I realize this is very late but consider this Part 1 of my COS/Coming Home Story
August 16th – 4 days to COS:
I found my last days in site incredibly frustrating (minus the night my sitemate made me an amazing going away dinner) since the trickle of work that had once existed had dwindled to absolutely nothing after the town feria in early July. I was bored, annoyed at having to cook all my food in a toaster oven since my gas had run out and tired of being confined to half my house after dark since the electricity had just decided to stop working. I was ready to get out of Santa Maria. I had tried the site change and it just never really worked out and 16th couldn’t come fast enough. So, when Doris got to town and sat down with the mayor and profusely thanked him for all that he had done for me (something Peace Corps didn’t bother to do in Santa Cruz where the mayor really did deserve some recognition) and they started talking about what they could do to get yet another volunteer out there… well, I was less than pleased. Eventually they concluded their meeting though and, after a quick trip to pick up my bags, we were on our way. Finally. Adios, Santa Maria.
August 17th – 3 Days to COS:
I ran around the office that Friday morning knowing I would have very little time Monday morning before my flight out of the country. COSing requires, what seems like, the signatures of everyone working at the office. Medical, Administrative, Program and even Facilities staff all have to sign off on your paperwork. I did as much as I could and then rushed to the capital to try to catch a bus to Santa Cruz.
I had been getting a lot of grief my final week from people in Santa Cruz complaining I would leave without saying goodbye. I had been planning on making one last trip, but hadn’t wanted to make any promises in case things didn’t work out. The trip required an hour wait in the sketchy bus terminal in the capital, but was well worth the trouble. Within five minutes of being back I was joking around with the mayor and watching my former coworkers lead a giant doll making class in their new training center. I was invited to watch a pageant happening that night and was fed free paches. When I finally made it to my host family’s house I was fed again and caught up on all the latest gossip. Santa Cruz will always be my real site and the place closest to my heart in Guatemala and, when people ask me if I’ll ever go back, I’m thinking of that town when I say yes.
August 18th/19th – 2/1 Day(s) to COS:
I left Santa Cruz and made my way to Antigua to meet friends and do some souvenir shopping. I argued with the people in the market and enjoyed a lovely breakfast at Doña Luisa’s with fellow volunteers and tried to wrap my my around my imminent departure.
August 20th – COS:
I made my way to the Peace Corps office to collect the rest of my signatures, print some documents and say goodbye. All of my last minute tasks were completely fairly painlessly and before I knew it I was waiting for the Peace Corps driver Pascual to bring the car around so I could load my suitcases and leave for the airport.
There is a bell in the lobby of the office that you are supposed to ring when you COS and planned to ring it and walk out. Little did I know that there is a whole ceremony attached to the ringing of the bell and that Edelveis, the receptionist, was not going to allow me to ring and run. Shocked that I would be so sneaky, she immediately got on the office intercom (which I didn’t even know existed until that morning) to summon everyone. There were palabras (words) and hugs and the reading of a special poem and many, many “Thank you for your service”s and I got a little misty eyed. This was really the end. I rang the bell and it was official. RPCV.