I was flipping through The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese poet and was struck by how poignantly the story spoke about what I am going through as a departing PCV. The book is basically about a Prophet who leaves some last bits of wisdom with some people before he leaves them after 12 years on their island. The story starts out in Chapter One, titled “The Coming of the Ship,” where on the top of a hill, the Prophet sees the ship from his homeland finally coming and is overwhelmed with the idea of returning home. Even though he’s been dreaming of this day for years, he’s overrun by complicated emotions.
And in the twelfth year, on the seventh day of Ielool, the month of reaping, he climbed the hill without the city walls and looked seaward; and he beheld the ship coming with the mist.
Then the gates of his heart were flung open, and his joy flew far over the sea. And he closed his eyes and prayed in the silences of his soul.
But he descended the hill, a sadness came upon him, and he thought in his heart:
How shall I go in peace and without sorrow? Nay, not without a wound in the spirit shall I leave this city.
Long were the days of pain I have spent within its walls, and long were the nights of aloneness; and who can depart from his pain and his aloneness without regret?
Too many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets, and too many are the children of my longing that walk naked among these hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an ache.
It is not a garment I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands.
Nor is it a thought I leave behind me, but a heart made sweet with hunger and with thirst.
Yet I cannot tarry longer.
The sea that calls all things unto her calls me, and I must embark.
As much as Azerbaijan has driven me crazy over the past two years, it’s totally a part of me now. So while I may have been down on this place at times, it was all worth it now that I’m at end of my service. What a strange trip it’s been.