(Written March 9, 2013)
It's twenty minutes after ten at night, and the mission is silent save for the chirping of frogs and insects, the occasional barking dog. The village generator has just cut off. It's located scant yards from our house, and its loud, mechanical sound becomes white noise soon after it begins running at dusk. Because of the noise, you watch TV a little louder than you would otherwise, but you're not really aware of it until it's gone.
Actually, that's wrong. There are some drunk men walking by my house, so it's not silent anymore. But they're not particularly rambunctious ones this time. I recognize the voice of a young man they call Dummy, who is deaf and almost mute. He communicates primarily through an invented sign language that his friends seem to understand with little trouble. I'm always impressed at how socially at ease he is despite his disability, and, despite his politically incorrect call name, how accepting the community is of him.
I climb into bed with my flashlight and tuck in my mosquito net, something I've done hundreds of times over the past few years. It's something I'll only do a few dozen more before I leave Guyana.
No more generator, no more mosquito nets, no more sitting in the dark after the current cuts out. No more running with bare feet down a sandy road. No more greeting everyone I pass with a “Good morning,” “Good afternoon,” or “Good night.” No more phlourie, roti or cook-up rice. No more outhouses, no more bucket baths. No more walks thorough the scheme with students shouting a chorus of “Miss Kelly!” “Miss Kelly!” out of the windows of brightly coloured houses. (Oh, that reminds me, no more British spellings, either.)
I may be going home to warm running water and pizza, to a place where people respect my privacy, to schools with enough desks and books and teachers for all of their students, to the land of microwaves and electricity 24/7 and flushing toilets, and my family, and my friends...but more present in my mind at the moment are the people and things I'll leave behind. I've built a life here. Two years is an awfully long time to spend in one place, especially a place with people as warm and accepting as Guyana. When people here ask me if I'll miss mission, I tell them of course I will—it's become my second home. This has become a line for me, but it's true all the same.
My two years in Guyana have been the most emotionally tumultuous of my life, without a doubt. I can't honestly say whether there's been more tears or laughter, but I can say there's been a lot of both. And, fortunately, as the end draws near, I find it easier to appreciate the little joys of life in Guyana. I find it easier to let things go, to forgive people for not living up to my expectations, to forgive myself for not living up to my expectations and to try just living, instead.
So I will relish in Sharlene's infectious laughter, in the smile of baby Arielle, whose mother wasn't even pregnant yet when I came here but is now growing teeth, as she grips my finger with her tiny hand. I will be grateful that I can share my love of running with the myriad teenagers that join me now and again. I will admire Benji's determination and Lorena's fierce dedication to her kids and her future. I will relax into the easy comfort of gaffing and laughing with Shabana. I will marvel at Wendy's gifts of empathy, and at my unbelievable luck for choosing her house to live in back when I barely even knew her. I will visit those people in my community whose company makes my days brighter, and I will cherish the fact that I've been fortunate enough to live in a place where it's difficult to stay lonely—just go for a walk and see who says hello.
For this last week of school, I will not stress and I will not raise my voice. I will read stories, sing songs, give and receive hugs, and do as much as I can to show these kids that I think they're awesome. I will give the teachers of St. Cuthbert's Primary School the credit they deserve for working pretty damn hard for those awesome kids, all things considered, because the system doesn't make that easy.
I will swim in the blackwater as often as I can. I will go for walks and breathe in the beauty of this still largely unspoiled place. I will accept everything that is offered to me gracefully and gratefully. And yes, I will count the days left until I fly back to New York, but not out of simple anticipation. I will do this to remind myself to soak up the last sweet drops of this experience while I still can.