Saying Goodbye
on Alex MacMillan (Namibia), 01/Oct/2012 14:05, 34 days ago
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The time had come to say goodbye. We'd wrapped up our projects and handed them over, arranged our leave and the flights were booked. It was our last few days in Namibia, and we still had a lot to do.We'd been able to say goodbye to Dickson and a few others at the penultimate VSO'ers meet up, where we also played a few games to help evaluate and discuss our time at our placements. It was a useful day, and it helped to have some closure knowing that we were leaving.VSO'ers meet up in Windhoek: Paul leads a game on evaluating placementsBoth of our work placements had organised a leaving party for us. When I arrived at Friendly Haven the day we came back from Luderitz, everyone was eating, Carolina from VSO was present as was Kat! Alex had also been invited, but the LAC had chosen that afternoon to hold his farewell do too. The Friendly Haven staff and board members gave some lovely speeches, we ate together, and then they presented me with a voucher for a free night's stay in a lodge in Windhoek, to say thanks for my work in the year - and thanks to Alex too, who during the year had also helped out at the shelter, taking the kids out (to the park or the cinema), helping to wire up the telly, sorting out the combi van. We also sang some songs, and I gave them all some gifts too: I had to blink back tears, which threatened all day. I didn't take any photos during the leaving do as I was having so much fun, but it was an afternoon that I won't forget - a really sweet gesture on their part, and a lot of work had gone into it. That evening, Alex and I met the VSO'ers at the Wine Bar, and some of my colleagues came too.This isn't from the actual leaving do, but a picture from a previous outing at the wine bar, with Lisiana, Amelia and Charmaine - but since I didn't take any pictures at the leaving do either, I thought this one would do instead.That night, we ate, drank, and sang more songs with my colleagues, who I'll miss dearly. Now, writing from Paris, I can say that I think of them every day and wish them well. Amelia is getting married next month, and is recovering from an operation - my fingers are crossed for her everyday! Lisiana is now pregnant, and Charmaine's little boy is growing up very quickly.The following night, we had our night in a lodge, thanks to the voucher from Friendly Haven. What a treat!  Since we'd been moving most of our stuff out of our flat, it was a bit stark and bare, and we were pleased for a little luxury. We sank into the fluffy duvet and pillows, watched TV (we didn't have a TV all year in our flat, so watching Namibian news was always a novelty) and had dinner, just the two of us, in O Portuga, nearby - the restaurant that VSO had taken us to on our first night in the country. With full tummies, we watched a film and had a fantastic night's sleep. Alex's favourite meal is breakfast - he could have it any time of the day - and he made full use of the buffet breakfast in the morning, as well as the good coffee. We were now ready to go home and do the final packing - tomorrow, we were leaving. That night, we watched the closing London Olympics ceremony on TV at Sue's house - Kat picked us up and we were able to hand over a few promised items to her, before heading over and enjoying the wine and jacket potatoes that Sue had whipped up. Spending our last evening with Sue, Paul and Kat was great, and took our minds off the fact that we were facing a 24 hour journey tomorrow (14 hours of which would be spent in planes. How much fun for someone who's afraid of flying).Sue was kind enough to take us to the airport, and had been kind enough to help us the previous week with some more deliveries of our various bits to other people. Cecilia, our cleaner, stood on our porch as we drew out of the driveway, crying and saying "I thought I would die without knowing my name, but now I know my name," referring to the reading and writing lessons that Alex had given her. Our dog Snowy sat there watching us with doleful eyes. She was always grumpy when we packed the car to go anywhere, and this morning she seemed particularly so. The drive to the airport was stunning - another clear blue Namibian day. We left Sue and went through customs. Crying in public isn't usually my thing, but this time some tears slipped through. The flights were hideous - British Airways usual customer mis-service - and when we touched down at London Heathrow, I wasn't sure what to think about the grey, cloudy skies. It reminded me of Chalabi's book 'Late for Tea at the Deer Palace,' where she describes how her Iraqi family first felt about living in London - describing it as like living in a grey, cloudy, lifeless limbo. I could certainly understand what she meant. Having lived under Namibia's bright skies for a year, London felt heavy and choking.It was very strange having a leaving do for the two of us, when we'd been to so many other people's leaving do's. Finally, the adventure was at an end. We were both grieving for our time there, and excited by the future. I think it's only over time that we'll understand what this period in our lives has done for us.