"If you have come here to help me, then you are wasting your time. But if you have come here because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us work together" -Lilla Watson, Aboriginal Activist

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The end, the beginning

So here it is. Here I am, an RPCV, drafting the momentous final Peace Corps blog post. At the beginning of it all, when I was still drafting my posts on bits of scrap paper in my host family's house during training, I often thought about this post, wondering if I'd even make it through the 27 months to be able to write about it. And, in the optimistic moments, imagining my future self writing with wisdom and supreme satisfaction of having laboriously completed my service. And sure, here I am, I made it 24 months and I "finished." I have the signatures from up above that officially denote me as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV). And no, it wasn't easy. And no, I don't have a sense of revelatory accomplishment that I once thought I'd have. I leave with the sense that I could have worked in my village for 5, 10, even 15 years and still not really finished. But I also leave satisfied, if for nothing else for the things I've learned, the knowledge I've gained about the world, about this country, and about myself over the past 2 years. I don't have any grand exit remarks on my work in Campur, because the reality of my service and of development work in general is that things will always be left unfinished. Sure, we got a lot done, but there's also that feeling that I could have done more. I just have to hope that the ball will continue to roll without me. I've left my footprint, and have formed bonds with people that I know won't fade. And I go knowing that this is, as ends tend to be, the beginning of something else.

What has Peace Corps taught me? On the ugly side, it has taught me to jump through hoops, to work the system, and to stay under the radar just enough. On the other hand (the hand that really matters, it turns out) I take away many pearls of valuable wisdom from my daily experience in my Guatemalan village. I've learned my true limits--I've learned what my breaking points are, and how I deal with stress, and sickness, and lack of control when I have no immediate support network. I've learned to entertain myself with nothing more than my own thoughts. I've learned to be humble, that failing is a part of life and admitting those failures and moving on is an important step for us all. I've learned that teaching is probably not for me--that it's not what I'm the best at. I've learned the power of human connection, of simple conversation, of awkward silences over cold coffee. I've learned what loneliness feels like. I've learned to be bolder and more demanding. I've learned to slow down. The list goes on.

Here marks the end of my PC Guate journey and the beginning of another. The PC umbilical cord has been cut; I find myself a traveler with the freedom to go where I please for the first time in what feels like forever. I find myself, also for the first time, a lone traveler with no other agenda than to explore a place, experience new things, and meet new people. And I move on knowing that despite its great imperfections, the administrative hiccups, the bad days, the frustrations, if I could go back two years I'd do it all over again; I wouldn't trade my imperfect PC experience for a perfect one. You take what you get and you run with it. If Guatemalans have taught me anything, it's that.

And with that, I'm off!

*I have decided to keep Cartas de Lejos up and running, despite my finishing Peace Corps. From this point on it will serve as a personal/travel blog, documenting stories and things from my RPCV life.

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