Today was our first day of classes after our OJDA site visit. It was a good day, but everything felt different. Now that we have gone away and come back, we walk with a little more swagger in our step. It’s obvious that we all feel a little more condfident in our abilities to survive and succeed in this still foreign country. And while we have a few more weeks left in town, we are all thinking ahead, to the two years we will spend at our permanent sites.
After lunch today, all of the volunteers met at our hub site for an official debriefing. The desks in our classroom had been arranged in one large circle and we all got ten minutes to tell what we had done over the past week. All twenty of us. In total, that would be about three hours. And while normally that may seem like forever; today, the time flew by. Some stories were funny like Andrew’s director reading him Russian bedtime stories or Kyle showing a local dog who was boss or Megan or Nadia and Aaron finding twin bed after twin bed in every host family they visited. And while listening to everyone retell their stories from the past week, I found myself recognizing how close I’ve grown to these twenty people over the last two months. And today was maybe the first and last (for a while) time that all twenty of us have really sat down as one big group to share stories and laughs. All twenty. I wished we did it more often.
And all twenty of us had such different experiences. We have shared so much in these first few months, but from here on out, it will be a totally different Peace Corps. Still firmly believing that you ultimately decide what your experience will be, you can’t change the fact that you live in a village or a city, or your house has only an outhouse or three indoor showers, a basement, and a Jacuzzi. (Yeah, one of the other volunteers has a sauna/Jacuzzi room; another one will live with a family that has a personal driver, cook, and housekeepers. As we like to say in Kaz 20, “Peace Corps’s hard” (said with whiny intonation). Some of us will be at organizations that expect us to work 9-6 six days a week; some of us don’t actually have organizations. Some are in the city, some town, some village. All of us will freeze for at least a few months, some for a few more. But I know that no matter what, we’ll be there for each other. Within are group there are definite friendships; some people are closer to others. But I feel we are a solid group, and we all have each other’s back. And when we have our close of service conference two years from now, I hope that all twenty of us have made it through our full service. And I will find myself in a familiar situation, sitting in another big circle just like today, sharing memories and stories and laughs with this amazing group of people.
Update: After I wrote this post (on Monday) one of the trainees decided to go home. Andrew decided that Peace Corps wasn't his calling anymore. I wish him the best of luck, and I will miss him.