Saturday, May 11, 2013

Close of Service Conference

I just returned from Lima after our year 2 medical checks and our Close of Service Conference (COS). A conference were all of Peru 17 meets at a pretty posh resort to reflect on our service and prepare ourselves for the transition out of Peace Corps life (Sad and shocking are the two words I'll use to describe that experience. I can't believe it has finally come and gone. I feel like I can remember the whole two years vividly, especially the day I arrived in D.C. and met these people). Anyway, the Peace Corps - Peru 17 ride is quickly coming to an end, and Peace Corps does it's best to help it's PCV to try to cope*.

Reflecting, is a necessary step in moving forward, so we each spent a few minutes sharing about our challenges and successes in site (I think for almost all of us, make a sustainable change was the most challenge aspect). It was fun to finally see all the projects that each of us did (or tried to do). Then after a morning of that, we moved on to how to survive back home.

There was a panel of four Return Peace Corps Volunteers who spoke about what to expect with reverse culture shock, trying to reconnect with people, sharing your experience, and staying sane without boring everyone with "When I was in Peace Corps..." stories. It was interesting to hear their take on things; however, I feel that the information was a little skewed, since all had later taken jobs overseas (either with NGOs or the US Foreign Service) and aren't putting roots down in the states (something I see myself doing... someday).

Then our medical doctor spoke about medical issues possibly related to our service and insurance options. Dr. Jorge is off the the charts smart, and always gives a great presentation (he made the heath insurance charla fun... how is that possible?). During the presentation he showed this video (linked below). It's in Spanish, but don't worry about that, as I feel that it's great visual summary of how a volunteer may look back at their service here in Peru later in their life ** (however, I have to admit we made some pretty cruel jokes about what happens when the screen goes black... funny jokes, but not bloggable material).

Here's the link, enjoy:

PromoPeru 2012 Video

After the insurance talk, we had the Human Resources guy from the US Embassy come and give us some helps with resumes and job hunting. His main point was how to summarize all the impressive things you've accomplished in Peace Corps, and life in general , in a efficient and attention grabbing way (I think about trying to summarize this blog in a few bullet points and my head starts to hurt).  In all, it was very well done with a lot of great tips I'd never heard before (hope it works).

After this, there was a ceremony to thank all of us for our service and then a slide show of the last two years. We received a certificate, a pin, and solid handshake from our bosses, all of which meant a lot to me. But I liked the pin the best. Here it is:

In the end, it was great to see my friends and hear what everyone had planned for the future. Some have jobs, some a going to travel, others are going to back to school, some have no clue, and there's me and about 7 others who've decided to stay one more year. Yep, I'm putting the States on ice for one more year to become a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader (PCVL) in Cajamarca, Peru. I assure you it wasn't a quick or easy decision, but I decided to apply and was lucky enough to be offered a spot, so I took it. Again, as with any choice there's potential drawbacks, but I've decided one more year to help lead and support the Peru 18,19,20,21, and 22ers in Cajamarca was the best choice for me at this time... we'll see. Here's a wiki link to the city I'll be moving to in August.

Wiki Cajamarca, Peru

 Fact of life: Changes are sometimes are scary, but can never be avoided (Wow, I turn 30 and all of a sudden I think I'm the Dalai Lama or something. Hate to see me at 40).

* Honestly I feel like we're all coping from a slight depression. I could see it in our expressions  and from talking to everyone since our return from COS, we've all been sleeping and/or eating a lot. I think there may be a underlining reason for this... lot's of emotions.

** My hope is that this blog helps share Peru and it's people through the eyes of a Peace Corps volunteer. I also hope that it helps show one nerdy guy's life as a volunteer, but now thinking about it, I also wish to give anyone on the fence about volunteer service (domestically or abroad... not just Peace Corps) a gentle push into doing it. So far I have no regrets, and highly recommend it to anyone thinking about it. Just do it. Trust me.