My two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer is up and as of May 23, 2014 I transition to a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, a title I proudly wear. I can’t pretend I’m not a little sad, and I can’t pretend I’m not a little relieved. I like change, and I have been ready for it for a while.
It’s a little sad saying goodbye, as it is and should be whenever it’s a good long term/permanent goodbye. Tuesday I had my last day at the school and was bombarded with tight hugs from teachers, staff and children – with the younger children asking when I’d return. Today my 15 year old host sister (of just these past 6 months after I left my first home) reminisced of the good times she’ll remember- like when we celebrated our birthdays together with cake. In my eagerness to pack up and jet off to my next adventure I need to remember to slow down and respect their goodbyes, because this isn’t just my goodbye but theirs too. I came in this ready for 2 years of culture shock, strange foods, challenges and the unexpected, but to a lot in my rural community I came out of nowhere and they embraced me quickly. I am wholly grateful to Cascade and all the people that have become friends and family to me there and I will never forget them as I know many of them will never forget me.
I am incredibly grateful for Peace Corps, PCJ staff and especially PCV friends who have endured and enjoyed life on Jamrock alongside me. You’re all pretty fucking amazing people that have done, are doing and will do great things (PC must attract awesomeness). To all you who are thinking of, beginning, or in the middle of your service, I’d like to pass on my mantra from the past 2 years; “this isn’t permanent.” Remember this on those days when nothing seems to go right; your project is not working out, no one is listening to you, that rastaman pointed out your getting fluffy (fat), you don’t have anything good to eat, the current is out and it’s hot and all you want is some peace and quiet but your host family is being super loud. More importantly, remember it on those days that don’t suck, those days where you find yourself out in the middle of the bush connecting with people about change, listening to the birds sing while roasting yam on an open fire and drinking a jelly coconut or hanging out at a beautiful beach with Peace Corps friends and a cold Red Stripe. Remember that you chose to be here and you can choose to go back to America. Remember you are lucky to have choices. Remember there are ups and downs and don’t get caught up in either; ride the waves, it can be fun… I promise. You’ll look back and be grateful for all you’ve learned from those downs… I promise. You’ll also really, really enjoy those ups… I absolutely promise.
Living in another country has been all I expected and more. I’ve been challenged in ways I never thought and learned things about myself I never knew and I’ve come to many conclusions including; one: that I’m pretty awesome and two: I’m not ready to live in the United States. As some of you already know, I will not stop calling Jamaica home quite yet. After I visit California for a month and a half I’ll be back, living in a different parish and working on different projects, no longer with the Peace Corps. Soo… 1. Who is going to take the opportunity they missed the first 2 years to come and visit me? and 2. Who is going to help me eat mountains of tacos when I’m in California??