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.