Friday, February 28, 2014

Peace Corps Day

Happy 53rd birthday, Peace Corps!

Tomorrow is Peace Corps Day, and I cannot help reflecting on the impact Peace Corps has had on my life. Okay, to be honest, I reflect on it almost daily. I think of some aspect of my time in Suriname every single day. But I'm not going to write about that today. If you're reading this blog, you've probably read it before. You already know some of my stories and experiences, and you know how thankful I am to have served in Suriname. So, I'll get nostalgic and sappy about all that another time.

This time, I just want to talk about Peace Corps. The Peace Corps is one of the greatest ideas to ever come into existence. My Country Director in Suriname, George, talked a lot about how interesting it is that a government would have an agency dedicated to promoting peace and friendship. It is really interesting, and regardless of which political party you associate yourself with, The Peace Corps is something that, as citizens of the world, we should be incredibly thankful for. It's also something that as Americans, we should be incredibly proud to call ours. The commitment Peace Corps and Peace Corps Volunteers make to the countries they serve, is one of the greatest commitments Americans can make to the world. And America.



This is one of my favorite ads for Peace Corps. So much of being a Peace Corps Volunteer is about serving in another county and culture, but it's also about what happens after service, and returning to America. 

Peace Corps Volunteers are the best kind of people. Read more about what they dedicate two years of their life for in other countries, and know that for the rest of their lives once they return, they're better because of it. Their country of service is better because of it. America is better because of it. The world is better because of it. 

And for goodness sake, if you ever meet a Peace Corps Volunteer or Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, thank them for their service. 


We will only send abroad Americans who are wanted by the host country - who have a real job to do - and who are qualified to do that job. Programs will be developed with care, and after full negotiation, in order to make sure that the Peace Corps is wanted and will contribute to the welfare of other people. Our Peace Corps is not designed as an instrument of diplomacy or propaganda or ideological conflict. It is designed to permit our people to exercise more fully their responsibilities in the great common 
cause of world development.

Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy. There will be no salary and allowances will be at a level sufficient only to maintain health and meet basic needs. Men and women will be expected to work and live alongside the nationals of the country in which they are stationed - doing the same work, eating the same food, talking the same language.

But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps - who works in a foreign land - will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace.

-John F. Kennedy

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Being Home Missing Home

I have been meaning to write this post for a couple of months now. I was hoping that by putting it off, time would slow down for just a second. I want to stay in this sweet spot of, "Oh, I just got back from Peace Corps service," for as long as possible. It makes blowing my readjustment allowance and sitting on my parents couch okay. It makes it okay that I don't have a job yet. I hope it makes it okay that I'm not really looking for one that hard.

Some things are still okay and acceptable because I lived in the jungle for two years. I'm okay with that. I will be working for the rest of my life, so I'm not rushing the job thing. I mean, my roommates are okay—they feed me and periodically drop me off to meet friends. Basically I'm a middle schooler that can drink beer. Admittedly, it's possible I'm a little too comfortable with my current lifestyle.

I love being back in America, but the longer I've been back, the longer I've been away from Suriname. The longer I've been away from Suriname, the longer I've been away from my village and Beta and the kids. I worry that with the passage of time comes forgetting. I chatted with Beta a couple of days ago, and I was so nervous because I thought maybe I had forgotten how to speak Saramaccan. I haven't, but it definitely isn't as fluid as it was six months ago. The longer I've been away from those kiddos I love so much, the more they've grown. Selfishly, I don't want them to forget me. I hope they think of me every day, because I sure do think of them all the time. It's hard knowing the time since I've seen my village is only going to get longer.

I have talked about my experience so much since I've been home. I've discussed it formally on three occasions and whole lot more over dinner and drinks. It seems like everyone wants to know what I miss most about the Peace Corps and Suriname.

Here are the top 3:

The people. I miss my village and the friendships I have there. Which is hilarious, because if you had asked me nine months ago what my biggest frustration was, the short answer would have been the same. Our lifestyles are so different. It was sometimes hard to integrate into a new culture and maintain my sanity, but the people and the relationships are the reasons I survived two years in the jungle and completed my Peace Corps service. I didn't cry climbing into that boat for the last time because I was saying goodbye to my latrine and bucket baths. It was the people. Loving them is what made it easy to stay when staying was the hardest thing to do. I miss them most.

