Wednesday, September 26, 2007

No long goodbyes

I left my site for the last time (as a Peace Corps Volunteer) on Monday morning, and by Friday I will no longer by a U.S. government employee at all. It's kind of wierd.

The last few days up to my evacuating Agua Fria were pretty busy ones, filled with lots of urgent appointments both work-related and social. It wouldn't exactly be accurate to say I "finished" my "projects", unless you accept a definition of both words so broad that it'd be a statement worthy of an American politician. Nevertheless, I feel pretty good about my service overall. Perhaps I ruminate most often about the specific things I really wish I'd done and hadn't, but I think it's in my nature to concentrate more on negative outcomes and think about what I should've done differently or how to fix existing problems. As others have pointed out, I am typically my own biggest critic.

Leaving Agua Fria was harder than I expected. Up until the last couple days, I hadn't thought about it that much, and I don't think most people were all that clear about when I was actually leaving, so it wasn't until those final days that I was really saying a lot of goodbyes to people and imagining what it would be like not to see them again. Based on the kind of conversations I had throughout the rest of my service about my eventual departure, I was a little apprehensive about the goodbyes because I expected them to contain a large amount of people asking what stuff I was going to give away when I left. It was an extremely pleasant surprise that, when it really got down to the last few days, I heard almost none of this. Just people telling me how sorry they were that I was going, that they'd miss me, that they appreciated the work we'd done, and that they hoped we could stay in touch somehow or that I would come back to visit sometime. It was very touching. Suddenly, it seemed a lot harder to leave than I'd expected.

On Saturday, my final day with the Maestro en Casa kids, we had a little party and cut a cake, and they all signed a Maestro en Casa uniform shirt for me to take home. That same day, I went down to talk with the captain of the soccer team I'd played with most often, to see about exchanging the team's old ball (signed by all the players) for a new one that I'd bought the previous week. Instead, they decided to give me a signed team jersey, since the old ball was so stripped and soggy that it was impossible to write on. They also decided to plan one last soccer game on the following day, Sunday, my last day in site.

The game was a typical one for us, on a rocky and rutted field in hot, humid weather and played rough. I got a going-away present from the other team of severely overextended quad muscle that I haven't hardly been able to bend past 90 degrees until today, but before that happened I managed to sink a penalty kick (my teammates insisted that I take it) and we went on to win 5-4. After that we signed the jersey and talked about all the fun times we'd had.

Later that evening there was a small going-away party in the cooperative's office, with wonderful food made by one of the women members, orange juice, and coffee. Just some of the people I had worked most closely with were in attendence, and we talked mostly about the different projects we'd done, expressed appreciation for each others' contributions, and speculated about the future of middle-school education in Agua Fria and the coffee cooperative. It was really nice; ideal for my personal preferences. I got some more going-away presents and everyone went home to sleep at bedtime around 8:30 pm. :)

That's pretty much all that happened worth mentioning. I've been in Tegucigalpa since yesterday now, and will be here until Friday (and maybe Saturday) fixing administrative issues and doing my final medical tests. I was invited to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new trainees tomorrow at 11 am, which should be interesting. Working with them has been kind of like watching my own service come full circle.

I'm going to miss being part of an organization that I'm proud to be part of. I don't think I've especially felt that way about other labels I've carried previously in my life, besides maybe family surnames. High School Student at Lakeside. Kid from Washington. Geology Student at Western. Cross-Country Runner. I just didn't have any emotional attachment to them (but then, I've never given much of a damn about being a member of any specific group anyways). But I've truly enjoyed being able to say that I'm a Peace Corps Volunteer. I guess now I understand a little better that aspect of the appeal of political parties and religions - belonging to something you believe in.

After I officially sign myself out of service on Friday, my general plan of action until Sam gets here October 9th is to go see some of the cool stuff on the north coast of Honduras that I've never gotten to see yet (like the national parks and wildlife preserves, which are reportedly awesome; the best in the country), and visit a couple volunteer friends on my way back. It should be good times. I'll try to keep some small updates posted here.

One more thing before I end this post - I took my Spanish interview yesterday, and got rated Superior (the highest level you can achieve in the type of evaluation we use). Considering where I entered the country at, this is an achievement worth feeling good about. And I do, very much so. It was a goal I'd had for myself but was more wishfully hoping than expecting to achieve. Going into the interview I didn't feel like I was doing very well, and expected to get what most other people in my group who started at a comparable level to me got - Advanced High. I was pretty psyched when I heard the result, and have been feeling awesome about it since yesterday. Now I can officially claim (with evidence to back it up) that I am fluent in my second language. Schwing!



At 6:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gabriel. Nostros, tu familia, estamos bien orgullosas de ti. Bien hecho! Chido! Felicidades!
Te esperamos con mucho amor. Que tenga un buen viaje en el norte!Mis amigos de Honduras, Carlos Hausauer y su esposa, quisieran platicar cuando regresas. Tambien, tengo un nuevo amigo de tu edad que trabaja como maestro para mi de vez en cuando, y el trabaja con la gente indigena en Burlington. El vive con un Hondureno que acaba de regresar de Honduras y un proyecto de agua ahi. Hasta pronto.
Tu mom

At 8:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gabe, does schwing mean dood?
ant nance

At 8:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I mean,
hormiga nance

At 7:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bien hecho, mi hijo.

Pap Finn

At 9:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Gabe. This is Bernardo and Andrea! Nice blog! That is cool that the community did all that for you. Enjoy your trip!

Congrats on Superior by the way!


At 12:20 PM, Blogger pineconeboy said...

Thanks for all the comments... what's up, Bernardo and Andrea? You guys back in Texas?

schwing is like, woohoo!


At 10:48 PM, Blogger C said...

Well Done Gabe :) An experience you will never forget! Get back safe.

At 4:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Gabe, It is Bernardo. Yeah, we are in San Antonio, TX and is slowly growing on us. Andrea is in law school and I am looking for a grown up job.



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