Oh no, not another energizer, I thought as I dragged my chair backwards to join my fellow Peace Corps Rangers in the middle of the room. We gathered in a circle with bated breathe, what’s this morning going to bring. Grace explained the rules to us, we were going to appreciate each other by standing in the center and telling one person how much they mean to us and what impact they’ve had on our service. People choked back tears and hugged one another, divulging how someone has come to their aid. After a few of these moments the tears began to flow. I moved to the center and as I stood there, I wanted to tell Richie what a great friend he has been to me through the good times and bad. All that came out was one squeak and a half sentence before I couldn’t control the sobs.
For the past month I’d bottled up a lot of emotions. Despite all the terrible things that have happened recently, I hadn’t really had a good chance to cry. After being cooped up in a house with 20 other people for way too long, I could feel the frustration building up inside me. Coupled with the emotions from the past month, I quickly discovered that I couldn’t hold back anymore. During the sessions, I would find my eyes welling with tears just at the thought of saying goodbye. I looked around the room at the 20 other people who’ve shared this experience with me. As I glanced at each face, I remembered fondly tales from training or adventures we’ve shared. My mind has been so focused recently on the future, that I haven’t stopped to remember the impact these people have had on my life. Even though I don’t get along with everyone, each person has still taught me something about myself.
How do you say goodbye to the only people who understand what we’ve been through? The only people who understand how frustrating it can be to have people scream “white person!” at you constantly. The only people who understand what tro or taxi aggression is? The only people who will understand references to “PST” or “I’m coming.” The only people who’ve been there to comfort me during the times when I was actually scared.
As COS conference ended and I briefly returned to site, I truly realized what a special experience this has been. I’ve met people who have changed my life. I’ve worked on my dream project. I’ve tested my limits. I’ve challenged my assumptions. I’ve lived broke and poor. I’ve had to beg for food because I had no money. I’ve learned skills that simply can’t be taught. I’ve cried and I’ve screamed and I’ve pleaded, but I’ve survived.
I don’t know where I’ll end up or what I’ll be doing, but I know that Peace Corps has forever changed my life. I am not saying goodbye in 67 days. I’m not saying goodbye to my friends, partners, and way of life. I will carry it with me for the rest of my life, how could I not?
Watch out America, you are not going to recognize me.