Sunday, August 25, 2013

Jeff Says Good-Bye

There are some posts that I can pump out in a split second, and there are others that I just can't put into words. It's easy to write about things that are unique to life in Peru; however, it's the things that are unique to life in Peace Corps I have a hard time explaining. Peace Corps is a sub-culture within a culture, a job like no other, and sometimes it just can't be expressed accurately. Therefore I've been putting off writing about Jeff's last days in site for a long time now (he left in late July), just because I didn't want to have to stretch my brain around it. However, now that my last day in site has come and gone too, I need to share Jeff's story first, before I can get to my own.  Here I go:

Jeff's last hours in-site included a best 2 out of 3 basketball game versus the Big Sky Bomber. Jeff in the past was a heavily recruited power forward, and played some simi-pro ball for a league in Battle Mountain, Nevada; however, now a few steps slower, he had his hands full getting shots off against me. But in the end, I let him win... it was his last day (see the video):

In addition to this, I followed Jeff around trying to snap as many pictures as possible with the idea that the more awkward I made things, the less sad this good-bye would be.  

Jeff's middle school basket ball stance. Look at those mountains in the background!

Although it was Jeff's last hours in Huaylas, where he had spent 24 months helping develop youth, he never stopped working. Here he is explaining to a young child where to seek career guidance after graduating high school. 

Jeff's last evening in the Huaylas Plaza looking towards the Cordillera Blanca.

Jeff's last minutes with his great host-family. Inez, his mom (far left and a very sweet lady), took Jeff's going away pretty hard. 

"Brian" slips into the far left for a picture (Jeff's host-dad reportedly would talk very fondly of "Brian" during family diners, as if he "Brian" were old Army buddies. Jeff and I didn't have the heart to tell him my name is Brice). 

Jeff, Valetin, Inez, and Milagros at the diner table were lots of stories were shared. 

Jeff makes one last stop at his health post to say good-bye. 

Jeff, Berta (his original host mom) and a nurse from the Health Post stand in front of the Ambulance. This picture is interesting because, Jeff's first ride up to his site was in this ambulance. The health workers were in Huaraz when we first arrived 2 years ago, and decided to drive him site; however, when they turned on the siren, they didn't know how to turn it off.  Meaning Jeff blew into his sleepy little site with the horns and lights blaring! Not subtle entrance. 

Jeff and the family outside his room right before he walks away with his life belonging in his 2 bags. It was tough to watch his mom cry, while Jeff and his host-dad exchange manly, and very broad generalized and open-ended good-byes.  

Valetin helps with Jeff's bike as Jeff heads to catch his combi*. Jeff headed from Hualays to Caraz, then to Huaraz, then to Lima, and is now in Las Vegas, NV (talk about a shocking change). 
For me it was tough to see my right-hand man in the Peace Corps leave for good. No longer did I have the comfort of knowing Jeff was only two hours away, or that I could call him to talk if, I needed to. Jeff and I shared some pretty notable ups and downs. I have fond memories of our times together (i.e. teaching Jeff the importance of always carrying a flashlight; sharing the meaning of integrity; eating ice cream while voicing our disbelief that we've been 'in-country' for a whole 7 months! (a personal record for me at the time); and, the night he ran down the last combi leaving Huaylas to arrive to Yuracoto to help me through a notable rough patch). We shared a lot.

*Unfortunately for Jeff, his last moments leaving site didn't leave him with the best taste in his mouth. During the ride down the mountain (see an upcoming 'insider special'), Jeff forgot his computer bag under the seat. And when he realized it, the bag was gone. Meaning he lost his computer, kindle, camera, and passports (less than a week before having to leave the country). Not the last thing you want to remember about your service.