Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Announcement

[Belated Post]

It took the better part of ten minutes for the Principle of my school to make his observations and points to the students of the school on matters of discipline and school procedures before he came to the sad news of the week. One former board member of the school had died recently and the entire assembly stood in silence in his memory, and then he turned to news about me. Fo Kwaku was leaving as he stated. "at any point from this day forward."

Mumblings across the entire chapel as I felt a lot of eyes fall on me. I did all I could to look away or around and make sheepish grinning faces as I felt gazes staring in my direction. If it could be considered a good thing, people were decidedly against the idea which was nice, but the reasons for my early termination of service were not given in detail by the principle. Instead he said that I was being recalled by Peace Corps and let it go at that. My guess is that he didn't want to say I was quitting but that in fact was really the case.

In Peace Corps parlance, quitting is Early Termination (ETing), and it can be done at any point from the start of training until the last day of your service before you officially close out your service. So why would I terminate early was the question I faced at every step after the morning assembly concluded.

Quite simple: I was getting married!

My fiancee is still in America and she had the good fortune of finding a contest that we decided to enter. In honor of the Boston Marathon run in April, a museum in the city was promoting a marathon day of weddings for 26 lucky couples. We wrote an essay, submitted it before the deadline and figured it was less than a slim chance that our name would be pulled. On March 2nd I got a message from her that read, "We woooooon!" Our little dream of getting married was going to come true and it was all paid for and everything.

But there is the little matter of Peace Corps to return to. They will not let a volunteer marry another person without 30 days prior notice. If the intended spouse is not an American citizen, then you must wait 120 days. There was not enough time to notify Peace Corps of the intended marriage with that rule in effect which meant any marriage would be cause for ending it all, an Administrative Separation, which is a lot different than ET'ing. It would be similar to a dishonorable discharge - not what you want to end your service with. I felt that leaving early was the absolute best decision and that it was a wonderful moment to start life all over again, precisely what I felt like I was doing when I accepted the invitation to come to Ghana in the first place.

When we closed from the chapel I attended the staff meeting and was given a few moments to explain the decision to the staff present which included all of the above story, less the unromantic details of administrative separation. They said they were sad to see me leave, and that it would only be fair if I invited all of them to the wedding ceremony in Boston, to which I said, "You're invited." The principle then asked if I would be coming back after and I explained that it would be a long while before I made my way back to Ghana, but I did manage to say "Mayi mava," which is "I will go, I will come." They laughed at my poor Ewe but appreciated the effort.

From there it was making the rounds on campus and seeing the students who have gotten to know me over the course of my 20 or so months at the school. They expressed a bit of dismay at my decision until I explained the reason and then they wished me all the best. It was probably harder to see the second year students since I taught them last year and I know a few of them pretty well, but nothing compared to the way I had to tell the vice principle's family.

I have been at their house more than any other place since 2010 and I have gotten to know them very well. They have given me a place to eat for almost my entire service here at St. Francis and have been generous to the extreme end of the spectrum. When I told them on Sunday night, I knew they would be happy for me and Damla, but I also knew that they might be sad for me leaving a lot sooner then they had expected. The mom was there, her two children, and her cousin who has been my helper at the house all this time and it started off fine. They were excited that I would be married. Then I turned and saw the daughter, who is 11, crying. I felt a very empty feeling in my stomach, then my helper Leticia, left and was crying too. So after that short outburst we kept talking and things began to calm down a little bit.

It has been quite emotional and I am sure the rollercoaster is only just getting started, but for the time being it was nice to tell the community that I have grown to really love that I won't be here until the official end. It would have been hard to leave though had all the students left the campus and I was here by myself after the semester was over leaving the empty campus behind. Now I get to wave goodbye to all of my friends and say to them how much they have meant to me. Thankfully there are social sites that will allow me to keep track of the ones I have gotten to know quite well after I leave here, and I am ready, more than ready, to embrace a very wonderful life back in America.

On to the next big thing.

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