Stop.

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November 30, 2012

In 16 days I hop on a plane and finish this journey that I’ve been on for two years and three months. Before the craziness of the day begins, I thought I’d take a moment to write down a few thoughts. I’ve realized I haven’t taken any time to stop and take stock of my feelings. Lately I’ve been so busy with this red-eyed determination to finish building my Learning Center that I haven’t really thought much about leaving. There’s a great quote by Azar Nafisi that I just love,

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, i told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.”

There’s a simple truth in that statement that strikes home with me: I have loved this experience so much because it has changed me and I will never be this way ever again. This person, this happiness, this lifestyle, this exhaustion, this frustration, this pulse of the community that I ride every day to make sure my Learning Center gets built – will never be this way ever again. Sure, there will be lots of things to move on to next in life, but this experience has changed me as a young adult. I am more driven, courageous, upfront, patient, understanding, realistic, hopeful, and self-assured than ever before. Peace Corps gave me the chance to spread my wings to see how far I could go and what changes I could make in a small community.

Heck, I’m not saying that I “saved the world” or changed my community so greatly that they’d never forget my name and erect a statue in my honor. What I am saying is that I learned how to be a catalyst for change; I learned how to get the ball rolling.

My lovely mom and I Skyped last night and she asked how I was feeling about my impending departure. I’ve stoked up on coffee legit; I have 18 bags purchased! Some of my college professors also inquired via email about my emotional temperature. The funny thing is that both times I was asked I thought, “I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be fine? Nothing is changing.” I think I’ve been so engrossed in my work that I haven’t had a chance to sit down, look around, and realize that things are going to change drastically and in less than 20 days.

I’m super excited to go home. With the progress we’ve made on the Learning Center (and the fact that we finally spent all the money so I can turn in my final reports so Peace Corps doesn’t have my throat) I feel a lot better. As they say around here ‘si Dios quiere‘ [if God wants it] there will be a married Peace Corps couple moving into to my site to finish out their last year of service. We’ve met and talked about how I envision them carrying on my Learning Center: overseeing the last bit of construction, teaching English courses, setting up the donated computers, etc. I’m excited to see my family and friends; I’ve missed out on the last two years of their lives and I’m excited to know what’s up. I’m excited to live at home without the constant headache that comes with building this Learning Center and troubleshooting daily problems that arise. I can’t wait to get home to the white Christmas lights of Rhinebeck, the quiet hum of my hometown, and the little things that I’ve missed doing: using a personal check out machine at Stop-n-Shop, driving to work, walking to get my mail from my mailbox, dinner with girlfriends, morning coffee with my mom while we’re both still wrapped up in bathrobes, wine on the back porch with my parents, snow, the green sign on the highway that says “Welcome to Dutchess County”, and a bed frame. Trust me, I know I’m into idealizing both my experience here and also my return home [part of the culture shock wave] but sometimes it’s good to just focus on the good things in experiences.

Soon enough I’ll be aching to travel again and leave my quiet hometown. There’s a lyric by Carrie Underwood from her song Thank God For Hometowns that I really enjoy, “Thank God for the county lines that welcome you back in when you were dying to get out.” I will always want to spread my wings, but Rhinebeck is always my home.

On the other hand, Costa Rica has found a way to settle itself into a corner of my heart. I love my site, my region, my coffee, and local friends so much. I didn’t make close friends that I spent every hour of every day with, but I do know about everyone in my community. There have been tons of statements like, “When you come back be sure to contact me because you’re welcome to stay in my apartment!” All the women and I are close and there’s been so many invitations to cafecito (not all which have been acted upon) that I’d be crazy not to feel the love. Yes, in the same breath, because I don’t have many close friends here in site it has also been sort of a solitary living, but it’s been really good for me, I think. My quiet apartment, especially now after crazy days of working, is my little haven.

So right now I’m feeling good. I’m sure they’ll be some huge tears on the plane when I finally have to depart, but there’s been so much good here that I leave smiling. There’s also so much to look forward to at home that I’ll arrive smiling, too. I just have to remember in the these next few days to stop, listen, and take a moment to breathe.

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