At the eight months left mark of your Peace Corps service, you will want to quit.
At the seven months left mark, you will want to quit.
And at the six months left mark, that quitting feeling is still lingering.
Five…four…and you get the idea.
But then, you suddenly only have three months left, and then 2.5 months left, and then you start feeling like your Close of Service (COS) day is the day you die.
You start to understand the cliche, “Live today like your last,” and you do what you want, change your priorities, and make things happen. Every day until the day I die, or COS, I plan to do something, like…
Go to my village’s dance club.
I never stepped foot in that club for the past two years because of fear of judgment, but you know…if you die, judgment doesn’t matter. I have to make sure to take a solid two hour nap to keep up with the Colombians. They party until sunrise and I usually sleep at 9 pm. I can do this.
Hang out with someone each day.
Hanging out with people requires a full day. In Colombia, you get invited to hang out and it’s expected you spend the whole day hanging out and even spending the night. It involves an activity such as visiting a landscape, seeing animals, finding and picking fruits, eating a huge lunch, maybe taking a nap (in my case) and then talking a whole lot. That is a description of one day I hung out with a neighbor friend and his sister. Parents of my students would always ask me, “Teacher, we haven’t seen you in a long time, let us know when you can come visit. You can come anytime.” I always made excuses, but today onward, I won’t anymore.
Spend time with my neighbors and the kids of my village.
The ICT4D committee of Peace Corps Colombia worked really hard for the volunteers to rent out projectors. Thanks to them, I will borrow a projector during my last month to show movies and video clips to brainwash them into taking care of the park and community. haha. I realized during my service I am not much of a kids person, but without them, I would not have experienced some of the most touching moments of service:
When Arlei David learned how to spell his name. I can’t take credit for this because Arlei and his mom practiced a lot, but I will say I did nag them a lot.
When Dianis learned to read books so quickly. I was blown away the last time we read together. I am so proud of her.
When Dianis asked me to sit with her and talk outside of our houses when the power went out.
When a ton of kids came to help me during the park clean-ups when I felt like giving up on the park project.
When you feel the way I do, as if you were going to die soon, you start getting teary-eyed about all the things you will miss.
Like my boyfriends. There was boyfriend #1 and there’s #2 and #3.
Boyfriend #2’s name is Regala’o and #3 is Alfonso.
Regala’o and Alfonso would call me every dang day to talk about the same thing: ask me how I was doing, where I was, and would end the conversation with Dios le bendiga, God bless you! I remember when I was sick, they’d call me non-stop and Regala’o brought me medicine and Alfonso brought me eucalyptus leaves and a ton of oranges. At first I really regretted giving them my number and would think their incessant phone calls were very annoying, but I am truly going to miss them and their calls.
Like the greetings from people you know and even strangers on the streets, in the schools, in the buses, the elevators, the bathrooms, everywhere.
Here in the Coast of Colombia, we greet, greet, and greet. I will miss the kids in my village screaming HOLA ANGELL or GOOD MORNING ANGELL. Unfortunately, the kids would greet me, good morning, when it would be 6 pm in the evening. Oh well, their intent is good enough. I am really going to miss my twin neighbors, Dianis Sofia and Arlei David. They always say hi to me. At first, Arlei David thought I was a weirdo speaking another weird language and never even looked at me. But now, he screams my name and gives me a hug! I guess I won his trust after two years of being his weirdo neighbor.
Like the sharing of food and snacks.
In Colombia, if you visit someone’s house during meal time, whether or not you know them well, there will be a plate of food for you. I always thought this was so weird. I would so conveniently come in time for lunch (without expecting lunch) and voila, the host would serve me a plate of food. I would feel so guilty visiting during lunch time and not informing the host beforehand that I’d be there and clearly saying I’d be there for lunch. I would also feel pretty shameful for not bringing anything to share, but in a Colombian kitchen, there’ll always be food for that plus one. They would always tell me, your presence is enough.
Like my Colombian friends accompanying me to run boring errands with me in Santa Marta city.
In the States, I would always do boring errands, driving around all over by myself to do these mundane tasks. I would not even bother to ask someone to accompany me to these things, but in Colombia, my friends offer to tag along. They are patient with me and we spend quality time in this way by doing boring errands with me! Thanks Zeneth and Miguel.
Like being so well-known and so dang popular on the Troncal del Caribe.
From Tayrona Park to my teeny tiny village and beyond, the people know me as THE ENGLISH TEACHER. I stick out like a sore thumb, so it is hard to miss me. The only problem with this is when I try to go out and not be THE ENGLISH TEACHER and am outside the school setting. Students would see me and they report to me that they saw me doing so and so. Nevertheless, I will sure miss being the star of the show.
But before the dreaded day of death or COS, I will fortunately (if God wills it) get to see something that my community and I worked really hard on.
After almost a year of clearing out and cleaning the old, abandoned park lot with my community, I am very humbled to say that my village with a population of less than 1000 will have a new park with exercise equipment. We received a $71 million COP/$24,000 USD investment to construct this park from Fundeban, a foundation of a Colombian banana company, C.I. Tecbaco S.A.
I have to thank the kids who always participated and helped out, my fellow PCV friends near my site, and my host mom who gave me hope in the project. I hoped at least we would be able to create our own community space with a roof and places to sit with the collaboration and skill sets of my community, but we aimed a little higher, nagged a little stronger, and didn’t give up. It took a lot of connecting and constant following-up with the president of my village, the ex-president, banana workers and managers, and neighbors to coordinate this investment without outsider aid.
But, we did it.
And I am so glad I didn’t quit because I can’t wait to show you the constructed park as soon as it is completed.
I hadn’t been able to update my blog as much as I wanted to these past two years. However, I still plan on blogging about my life even after service to describe the Colombia hangover I will feel when I step on Texas soil.
I want to give a shout out to Brianna, a PCV from my cohort, for creating a video about Home in Colombia and submitting it to the Peace Corps video contest of this year. It truly sums up the kind and generous culture of Colombians. The other video is her compilation of questions and answers by interviewing all of the volunteers of my cohort, CII-8. Thanks for reading and watching. 😀