The WOW moments. I miss those moments when the reality of what I was doing would smack me in the face. In those moments I could take my mind's eye high above where I was and picture myself so tiny in the scheme of the world. I remember in those moments thinking that nothing else this cool could possibly be happening anywhere else. I remember being so thankful that of all the places in the world, I was right there, experiencing that exact moment. These moments weren't always ones of achievement or success, in fact they hardly ever were. They were almost always quiet moments with people. Moments like traditional ceremonies and getting all dressed up in traditional clothes. Moments in a dugout canoe floating through Amazon jungle. Moments of sweet calm with children on my porch, even if it didn't last that long. Moments of sewing and shelling peanuts with Beta. Moments of holding and kissing new babies. And every little moment of people stopping by my house as I prepared to move away.

SUR 17. I miss my Volunteer friends. We are bonded by something unique. I miss complaining, rejoicing, and dancing with them.

I also really miss this chicken sandwich I used to eat in the city. The restaurant was being remodeled when I was there last. I'm still not over it.

I don't think time is going to slow down, so I will embrace it. I will embrace it with the continued support of hot showers, brunches, and all the other stuff that makes America the Beautiful.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Final Peaces


It’s more than hard to believe that my time as Peace Corps Volunteer has come to an end. I have spent so much time in the last few weeks reflecting on this journey and all that I have gained and learned. It’s been a wild ride. A wild ride that I will be forever grateful for.

I don’t remember the first time I said it. I don’t remember if it was even my original idea, but at some point as an undergraduate I told the first person, “Oh, maybe I’ll join the Peace Corps,” as a response to their “What are you going to do with a degree in international studies?” It sounded like a really good response, and it stuck as an option I would rattle off when asked. The truth was that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life after college. (I have a better idea now, but I’m still trying to nail that down). At some point I decided I should look up this Peace Corps thing. I had a very basic knowledge of the Peace Corps and thought it would be a good idea to research the organization if I was going to keep verbally and potentially committing myself to it. I looked it up. A two-year commitment? Two years in another country? In a developing country? This needed some serious thought and prayer.

Eventually I just knew it was the right thing to do. I applied. I knew two things when I applied: 1. I was going to be sent somewhere with giant spiders and 2. I was going to Africa. I could feel it in my bones. Also, in my stomach when the thought of a tarantula made me vomit a little. The day I finished the application, I told my parents that not only had I applied, but also that I told the Peace Corps I would go anywhere the organization would send me. They were not shocked, but they still needed to be parents and have their say. And they did. They weren’t completely on board, but I was convinced and knew in my heart that this was right. I asked them to pray about it too.

The next five months were full of completing medical clearance and waiting. And waiting. And frantically checking online to see if any updates had been made to my status. And waiting.

In January 2011, my invitation came. I was at one of the part-time jobs I had landed since moving back in with my parents. My mom brought the package to me at work and we opened it together. “The Peace Corps invites you to serve as a water and hygiene sanitation Volunteer in Suriname.” Suriname. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure where Suriname was located. It didn’t matter. I was going to be a Peace Corps Volunteer! I accepted the invitation. I was thrilled. And people were thrilled for me. More than ever I knew this was the right decision. I spent the next four months spending time with people I love and obsessing over what to pack into two bags for two years. Also, I spent a lot of time preparing to see giant spiders. As it turned out, I was not going to Africa, but the spider thing, of course that one would be true.

For those interested, this is where I stand with the spiders after two years in the jungle: If you knew me well before Peace Corps, or were ever lucky enough to witness me encounter a spider, you know it wasn’t pretty. Well, I’m better now. Like, so much better. I’m basically cured. When I see a spider now I don’t have to cry or run away or roll around to get the invisible spiders off of me. It’s a real time saver. Okay, honestly, I still wish I hadn’t seen the spider to begin with because they are still so damn nasty and unnecessarily big, but you get it.

As my departure date grew closer and closer, I was more and more excited, but I also became more and more nervous. The night before I left, and after filling out my life insurance form with my mom, I was terrified. I didn’t talk about it, but I was scared. Regardless, I knew without a doubt that this was the right thing to do. I hadn’t chosen this for myself; this was the plan that was chosen for me, the one I had prayed for. I had to go. And yeah, maybe I was wrong about the whole Africa thing, but this, this I knew. I knew without a single doubt, scared or not, this was right.

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, then you pretty much know what’s been going on since then.

And now it’s ending. Today I rang a bell to close out my service. In less than 24 hours I will be en route to Mississippi. I will be a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. There are only about 200,000 people that understand how good that will feel and what an honor it will be. Some days, even here at the end, I still cannot believe I get to be a part of this group and the legacy of Peace Corps. I’ll say it: It’s a big deal. And I hope through this blog, I have been able to open eyes to what Volunteers are giving two years of their lives to be a part of. It is no small thing, and I am beyond thankful that my eyes have been opened to that truth.

