Goodbyes and New Beginnings

Ringing the COS bell
Many of the English Educators group ringing the bell to end their service.

This is my last post as a Peace Corps volunteer (PCV) in Moldova. As you read this, I’ll already be a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, otherwise referred to as an RPCV, and be on a plane headed west. It’s so strange to think that I have spent the past 25 months here in Moldova and that my time here has come to an end. It has been a wonderful journey that I am so thankful to have had.

A last picture with my host mom and host nieces.

The last week has been full of bittersweet goodbyes. I will dearly miss my host family, who has supported and loved me as a daughter. I will miss my host nieces a lot as well- they’ve given me plenty of laughs and cuddles (and a handful of headaches). I will miss my colleagues at school, who helped me navigate a new environment and supported my projects and ideas. I’ll especially miss the two teachers that I taught beside for two school years, Ina and Liuba. They helped translate when I didn’t understand me, and I’m really proud of the work we did together and the friendships we developed. I’ll miss my students, who have been at the center of my work here. They are the ones who often made a bad day better and who made me smile and laugh when things were hard or I was missing home. I’ll miss this village and community, who opened me with open arms. I couldn’t have been placed in a better place, and I loved living in this small, quiet community. And I’ll miss Moldova, with its sunflower fields, bright sunsets, hot bus rides, and beautiful churches.

A surprise farewell party at the school.

The goodbyes have been hard, but I’m also ready for the next stage in my life. I’m so glad I spent the past 2 years here. Now it’s on to new things and new adventures (though to be honest I’m still figuring that part out). For now, I’m returning to my hometown and I’m looking forward to  spending time with my family, picking and eating quart upon quart of blueberries, going hiking in the woods, and kayaking down the river. I’m anticipating that the adjustment back to life in the USA might be a bit difficult and might take some time. Thank you to everyone who has followed along on this journey for the past 25 months! I’ll still be posting here (first up: my COS- or Close of Service- trip to Iceland with my family), so I hope you’ll keep reading!

Close of Service Conference

Our M31 group at theCOS conference (photo credit: David Jarmul)

As we begin to wind down our service here in Moldova, the M31 group (the 31st group of volunteers in Moldova) met this past week for our Close of Service (COS) conference. The conference was held at a camp-style resort near the forest. This conference serves to prepare us to wrap up our time here in Moldova and reintegrate into the United States again. It was definitely an emotional time for us, as we begin thinking about how we will say goodbye to our communities, partners, students, and host families and reflected on our service here.

We started off the conference by thinking about the successes we’ve had and our accomplishments and favorite memories in Moldova. We also discussed the close-out procedures (medical, administrative, etc.) as well as readjustment to life in the USA. At the end, we met with our separate programs and discussed the things we need to do in the next 2 to 3 months in our sites as we prepare to and begin to say our goodbyes. For example, we need to wrap up any projects or meet with our partners to transition responsibilities to them. We also need to create a plan of how we want to say goodbye to the various groups of individuals that have been a part of our lives the past two years.

Volunteers at the conference

I think most of us are struggling with the conflicting emotions this time brings up. I’m sad to leave behind my partners, students, and especially my host family, but excited to go home and be with my family and friends. Some moments I feel very ready to leave, but other days I can’t imagine actually leaving. To give an idea of some of the things we discussed, here are a few sample questions we were asked to consider and my responses to them:

In what ways have I changed? This one is hard to answer. I think I’m much more patient, flexible, and deal with random constant changes much better. However, in some ways I have far less patience, especially when I watch the news in the United States. I’ve gained numerous skills and, even more than before, really appreciate honesty, directness, and responsibility.

What are the critical aspects about my experience that I want to share with my family and friends? I have plenty of humorous stories to share, but more than anything I hope to share about the relationships I have made, especially with my host family. I’d love to also share the aspects of Moldovan culture and life that I love- their love of dance (the hora), Moldovan music, big celebrations for everything big or small, their value of family, etc.

What activities am I looking forward to the most when I return? I want to spend time with family and friends. I’m really looking forward to doing a lot of outdoor activities this summer, like biking, hiking, and kayaking. I can’t wait to eat ALL the food (though not all at once of course) and pick blueberries (which sadly don’t really exist here).

What will I miss about Moldova? I will miss my host family, my students, my partner teachers, my colleagues, the sunflowers, the gorgeous flower gardens, the dancing, the singing, and so much more.

COS Lottery

Last weekend, the M31s (my group of volunteers, the 31st group of volunteers in Moldova) held our “COS lottery”.  COS stands for “close of service” and is the date when we transition from Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs).  In simpler terms, it is the day each of us ends our Peace Corps service here in Moldova.  This date is chosen differently in each Peace Corps post, but usually here in Moldova we get together as a group and have a lottery.  We can continue to change our dates by willingly trading with other volunteers until this spring.

Each of us went up front as our name was drawn from a hat and then we wrote our name in the slot we wanted.  Up to 6 of us can leave each available day throughout July and August.  I chose July 6th as my final day here, but have since traded with another volunteer and as of now, will be leaving July 5th!  Throughout the short lottery, a slideshow was shown with pictures from throughout our service, and the event was fun and energetic.

Leaving here will be bittersweet for so many reasons, which I’m sure is something I’ll share as my COS date gets closer.  For now, I’m excited to return home and move onto the next chapter of my life about 5 months from now, while also recognizing that I will dearly miss this place that’s become my second home.  Even just thinking about the many goodbyes that will have to happen in the increasingly near future makes me tear up.  Moldova and my time here has treated me overwhelming well and it will be hard to leave.