Peace Corps puts on a handful of seminars/conferences for us during our time here. Our three-day Close of Service Conference was last week and I have a lot feelings about it.
The seminar was mostly a pat-on-the-back, well-done-you-successfully-finished-Peace-Corps, here-are-some-tips-on-finding-jobs-now love fest. The reality is though that I have three whole months left of service. I wasn’t ready yet for the certificate of completion that my country director gave me. I don’t feel finished yet.
Imagine having a going-away party on Sunday but then going back to your regular job on Monday morning. It will trip you up a little. That’s kind of how the Close-of-Service Conference felt to me.
RELIEF. The day before the conference was the day I officially finished taking care of everything really important I needed to do before going back to America: picked a University and a city to move to, packed up all my favorite Mongolian treasures, and sent my cat-son home to America (more on him in a later post). I could be evacuated out tomorrow and not stress too much about it because I’ve checked all the boxes that were really important to me.
SOLACE. The past 6-8 months have not been so great for me. I felt at times over-worked and under-appreciated and some cultural mores were starting to get under my skin. Reaching this marker meant a lot to me.
GUILT. I like to think I’ve always done my best over the past two years, but it’s hard not to compare yourself to other volunteers and their successes sometimes.
PRIDE. But I did do my best and I did accomplish a lot of great things, damn it!
JOVIALITY. We volunteers are so spread out, I rarely get to see many of them. When we do get together, we make a good time of it. We held a drag show on the last night, and James and I won “Best Lip Sync”!
SADNESS. This was the very last time I would be seeing the M27 cohort together, since we will all be leaving at different times over the span of two weeks in July. Over two years ago all of us met for the very first time at a hotel in Seattle before taking off on our big adventure together. I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons every week for two years over Skype with some of these nerds and I’ll miss it.
PREEMPTIVE NOSTALGIA. I’ll also miss Mongolia a lot, and I was forced to start thinking about how much of my life will change when I move back to America. I still have time to say goodbye to all my Mongolian friends, but this was the official beginning of the “saying goodbye” process.
STRESS. Even though I have a plan for life back in America, all the talk about job-hunting and career advice still got to me. What if I don’t get a job after grad school?!?! What if I don’t get a job during grad school?!?!?! What if I fail at grad school and never find a job again?!?!?
EXCITEMENT. I am so excited to have cheese again I can hardly stand it! Oh, and fish, I want fish tacos, and fish soup, and sushi, and shrimp kebabs, and grilled salmon! And any alcohol other than vodka! I have so much to look foreward too, not even counting, you know, major life changes like getting back into academia.
Our Close of Service Conference was really helpful in laying out options and opportunities we will have as RPCVs (returned Peace Corps volunteers), but the best part of it was getting to see all my PC friends together one last time and helping me shift my mentality toward appreciating all the small parts of daily life here while I still can.
James and I will officially be leaving Mongolia on Friday, August 3, and taking the Trans-Siberian Railway on our way back to America (another thing to be excited about even if my best friend told me I’ve been fundamentally changed by Mongolia if I now think a vacation through Russia sounds “fun”).
We have three months left of service, but I have a feeling they are going to go much too quickly.