It’s often hard closing a chapter and moving on to the next in life. However, in my experience, that means it was a helluva chapter and totally worth writing in the book of your life. This chapter is no different. Even though there were days I wished for it to wrap up a little quicker, I’m sad. I had to say goodbye to people I may never see again. My first place was in the jungle, and I had to walk out of that house for the last time. I had to hug and kiss those sweet kiddos for the last time. I had to get on that boat knowing I wouldn’t be spending a week in Paramaribo and going back to Malobi. I left my home of two years knowing I may never return to see it again. It was always going to be sad. I hoped and prayed for it to be sad. The past two years would have been kind of a bust if it weren’t sad.

I know I’ve said this before, but even on the hardest, loneliest, and most frustrating of hard, lonely, and frustrating days, I knew this was exactly where I was suppose to be for these two years. I never ever doubted that. I will forever be thankful for the peace that came with knowing I was in the right place. For all I know, it was the only thing keeping me here on those hard, lonely, frustrating days. And I truly cannot imagine my life at this point had I not stayed despite all the things that were tough. 

I will continue to write on this blog about my life after Peace Corps and the lasting effects of my service, so stay tuned. Don't expect anything soon. I've got an iPhone to buy. And then I have to learn to use it. Thanks so much for keeping up with my life and supporting me throughout this journey. "Lives of service depend on lives of support."-Tracy Kidder. 

And now, because everything about this decision was right from the beginning, when people ask about my time in the Peace Corps, I’ll get to tell them all about the time I lived in South America, in a country called Suriname. However, if you’ve been following this blog, seen any of my pictures from the past two years, or been lucky enough to hear the second language I speak, you understand, I’ll tell them I lived in South America, but I'll also have to tell them that I spent the majority of my Peace Corps service in Africa. After all that, it was Africa.  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Lasts

I moved out of my site a few days ago. It still does not seem real that I won't be going back after a week in the city. It's strange to say the least.

June 18 was a big ole day of lasts. I woke up and drank my last cup of instant coffee, for the last time, in my jungle house. I gave away the last of my things and packed for the city for the last time. I cooked my last box of macaroni and cheese, for the last time, on my jungle stove. I took my last bucket bath after catching water for the last time.

That night I sat with Beta, trying to breathe in my last moments in Malobi. Women were sitting at her house, braiding hair and gossiping. They would look over at me periodically and talk about my departure the next morning. I held back the tears. I kept trying to take mental snapshots of the scene. Eventually the women left, and it was just Beta and me sitting at her house the way we had almost every single day that I was at site. I took another mental snapshot. I did not hold back the tears that came after that one. She hugged me and told me to stop crying. I tried. She took my hand and told me that when I cry, she feels it. She understands. She didn't cry, but the way her face looked, I knew we were feeling the same way. You see, Beta has been my best friend since my first day in Malobi. We were destined to have a special relationship. I didn't know it when I moved to site, but Beta would be the one to teach me so much about Saamaka culture. Beta didn't know it when I moved to site, but I would be the one to sit with her dying child in the last days of her life. That's not a small thing for either of us. We're bonded for life. And not because we helped each other when things were hard, but because we love each other enough to help each other. I will be forever grateful for her friendship.

As we sat at her house the night before I left, we talked and we didn't. We hugged a lot and I cried a little. It was quiet for about ten minutes, and we had both been looking at each other periodically. We both knew that eventually I was going to have to leave. And so I did. I looked at her and said, "Beta, mi o hopo," for the last time. I left her house for the last time. I walked to my house and locked the door from the inside for the last time. I fell asleep to the sound of the rowdy bats that live in my ceiling for the last time.

The next morning, the twins woke me up about 6:30. I opened my door to find them all ready for school, looking precious as always and melting my heart. I hugged them for the last time.

A few hours later, I hugged Beta for the last time. She walked me to the river, and I climbed into a dugout canoe for the last time. I cried as I rode away from my jungle home for the last time.

Some folks said that leaving their sites was hard. I won't say that. I have had really hard days in Malobi. The day I left wasn't one of them. Believe me, I was super sad. But also believe that I stepped into that boat all by myself. No one had to push me or carry me, kicking and screaming. No, it wasn't hard. I've had two years to prepare for the end. It was always going to be sad, and I'm thankful for that. The last two years would be a waste if I had not formed relationships that mean so much to me.

