Two years can seem like an eternity. Or rather, two years is a long time for someone only a quarter of a century old. Two years is imperceptible and can seem especially slow moving given the abrupt change of pace, the change of settings, the unfamiliarity and being so far away from the familiar.
Even months or a year in, two years is incalculable in many ways. Only until the Peace Corps COS (close of service) conference three months before your departure date, where all the volunteers from your promotion gather around and get the low-down on the readjustment process, does it slowly start to sink in that your time is coming to a close. Your friends are all organizing their plans, trips around the continent or rushing home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. And slowly, people start leaving.
Back at site, people are equally starting to get sad. Inevitably, people have gotten used to the big tall gringo or the weird looking mozungu walking around and can’t really understand why you want to leave. What’s wrong with our town? It’s nice, peaceful. You’ll have a good life here!
The generally agreed upon rule (at least in PC/Peru) is that the first year drags on, and the second goes by in a flash. The first year you’re still establishing yourself, trying to get things moving. You’re still getting a handle on the language, on the culture, on how things move and flow.
But by year two, things are rolling. There’s a little more routine to your day, or at least a few less sucker punches and curveballs. Or maybe you just learn how to hit the curveballs and absorb the sucker punches. And then your time is up.
This is at least what happened to me. While the first year was good, parts dragged on and it was hard to justify one year and feeling like you did nothing, especially when some days were filled with just that (nothing). But year 2 hits and things start running. I’m even thinking back to January and traveling through Arequipa with another volunteer, and it seemed so recent.
The view from my roof
But alas, the COS has come and gone in September, and my fellow volunteers(friends) have been slowly trickling out of the system for the last month or so onto their next step, whatever that may be.
And me? Well, I’m extending service and thusly will be moving down to the big city of Lima to work as a Peace Corps Volunteer Coordinator. My job will mostly entail working in the PC/P office to support two generations of volunteers in the WATSAN program (including site visits), planning training events, and working on programming related matters (compiling stats, working to improve the program). I’ll also be part-time with a partner organization, but no solid details on that as of yet.
So I’m in my final fortnight at site. My family was sad because they saw I was cleaning my room, starting to get rid of clutter to make packing a little bit easier. Conversations with people I’ve grown close to always have a hint of sadness in them, and I’m coming to the realization of limits I’m facing and what will simply have to be passed off to the new volunteer in my site.
Looking down the main street of Sausal
And there’s still the feeling that I could’ve stayed, and I could accomplish a lot with a third year in site. And it’s true – I have a working relationship with the health post and both municipalities. We could definitely get something off the ground. I have a loving family and a place to lay my head. But at the same time, my time is up. The replacement comes into town today, and from there it’s the two-week transition, fill up my backpack and then an ‘Hasta Luego’.
Leaving won’t be easy – I’ve made a bit of a life here the past two years. But there’s always a good reason for the sadness.