden construction was because they didn’t want to work in groups. When we did realize this, and changed the scope of the project to accommodate it, we were too late for our window.

The rains started for four or five days in December. Everyone thought the rainy season was here, and went to plant. In a normal rainy season, the rains do start in December, so it wasn’t a silly assumption. But this year we were all fooled. We had extremely infrequent rains in December and even in the first half of January. Every time we got some rain people thought, that must be it: the start of the rainy season – time to plant the corn. Many people planted, and therefore many people lost their corn because it was too dry: the rainy season was late.

This means that, while in a normal year, people would be busy in December planting corn, and then would have free time (to make gardens) afterwards in January, in between weeding times, this year people have are replanting in January and even now in February, starting to weed when they have the chance. In other words people are still very busy, working endlessly to grow the food they’ll need to survive. The basics of corn and beans need to come before the benefits of balanced nutrition that a home garden can bring. It’s a matter of priorities that is entirely understandable, but is also bad luck for the garden project. But still, we are definitely making slow progress!

I am anticipating finishing 50 out of 80 gardens in the next two weeks, and have confidence that all 80 will be completed by the end of March. The interest is definitely here, and as people see the already complete gardens with drip kits installed, they want their own. The issue is just the timing of the rainy season, and the lack of free time for community members. The 80 gardens will be completed, even without me there, which gives me confidence about the sustainability of the project. It’ll all work out in the end. Here are some of the first gardens we made, now doing very well!

This past Sunday I hosted our final Mamas Group meeting. We made bean burgers, distributed my extra seeds, and talked about what we will do when I visit again after leaving (if…) – the mamas will cook me bean burgers and guacamole, and I will cook them some ugali and mbogamboga (ugali is the staple food I’ve grown quite fond of, made from corn flour, basically a blob of cooked corn flour that they dip into things, such as mbogamboga: cooked leafy greens of some sort). It was the best way to spend my Sunday afternoon.

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I’ve also been doing my best to go around and visit my good friends and favorite families. That mission will of course continue until my final day in the village. Here are some pictures from my visits:

These final few weeks will be packed with emotions, they already have been filled with some feels, but that is a good thing. I know I will not regret riding out these final loops of the roller coaster, being present every minute, being open to all the feelings that decide to hit me whenever they strike. I already have a collection of such amazing memories from my life here in my little village, which I’m sure will keep me afloat down the road as I keep on keepin’ on. And I’m ready to make a few more as this month comes to its end. I’ll do my best to make these moments prior to crossing the finish line as bright as can be, and the sweetest of bittersweet. I will be content.

“October knew, of course, that the action of turning a page, of ending a chapter or shutting a book, did not end a tale. Having admitted that, he would also avow that happy endings were never difficult to find: “It is simply a matter,” he explained to April, “of finding a sunny place in a garden, where the light is golden and the grass is soft; somewhere to rest, to stop reading, and to be content.” -Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists

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