I am sure I will be sad again at some point, but right now I'm excited and relieved. I am so thankful that this opportunity was given to me, and I am so proud that I took it.

In one week I will fly back to America. I hope my family and friends are as ready as I am. No, let's be honest, they are. I know that.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Marathons

Tomorrow I am going back to Malobi for the last time. The next time I get on a boat to come into the city will be the last. My time as a Peace Corps Volunteer is quickly coming to an end. For the most part I am excited, but there are occasional bouts of shock and sadness mixed in with the oh-my-gosh-i-just-can't-wait-to-get-back-to-America feelings.

I cannot say it enough, but I am so grateful for those of you that have been reading my blog, praying for  me and my village, and sending your letters and packages full of support and delicious treats. These last two years would have been even tougher and less fulfilling without you. Thanks. Gaantangii!

I don't know exactly what the next steps will be, aside from coming back to Mississippi and spending time with people I love, but I am ready to find out. I do know that it's going to involve a lot guacamole, cheeseburgers, and craft beer. And so, for that reason (and a few more) I have committed to run 26.2 miles for St. Jude on December 7. Running a marathon has been on my mind since I ran a half marathon in 2010. You can check out my fundraising page and donate to the children of St. Jude here.

Peace Corps service has been a marathon. It has tested both my mental and physical strength, as well as my endurance and my confidence in my abilities. I am stronger and better for it. I know the road to running 26.2 will be just as hard at times, but, just like Peace Corps, I cannot wait to say, "I DID IT!" And just like Peace Corps, I cannot wait to see the difference it makes in my life and the lives of others.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Next Steps


The past few days have consisted of me being in Paramaribo and writing final reports and such in preparation for closing out my service. It’s overwhelming to say the least. I thought it was going to be a piece of cake, but it's been tough.  I have learned and accomplished so much as a PCV, but translating  and consolidating all of that down to about four pages, as well as something a potential employer will recognize as valuable, is hard. The truth is, I have learned a ton about project design, grant writing, and implementing projects, but those are not the things that taught me so much during my service. In fact, those were most often the things that caused stress and frustration.

Let’s be honest, the reason Peace Corps Volunteers are completely terrific people is not a result of grant writing and brushing shoulders with ambassadors, it’s because we take the time to get to know the people that the first world so often forgets about. We learn their language. We hug and kiss their children. And, until we are comfortable enough with the language to politely decline it, we eat their food until it hurts. We find new friends in a tiny corner of the world that most have never heard of, ourselves included before that invitation to serve came from D.C.

And so, moving forward, it’s hard to quantify this experience down to a few bullet points and snippets. I have no doubt that all that grant writing, project design, and stressful project implementation is going to help me land a job, and for that I (and my parents) are so very thankful. But when I think about all that I have gained during this experience, more times that not, it’s the faces of my friends that pop into my head. It’s sitting on my porch braiding my little buddy Zameni’s hair for school the next day. It’s my neighbor Polo singing and playing his guitar as the sun sets. It’s Beta hugging me every single time she sees me. It’s the lady that lives behind me coming over to see if I cooked anything delicious that she can ask me for. It’s watching those precious twins lie in my floor looking at books and making up their own stories, twisting my heart into something that’s going to hurt when I have to say goodbye to them.

Okay, let me just take a sidebar and talk about these kids. I have never been around kids this much. I’ve had babysitting jobs and whatnot, but nothing like this. I have never seen babies learn to walk and call my name. It’s powerful stuff. I’ve held babies before, but only when people gave them to me. I never sought them out. Now, it’s like a reflex. A mother comes to talk to me and her baby is in her arms? I take it. My arms just lift themselves up. When I went to Mississippi in the fall, I had to sit on my hands on the flight from Miami to New Orleans because something told me that the white lady across the aisle from me did not want to me to take her cuddly, squishy baby away from her. It was probably the fact that my arms were held in a position to receive a baby that was not being offered to me. That reflex. 

Another side note, PCVs really should have, like, a card or something to hand to people that we do weird things in front of. It would say, “I’m in the Peace Corps. Sorry I just did that weird thing.” "Also, my mother taught me better."

