Monday, August 5, 2013

The Final Countdown

I've been punch-dancing my way through life these past few weeks, because it's been just that awesome.

I flippin' did it!

I have approximately 48 hours left on-island.  That means in less than 48 hours I'll be done with my Peace Corps service, I'll leave Jamaica, I'll be an RPCV, I'll be done with stupid long-distance relationship and I'll be back in the first world!!  So many things!!!  It's all too overwhelming to comprehend.  I never thought, as probably most PCVs will tell you, that I would reach this point.  We all secretly and shamefully fantasize about it from the second that we touch down into this crazy and uncomfortable island...shhhhh!

"Two years here?!? What?!?! That's an eternity!!" 

But it's here for me and beyond surreal!!

A lot of what I'm going through, I've gone through before when I left almost 2 and a half years ago - leaving behind all the comforts of home and friends and family to join the Peace Corps.  And now I'm finding myself experiencing some of the same feelings, which is pretty much everything under the sun, (See: pre-Jah).  All the anticipation, the excitement, the fear, the joy, the sadness, the insanity, the stress is boiling up inside me - but ultimately and mainly, I feel very, very fulfilled.

However, the difference between now and then is that instead of speculating and worrying about how things might be, I get to daydream about all the things that I know and love (lattes, sushi, wine).  Even though after two years, I might feel differently about everything back at home and things are bound to have changed, I still get the crazy excitement and butterflies when I think about "The Return".  

Of course, there is a bitter sweetness to it all - leaving here, because it is my second home.  Which is why this is the best time because I feel so excited about both my worlds, my current life here and my future life.  I'm still very nervous about going back - back to all the stress, bills and fast-paced living, but I'm putting all that aside for the moment until I'm actually back, to just enjoy swimming around in all these wonderful emotions.

The last few weeks have been like a crazy time explosion - with school ending the first week in July - we had our school leaving exercise for the grade 6 students.  Then, to my surprise and delight, the school had the most amazing and over-the-top Sending-Off Ceremony for me.  It was like I was at my own Jah-mazing wedding where I got to marry myself (I do and I do!).  I am still over the moon about that.  I sat at the head table with my host mom, principal, and fellow PCVs, decorated with flowers and fancy place settings.  There was a huge buffet dinner that the staff and community cooked, all the teachers sang a melody consisting of "Stand by me" and some Boys II Men.  My principal sang and spoke about my impact here, and so many people came out to tell me how much I mean to them and the community.  I know I sound like I'm bragging here, but I have to talk about it or it's like I won't even believe it myself!  I don't think I ever felt so good about myself.

Telling stories at the head table at my amazing Sending-Off Ceremony

After school let out of the summer holiday I held a summer camp for the second year in a row, and it was just as great as the first year.  I had about 15 children each day, and it went a smoothly as I could have asked.  To top it off, the second to last day, the best thing happened, a parent that helps out at the school regularly decided to continue the camp for the next two weeks.  I think I might have even convinced her to organize it for next summer as well!  For those of you who aren't volunteers, this is a HUGE win, as sustainability is the name of the game.

Last day of camp
After camp, my brother came to visit.  He's never been to Jamaica before, so I got to see the island through his fresh eyes.  Everything became new and fascinating, instead of old and annoying.  I couldn't have asked for a better visitor in my last few weeks here because it was fun and stress free, and gave me a new appreciation for Jamaica.  We ate jerk, jumped of cliffs, climbed waterfalls, swam with baby turtles and had the best time doing it all.

Tip: If you are ever going on vacation to a Peace Corps country, seek out volunteers to show you the hidden gems.  You'll get to see the best stuff on a budget - just make sure to let them use your hot shower if applicable.

Sitting on the dock of the bay with my bro and my wifey
Once he left, I had some time to go the beach and hang out with some of my best friends here for the last time.  Then, over the weekend, my host mom, who is basically the best person even, surprised me with a second going away party.  I couldn't have been more moved.  I feel like the cheesiest person ever saying this, but it's so true - my heart feels so full that it might burst out of my chest.  She and all my friends and neighbors in the community came over to show their appreciation for me.  Each person spoke about how they are going to miss me.  I never thought I could be so loved.  It was the kind of Peace Corps moments that you see in brochures.  

I feel like the luckiest volunteer that ever was. Never did I think before coming here that I would make so many wonderful friends and meaningful relationships.  I am truly blessed and I say that without the least bit of sarcasm. 

Hanging out with my neighbors and friends
It's the best day ever, and I mean really.

I came here thinking I might change the world for the better and I left with my world changed for the best.  

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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