So this is it – my last night in Guatemala. Writing this brings me back to writing my first blog post in the Atlanta hotel the night of staging just before embarking for Guatemala. That night seems a lifetime ago – the most striking part being how everyone in that hotel was a stranger to me and now many of them are friends I will have forever. In some ways it seems strange ending now, earlier than expected, but they always told us “expect the unexpected” and really even if given four months more I cannot deceive myself into believing a great deal more would have been accomplished. Being forced to COS early in some ways is a special gift of time for me, for doing things I didn’t realize I’d miss, but am now glad I’m not going to miss. I plan to be home for both my parents’ birthdays, attend my 5 year college reunion, backpack through Asia for a month, complete an economics class, be present for the birth of a close friend’s first child, and seriously begin my job search – all by the end of June.
Peace Corps continues to be in a whirlwind of transformation, making me grateful to be leaving and crave even a mild sense of stability which has been lacking here since the beginning of this year. Peace Corps is downsizing from six to three programs so that the only ones to remain will be the Healthy Homes, Healthy Schools, and Youth Development projects, and even those are set to undergo major adjustments. The sad and troubling aspect of all this is how many PC staff will be losing their jobs in the coming year. Volunteers have already been consolidated to the Xela, Toto, Quiche, Sololá, and Chimal region, and more than 100 volunteers have left, both willingly and unwillingly, since January, leaving just over 100 volunteers currently in country.
One thing I feel good about is that another Youth Development volunteer replaced me, so my work will continue. Riley, a YD volunteer who arrived last year, was displaced from his site in San Marcos due to the various Peace Corps changes, moved to Toto at the end of February, and took over two of Christina’s and two of my schools. So not all the schools are being replaced, but at least those who proved to have the most promise.
I’m glad to have arrived when I arrived and to be leaving when I am leaving. Timing wise Peace Corps happened at the perfect time in my life. It was just what I wanted and what I needed during this part in my life, and had I waited a year or two longer, I know I would never have done it. Nor would I probably have wanted to do it. Or maybe just knowing what I know now, I know I could never want to do this again. I’m grateful to myself for having done Peace Corps and feel like a giant itch has been scratched.
My most recent hold up has cast a dark shadow over my existence here. After a few weeks living in a constant state of panic, a sense of normalcy has returned, but not completely. Motorcyclists terrify me, making waiting for the bus or going on a run unnecessarily difficult. I keep waiting for someone to appear out of nowhere with a gun at any point and rob me of all I own. I keep thinking that I’ll be able to let out a deep breath as soon as I get to the airport tomorrow morning, make it through security, get on a plane and take off, but now that the moment is so near I’m not a hundred percent sure that it will be as simple as that.
If I can say anything about living here and my transformation it’s that I have been truly humbled.
I lived on $2.59 a day and felt like a piece of cattle on a daily basis herded like an animal into buses and other varied modes of transportation to get to work each day. These were the only moments when I felt almost hateful frustration.
I’ve realized how truly privileged I am that this lifestyle was a choice and one that I can and will choose to never live again.
A perceived negative change in myself that seems to vary from standard Peace Corps volunteer mentality at the end of service is that I care less and have less patience. This country has truly tried my patience in ways I never imagined and I have little desire to care for people without a reason to care for them. Good or bad, temporary or permanent, time will tell.
Before closing, I think I should give a little background on who Figaro the fish is or was. Figaro is a fish who lived many lives. Figaro was my goldfish when I was a little girl and he lived a very long life for a goldfish. Once or twice he died, and each time I would replace him with another fish named Figaro. Not until I was much older did I discover that my dad would sneak out many mornings to replace the dead fish before I woke up and that Figaro was not two or three, but indeed a countless number of different fish. This blog was named after Figaro as a reminder that that life will continue whether you are cognizant of it or not and that there are many ways to live within a single lifetime.
Well that is all for now, though there will be more thoughts and revelations, perceptions and memories in the next few weeks, months, and surely years. I am so truly fortunate and grateful for this experience and more excited than ever for where this will catapult me to next.
To my many readers, thank you following and supporting me on my Peace Corps adventure. Hasta pronto.