Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Yesterday at noon our cook JB and I had a brainstorming session. How do we keep those whose contracts are up from leaving? Unfortunately, seven or eight or nine of our colleagues' contracts are coming to a natural end over the next week-to-four-weeks. JB and I exchanged ideas – Nail down the doors? Call MONUC to block the gates? Contrive to give them mild-but-recurrent cases of food poisoning so they are always too sick to leave (but never too sick to hang out)?

[We did all this brainstorming in French – Good for me! Good for my French!]

Over half-a-dozen of my ex-pat colleagues will be leaving. These are people whom I see talk to work with eat with laugh with bitch to tease on a daily basis. These are people whom I like, some a great deal, but even more to that, these are people I am used to. They are simply always here! And now they won’t be! How changed will our dynamic be? How much we will miss them!

P (who is one of the leavers) says to me that when she first arrived in Goma, and was here for a couple of months, and the first person she was close with left, it was tragic. But then the second person and the third and the next and the seventh and the tenth left, and many more people came and joined in, and it was fine – you get used to it.

It’s not unexpected; we’ve had plenty of warning; aid work is a small field, anyway – we’ll all run into each other again - blah blah blah comforting platitudes. Now I’ll be the old veteran of the office, not a newbie – that will be nice.

But o! that MONUC could block the gates! that we could remain in our small, crowded, sometimes prickly, but basically comfortable status quo –

that I could keep my friends here with me. Not forever! Hey! Just until it is time for me myself to more on.


D. Watson said...

My church has a lot of students, so there's been a constant flow of people moving in and out. It always seems like it's my best friends moving out and there's this point at the end of any school year when I start wondering if anyone will be left. Until the new batch comes, anyway.

This week I'll be saying my own farewell as we're moving to another congregation of the same church. I keep trying to figure what I should say, but I find that I'm really saying goodbye to the 'ghosts' of people who already left, whose imprints in my heart are still sitting in the various pews. The other people are still here and I'll pass them in the halls. But when I leave, those ghosts will leave too because no one else will remember that family was ever here. It feels a bit like losing them all over again.

It's no fun being the old guy leaving.

Rachel said...

It's very hard!!! It's hard to be the one leaving, too, though. I've been known to cry upon leaving schools, internships... and upon friends leaving! I'm a complete sap when it comes to separations & changes. But at least in modern times, the most important friends stay in your e-mail box... or at least in your heart!