Back to the babies and kids, but mainly those twins I love so so much. I’m sure I’ve mentioned them before, but Dia and Dio (I know, right?) are six years old and the loves of my life. If I’m home and they’re not in school, they are probably at my house. It blows my mind when I think of how much I’ve come to know them these last two years. Dia is so shy. Most of the time she just wants to be near me. She’s totally content just sitting in silence as I cook or read a book. She has fallen asleep so many times in a chair in my house this way. Dio is all boy and that smile of his melts my heart every time he flashes it my way, which is pretty much every time he looks at me. He loves to climb trees and he sticks his tongue out when he’s being strong or doing something tuff. I look at both of them and think, “Gosh, y’all have no idea how much I love you. Y’all have no idea how much you have changed my life. Y’all have no idea how much I will miss you and pray for you when I am gone.” Will they remember me? Maybe, but it won’t be the same. If I come back in ten years, they’ll be teenagers. I won’t be the Lobi Mai that they wanted to hang out with and look at books with and hug. They’ll be grown up and they won’t need me. One of the toughest parts of closing out service and leaving your country of service, I think for a lot of Volunteers, is being okay with what you did and knowing that what you did was enough. I pray all the time that I have loved those kids enough. It’s going to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done when I climb onto that boat and leave them.

Whew, okay.

So yeah, preparing for the next chapter is tough. When I’m trying to write really intelligent things on my description of service and my resume, it feels like my service isn’t being validated for what it was. Also, living in the jungle and learning another language does something funny to your brain, so it’s tough to pretend to be intelligent. I swear it’s like jell-o most days. I guess maybe that thing about my service not being validated isn’t totally true. Like I said, all that project writing and implementation and working with locals is going to be so crucial to whatever comes next, but sometimes I just want shout, “Hey! I hold babies now!” and, “Oh yeah, that last time I saw a tarantula, I totally did not throw up in my mouth!” (I lifted my feet off the ground as I wrote that). “I can kill tiny fish with my bare hands!” "And braid your hair." "I own a machete and I know the proper way to use it so that I don't cut my foot off!" “Are these skills that would benefit your organization?” "Will you give me a job?" Probably not. However, all those cute boys that are going to take me on dates when I come home will fall instantly in love with me, right? Oh yeah. 

I’ve said it a few times, and I’m going to say it again: I am ready. Despite the days and moments when I know life back in America is going to be frustrating and tough, I am ready for it. I will miss the faces here that I have grown to love and they will miss me, but our lives have always been destined to be different and I cannot stay here. My time in Suriname will end and I will leave accepting that the work I did here was enough. I will leave knowing that so much more was given to me. My Peace Corps service will end, but the lessons I’ve learned will always be with me. The twins’ smiles and hugs will stay in my heart, and I will continue to not vomit when I see spiders. Jobs are important, and I will find one. The thoughts and memories of being loved and conquering fears and learning things I could never have learned without this experience are crucial, and I already have those. As I prepare to leave Suriname and return to the States, I do it with confidence and hope that whatever the next chapter holds will be rewarding and fulfilling. It will be rewarding and fulfilling because of the lessons I take away from this experience and because of the new ones awaiting me. And also because I am going to eat so much Mexican food. 


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Endings

I think this is going to be a long post, so buckle up and let's get to it.

I came to the city on March 26th. But first, I turned twenty-six in the jungle. Friends came to celebrate and we had a great time. Thanks to Kyle, Jamie, Julie, and Jonathan for making my second and LAST birthday in the jungle so special. Twenty-six is going to be a rock n roll year. 


Holi Phagwa was celebrated on March 27th here in Suriname, and a lot of the Volunteers came to the city to take part in the celebration. Holi is a religious spring festival celebrated by Hindus. They believe it is a time to celebrate the colors and abundance of spring, and bid farewell to winter. It was basically a giant party with bands, food, beer, and colored powder. At least that's how we celebrated. It was great fun and I am so glad I experienced the party. Also, I now know what baby powder taste like. It tastes exactly like you think it does. 




SUR 17's Close of Service conference took place on April 3rd and 4th. During the conference we discussed lots of good stuff and information we need to close out our time in Suriname. We sat through lectures and sessions, and did a couple of reflective activities. One of the activities we did is called "Thirty-two Squares." We folded a piece of paper into thirty-two squares, and on each one we were asked to write an experience or event that really stands out when we think of our PC service. On the backs of those squares we were asked to write the emotions or qualities that we gained from those experiences, both professional and personal. 

