Leading up to this point the main emotion I’ve felt has been excitement. Excitement to get home, to see my sister, to go back to school, to eat pad thai and take baths… People would ask how it feels to be so close to being done and my immediate response was, “AWESOME.” And I had been under the impression that this was the only way I would feel, that this excitement would take me from Santa Maria all the way home. I was wrong.
I spent Wednesday through Friday with my training class as we were bombarded with the Close of Service presentations about how to complete your paperwork and what FECA is and how to not bore all your friends back home with your Peace Corps stories. I took the best shower I’ve had in Guatemala in the fancy hotel and allowed myself to eat as many rolls at mealtime as they would give me. I received my certificate for finishing and the staff, including the country director, all said some very complimentary things about me and my service. All of this was nice and only mildly overwhelming and I was still feeling excited until I started to realize: I have to say goodbye to all these people.
As we watched a slideshow of some choice images from the last 24 months I was blown away, all over again, by the incredible individuals that I started this journey with. (As a further testament to their awesomeness, 8 of the 13 people remaining in our group are actually seeking to extend their service.) I have climbed volcanoes, ridden long hours in camionetas, suffered through boring meetings, ziplined through forests, killed chickens, participated in donut eating contests, gotten lost, gone skinny dipping, enjoyed countless happy hours, shared chisme and secrets, faced bolos and angry chuchos, laid on the beach, been stranded, attempted to learn how to juggle, hated life and loved it – and all with these people. When you get to staging in Washington D.C. the facilitators tell you to look around because these strangers will end up being some of the most important people in your life. And you smile and nod, but really I did not comprehend the depth to which I would grow to love and value the people in my training class.
As if that weren’t enough, we (people in our training class along with some other volunteer friends from other programs) then spent the weekend eating delicious pizza and yelling throughout spirited games of spoons, cornhole and taboo. I realized that if I hadn’t stayed and moved out to the Occidente I probably wouldn’t have met half of the people sitting around laughing with me. For the first time I felt truly at peace with my decision to stick it out until August, but also incredibly sad that here were simply more people I’m leaving.
We woke up today and sat around chatting before heading to the shuttle that would take everyone back towards their sites. The conversation quickly turned to future plans and outings. A group wants to go to the beach in September. Another person wants to organize a ziplining trip. All of a sudden I felt crushed. These were plans I would not and could not be a part of. This happy, wonderful group of people surrounding me would go on to do awesome things and create more memories and I am not going to be a part of that. Excitement, all of a sudden, wasn’t what I was feeling about COS. Excitement had turned into sadness.
Then goodbyes started. Some of these friends have up to a year left in Guatemala and even when they finish we’ll still be scattered all over the U.S., maybe even all over the world depending on where their lives take them. Yes, I’ve dealt with endings before and, yes, it’s been sad. But this feels different. I’m sure there are a lot of ways to describe it, but basically: we’ll never be in Peace Corps together again. And that’s an incredibly sad realization for me.
I want to thank each and every one of them though. My fellow PCVs helped me get through the rough days and were there for most of my best memories in Guatemala. I wish them all the best as they continue their journeys, plan on cheering them on in the future and hope this isn’t the end of our adventures together. Really, they’ve been the best part of my service and I couldn’t have done it without them.