We had our Close of Service conference in August, but it felt weird to write about it then.
Sure we got our “We did it!” certificates and talked about the fact that we need to start paying for health insurance again, but it still felt like the actual close of service was still a while off.
But now, some volunteers have ten days or so before they depart Macedonia with one-way tickets. Now, whenever I see a friend, we ask, “Will I see you again? Do we need to say goodbye now?” SO WEIRD!
Not much to report on COS itself. We found out they had changed the departure system, so instead of volunteers trickling out over the course of a month, there will be a mass exodus on our official COS date of Nov. 19. (Unless you get special approval because of a job, life, something else important.) We talked a lot about working in international relations. (Too much in my opinion, but they fed us well and kept us caffeinated, so balance.) We talked about what we’d miss in MK. What phrases will be hard to stop using. What mannerisms we’ve adopted. We gave out superlatives. (I got most likely to bring you baked goods and best hugger. A fair legacy, I think.)
It was two days at a beautiful hotel in Berovo, but it was two days that felt pretty rushed. (Perhaps a subtle hint at what returning to America will be life?)
Then right after COS, I kind of fell into a funk. This has happened periodically throughout service. (And is so normal that Peace Corps hands out a chart of the totally normal emotional roller coaster and reasons why we go through loops.) Sometimes it’s with reason and sometimes it’s been just out of nowhere. This time, it felt out of nowhere. (I think I burned my emotional chart in my woodstove last winter, so I can’t be sure.)
I was excited to start my final semester. Stepping back from my secondary projects and the committees I’ve been a part of meant more free time and time to spend enjoying my village, friends, and family. My language is as good as it will ever be. (They gave me a certificate at COS to prove it.) I’m looking forward to some travel after service. Things are good, right?
And then I started talking to some friends, who said they had been inexplicably feeling the same way. And then I figured it out. (Technically, my friend Steph made the discovery.Thanks Steph!) For years now, Peace Corps has been the domineering focus of my life.
From thinking about applying to applying. (Twice, because my application got erased during the government shutdown. #thanksObama.) From interviewing to getting accepted. (Oh crap! This is really happening!) Putting in notice at my job, packing up my apartment, moving my life into boxes in my mom’s attic. Then the farewell tour, with lots of dinners and drinks and hugs and promises to try to stay in touch more than we knew we would. (I’m really going! It’s happening!) And then we got here and geez, I don’t even remember the first week. My brain was so tired every night during pre-service training, but we were working towards the next step: swearing in as Volunteers.
And now I’ve been a volunteer for two years, and in about three months, I’ll get a new title: Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.
But the next step for most of us won’t be Peace Corps, so I guess that’s been weird. This fixation for years of my life will no longer rank on my priority list. And after talking about it for most of a four-hour bus ride with my friend Steph, I felt pretty good about it. It still feels weird, as any change does, but it just means on to the next adventure. And that’s pretty cool.