These are a few of the events and experiences I wrote on my squares: Talking to Momma and Daddy the day I submitted my application to Peace Corps, receiving my invitation to serve in Suriname, starting this blog and the overwhelming support I received, moving to Malobi and calling it home, eating wild (and probably endangered) animals, falling in love with those precious twins I call mine, holding babies, English lessons with my friend, Polo, all of the sicknesses and discomfort two years in the jungle brings, runs through the jungle, hosting my parents in my home and realizing I speak another language, all those funny cultural exchanges, and those days I wanted to pack it all in and leave. 

These are the things I learned or was reminded of through those experiences: I am tough. I am courageous. I am accomplished. I am adaptable. I am thankful. I get scared. I get over it. I was always sure of my place here. I am loved so damn much. 

I was really excited throughout the entire conference. Some of it was emotional, but all of it was informative and useful. Now I begin the process of finishing up all my project reports and writing my DOS (description of service). Changes to a DOS have to be approved by a Country Director, and since my post is closing, and will not have a CD anymore, my DOS is the final say in what I did as a PCV. 

During our COS conference, Ambassador Anania hosted a reception to honor the Volunteers and our work in Suriname. It's always fun to hang out at an ambassador's house. 



On April 5, Peace Corps Suriname hosted our Legacy Event. The event was open to the public, and lots of high-ranking officials from Suriname were invited. The event had a huge turnout! It was so nice to have so many host country folks come out to honor and support the work PCVs have done in this gem of a country. The event included the official passing off of our work to the Ministry of Regional Development, speeches from Ambassador Anania and Suriname officials, as well as a documentary made by Kyle Smithers (the tall, skinny, white guy in my birthday pic up there). 

After the program, there was a reception to keep the mingle fest going. This event was probably a lot of folks last impression and interaction with Peace Corps and maybe even Americans. It was an honor to be a part of it. 

SUR 17s with Ambassador Anania and Acting Peace Corps Director of Global Operations, Carlos Torres

Acting Peace Corps Director of Global Operations, Carlos Torres



At the reception, I was talking to a few women from the U.S. Embassy. One of the ladies asked a great question, "You're not trying to impress anyone. You're not trying to recruit anyone or convince anyone to join the Peace Corps. Are you glad you did it?" My response was quick and simple. "Yes." I told her there were a lot of days that I had to make a conscious decision to stay, but that even on those tough days, even if someone had placed a plane ticket to Mississippi in my hands, I would have chosen to stay. I would have chosen to stay because even on those tough extremely hard I-don't-want-to-be-here-has-it-been-twenty-seven-months-yet days, I knew this is where I was meant to be. I was sure, even when it was hard, that Suriname was meant to be my home for this time. And I think that's how you know something is and was the right decision. Well, that mixed with a lot of struggle, hugs, and prayer. 

Nearing the end of my Peace Corps service is one of the strangest places I have ever been mentally and emotionally. I am so ready, and that makes it hard. But it's hard anyway. And I love people here, but I cannot stay here. I have to say goodbye to them. And not like, "Oh there's no such thing as goodbyes, it's only until next time." No. It's a goodbye like I've never said before. I may never see some of my villagers again. Knowing that and knowing I cannot stay is hard. I am mentally prepared to say that goodbye and cry for a long time tomorrow, so it makes having eighty-four (duh, I'm counting down) days left in Suriname hard. Some days I am so mentally over it, I can't stand it. And then I feel guilty for feeling that way, but then a villager makes me want to punch them, so I don't feel bad anymore. Some days I look at those precious little faces standing in the doorway of my jungle home, and I don't know what I'm going to do without seeing them when I want too. And I cry. And then because I'm crying I asked them to go play and come back later. And they don't, so I know exactly what I am going to do without them. And the village trouble maker kids come over and bully me. Okay maybe it's not bullying, but they won't do what I tell them to do. And that frustrates me to the point of tears on some occasions. I think I can consider it bullying if a twelve year old makes me cry. And they won't listen or go away, so I start to hate them. And then I feel guilty for that, because no one is suppose to hate children, especially not a Peace Corps Volunteer. And then literally within ten minutes, they're angels again and I'm crying for totally different reasons. It's exhausting. And because it's so exhausting, I feel guilty for not wanting to do anything. And then this whole accepting-that-what-I've-done-is-enough process begins. I question if it is, confirm in my head that it is, and then look up to find a naked baby running by my house yelling my name. Obviously at this point I start to cry again. Are you catching on to how insane I am at this point?

If you read all of that and you're still interested in my life, bless you. And know that you and your support are two of the reasons I have been and am still so sure about this completely insane, life-changing, marvelous journey. They are also two of the reasons I cannot wait for the next adventure, because I know I'm ready.