We left Togo back in August. The whole process was really surreal. When leaving for post, you know you will come back to the States, so you don’t say “goodbye” to everyone, you say “see you later.” Leaving post, it’s expected that you’ll never come back. While you’ll likely see your FS friends again elsewhere, it’s much less likely you’ll see the local staff and local friends again.
This translates into LOTS of good-byes. Going to meet with contacts to say good-bye, and at least four good-bye events (as I recall).
My staff threw us a big going away lunch, at a local restaurant. (This one went much better than the one I went to before.) It was an amazing meal, surrounded by so many people (not just people from my section! About 20 people came out!), many of whom spoke about me and why they had enjoyed working with me. They presented the Teacher and me with a gift, a batik map of Togo, and the people in my section had all signed near where they were from. It was beautiful, and very thoughtful (considering my deep abiding love of maps.) I can’t post a picture, because we packed out soon after and we had to put it in our HHE (our direct to China shipment).
Next came (I think) our big good-bye party. As I was leaving at the same time as one of the Consular Officers, the Consular Chief threw our party jointly on her big rooftop terrace. All the Americans at the Embassy were there, including the Marines. We brought all of our open liquor that couldn’t get shipped (meaning, some bourbon, vermouths, some German schnapps, Campari, and other stuff that I now forget. Oh, and I think one bottle of sodabi.) Between the Marines, my wife, and me, we managed to polish off most of it. (The rest went to our hosts to use as they wished.) They had amazing food, and the speeches were kept to a minimum (which was good, because otherwise I might have cried.)
I think I nearly did cry at the next event, which was our Embassy “farewell.” The entire embassy, including local staff, came out to say good-bye to a few of us. The Ambassador (as my direct supervisor, the DCM having already departed) spoke about me, and nearly brought me to tears. He talked about my flexibility and reliability, about how hard being a first-tour Pol officer is when you are the entire section, and how I managed to keep all my balls in the air despite how many I was juggling. It meant a lot to me, but not as much as when one of the FSNs I supervised, our Pol/Econ expert, spoke, and described me as one of the most friendly and supportive bosses he’s ever had. I was very worried when they pointed out which farewell gift was mine, because it was huge and I’d already packed out, but the shipping coordinator told me they could add it into my HHE. It was a HUGE (3 feet tall!) statue/map of Togo. (Again, no pictures. Sorry.) It was beautifully carved (like all woodwork in Togo), and again it made me feel very special.
Our last going away event was the night before we left. After work, many of us from work went to this great wine bar, Route Des Vins, and had wine and charcuterie for dinner. We also finally bought this mask I had been eyeing at the shop next to it. One last chance to eat and drink with my friends, before heading back to the States.
I will treasure my time in Togo. I learned so much about life, about international work, about myself. I made wonderful friends, who I plan on staying in touch with. I can’t wait to go back to Africa, even if it will be hard to be as good as Togo again. Thank you, everyone there!