It is the end- the end of my Peace Corps service. Honestly, I'm not really sure how to react. How does one sum up 2 years of one's life that have been so fundamental and life changing in the way she views the world? I'm not even sure where to begin on feelings, a mixture of sadness, excitement, and even relief.
My last day in site was lovely. I visited the comedor one last time. No big parties, we'd already had the farewell party, so just a pleasant and normal day of operations. Everything felt virtually the same as always until the end when I had to say goodbye to my volunteer serviadoras. My eyes watered up and I stumbled away from the big wooden shutter doors of the institution I helped to create and for so long had made a home for myself and over 400 kids in Yuty. The girls caught up with me before I could get very far and helped me hold back the tears. I'd already resolved that morning as I tore down my bed and packed the rest of my house to not even bother wiping the tears- more would come.
I walked to barrio Maria Goretti and had planned to spend a few hours with my boyfriend before my evening activities. The chat was short-lived as our time together was coming to a close. I bid farewell to his friends and family, "a pleasure to know you" was all I could manage. This would be the last time I would ever see his house, family, or friends... and all there was left to do was walk away. I greeted people in the streets the entire walk to my barren home almost in a trance. No text messages, no calls. in the plaza I sat down on a brick wall and cried. I called my site-mate to come and find me for some terere. No bother wiping the tears, still more to come.
We headed back to my site-mate's house for our terere date, then to my house for a nap. Hard to siesta with so much on the mind! By mid-afternoon a good friend showed up in another friend's car to take me on one last trip to San Antonio to the home of my best local friend. We watched the sunset in the west over the herds of cattle coming in from the fields afar, we joked around at the pool and snapped photos. My friends took videos of my final moments visiting the baby bunnies, pigs, and alligators at Estancia San Antonio, even my goofing around on the old organ at the chapel onsite. Soon enough it was dark and we headed back to my house for a final goodbye. I had to say goodbye to many things in that one moment. For one, I had to give up my cat Lloron who'd been my best friend and confidant in the animal world since my very first day in site. Two, I had to say goodbye to my close friends. We wrapped Llorn in a towel and his wriggled and cried at his "girlfriend" as my neighbors dog chased her around the house. My friends hopped in the car and rolled way down my dirt road. No bother wiping the tears, still more to come.
I packed up the rest of my house and as requested stopped at my landlord's house for a surprise goodbye party with neighbors. We drank mate and eventually got to pizza and soda. Another close friend with a truck pulled up in the middle of the party to join, signalling that it was time to leave my barrio and more specifically my house for the very last time. After tearful goodbyes with my neighbors, especially the kids, I went and picked the final swiss chard and squash in my garden and loaded the last of my bags in my friend's truck. One last run through, and it was time to close the door on my home and my life in San Luis. No bother wiping the tears, still more to come.
The ride away was tough but once we got to my friend's everything was so new and bright it was hard to be too sad. I had a dinner invite at my host family's house, so I headed over just as the new volunteers coming to replace me rolled in on the bus. The spread at my host family's was HUGE with chicken, beef, and chorizo, salad and mandio too! Yummy! My "nieces" ran around the table, we played with our food, and talked about future plans. Most of all, we laughed and joked about our years together. Sooner than later, it was all over and I was saying goodby to my host brothers, sisters, family and my first home in Yuty. No bother wiping the tears, still more to come.
I then had a final dinner at my friend's house with the new volunteers to tie up all lose ends and turn over my projects. I laughed- MORE meat and salad. Yikes! We laughed, my jaw was hurting already from all the chewing. My new travel adventures with a friend from the UK in mind, we told travel nightmares and hoped for the best. We wandered into bed rather dazed, all of us embarking on new lives. I slept very little that last night and woke up a zombie to the world, staggering to the shower and nearly falling asleep in the luke-warm water. I pushed on to breakfast with my last goodbyes to follow. It was a long morning until that 9am bus. First, bye to my follow-up volunteers with "good lucks" all around. I felt good leaving my projects in capable hands. Then bye to my friend as she dropped me off for a final goodbye to my site-mate. I ran to visit my host sister and roommate on the way to the bus terminal where my best friend, boyfriend, and coworkers from the comedor waited for last hugs goodbye. Final gifts exchanged, hugs and kisses to everyone, and there I was on the bus passing the plaza... the commercial center... the yerba factory... the fields... one last time. By now the full-fledged tears were running down my cheeks. I couldn't bear it any longer as I peered out the windows through my self-produced blur at my little spot on the map- My YUTY. I burst into sobs as we drove away on the red, dust-filled highway north. For the next hour or so I continued to reminisce and wish this wasn't a real goodbye. The bus driver, clearly concerned was sweet enough to give me a free ticket to the capital, "Don't worry," he said, "You just need to relax that's all." Tranquilo, indeed the only way forward. My mood was somber until after 3.5 long hours we hit the pavement and the modern world of Latin America. I finally dried my eyes.
The saddest bits over, time to move on.