ch ch ch ch changes…

(don’t tell me to grow out of it)

well, everything seems to have worked out, and it is becoming quite clear that i will leave bangladesh in one week. finally end of mission… over 14 months will be completed (really, the longest i have been in one job for a while – i’m the type to get bored easily and 12 months is usually as long as i want to stay in one place).

my replacement has been found and confirmed and will be here this week. my handover report (currently 20 pages!!) is definitely on its way to being complete. my ‘unique’ form of filing is being simplified to something that may make sense to someone who doesn’t live in my brain. my evals for my team are all mostly written, and meetings will be held next week. my boss and i have done my eval. my end of mission schedule is worked out (just need to confirm flights).

and i’ve said good-bye to a lot of folk already. i found myself in teknaf in early may for the ‘farewell/closure’ party for the project. many of the staff had already started working for a handover partner (we have handed over the IPDs and are co-managing the outpatient clinic right now). there were a lot of goodbyes going on at that party. but there was also dancing, which is something i haven’t been able to enjoy a lot in bangladesh. but we did dance at this farewell. a combination of hindi superhits, and aqua.

i haven’t talked a lot about leaving. but i knew that it was likely my last time in teknaf. and i was definitely sad. and yes, of course, i cried a little as we drove out that last day. but that’s to be expected yes?

further confirmation that it was my last visit was that i finally (!!) saw elephants!! finally after i don’t know how many times i have driven the highway outside teknaf… i saw the elephants!

and it’s strange… my expat ‘team’ here hasn’t really changed much for a long time. i’ve had the same head of mission, log coordinator and medical coordinator since june. i said goodbye to the head of mission last weekend before he left for meetings, to the medical coordinator last night before she headed to holidays… even most of our teknaf expat team has been the same since last summer. so it’s been the first of really big goodbyes of people who i’ve been through so much with in this mission (floods, cyclones, closures, openings…).

and while the management team i’ve worked with this past year will likely never exist as itself again, there is a chance i will see the expats again. but my co-workers who are national staff, my own team, my own department – this is a pretty solid goodbye. i can hope we will keep in touch, and thanks to the miracle of social networking sites, perhaps we will. but in reality, there’s little chance i’ll ever come back to bangladesh. and just like my colleagues in sudan who i’ll likely never see again, the same is true for my colleagues here.

and finally, it’s saying goodbye to the people here. saying goodbye to tal camp and everyone living there. saying goodbye to the beneficiaries in the hill tracts and in the old cyclone project sites, and the dhaka project. and it’s more abstract than the people i know by name and have worked alongside. it’s more abstract, but it’s a bit harder. after a year of learning about, and trying to provide services to people, i’ve come to care a great deal about what happens to them. and while i’m confidant in our handovers, and our project teams, and my replacement, it’s difficult to let go. specifically, i have seen the struggles and hardships of the rohingyas living in tal camp, and very soon, i will no longer be part of trying to provide them the stuff that basic human rights are made of. i will no longer be a witness who can speak out. it’s hard to let go of that.

i have a lot to look forward to. my baby nephew, the rest of my fabulous family, and friends i love dearly who are all waiting for me to come home. so while i’m thrilled beyond belief to go home and see them all, it doesn’t come without the sadness.

but as the wise dr. seuss once said (and as the staff in teknaf wrote on the invitation for the farewell party)… don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.

One Response to “ch ch ch ch changes…”

  1. Kevin Barlow Says:

    Ahhh Julia, I am so excited for you. You are a truly amazing person… you make us all proud to be Canadian: you capture the humour, good will, respect, and perspective. Wow! we’re handing over Tekaf! When I was there it was about to open. And Dhaka project- Excellent: I think the urban poverty in Bangladesh is more pronounced then in many other rural places. Keep working hard but for now take a big long break!

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