When I decided to stay, applied, did an interview, and got accepted, I didn't realize how much the end of my service was going to change. Technically, this upcoming year's job wasn't supposed to start until the current PCVL left. In June. Now. But upon my boss asking for a favor, I accepted. With the promise that I could have the entire month of May to close out my projects, help the follow-up volunteer a little, and just... be there with my friends and family here in Mariano, I agreed to leave for the entire month of April for training with the new group. I stayed with an amazing host family, met a group of 20 beautiful, smart, experienced, and motivated newbies. Training was incredible and overwhelming. Busy and fun. I reflected so much on these past two years. Cried on multiple occasions (sorry guys). And tried my best to share my experiences, good and bad. We threw a going away party to our trainer who began her journey with my group two years ago. And I was blessed to spend her last with her. We made habichuelas con dulce, empanadas of yucca, we ate too much, always had an excuse to buy a cake, saw the realities of the school systems and suffered together, celebrated our ups, shared our downs, met the national ultimate frisbee team of the DR, swam in a pool, drank chocolate milk, and went to a river. One of the craziest months of my life. And I had to learn real quick how to balance still being a volunteer but also part of the staff that had to evaluate the trainees on their progress. The last day I was supposed to rush back on the last bus possible. But my training manager needed help with the last of the evaluations. I agreed to stay one more night. She offered a hotel room and dinner. We started at 1pm and didn't finish until 5. She then took me to her home, a gorgeous apartment in the middle of the capital-furnished as if it were straight out of a Pottery Barn catalogue. Grand piano included. I met her two beautiful daughters, talented and smart. We spent time together laughing, showing off flexibility skills (NOT mine), and spoke in a mix of English and Spanish, waiting for their father to get home from work. We then went to dinner. At an incredible Italian restaurant. Of course, it wasn't my grandma's food but I had a phenomenal eggplant parmasian that melted in my mouth, tried a bite of the oldest daughters pesto pasta, and washed it all down with some red wine. What a change from where I just was and where I've been for the past two years. It was luxurious and I felt so uncomfortable. But her family and their love made me think of my own, and I was comforted. At 10:30pm, I made it to the hotel, 3am was woken up by a volunteer heading out of the country forever, and at 5am I arose to catch the earliest bus back home.
Returning was strange. But it quickly went back to normal; hugs, lovin, coffee, and my family. But I was anxious. And couldn't shake it. In and out of tears. As my new job overlapped my current one, I learned that I wasn't going to have the entire month of May after all. There were three more times I was going to have to travel back to capital. And being so far away, travelling there and back is always two more days tacked on for travel. So, May 2, I was back in site, the new volunteer showed up for his first "visit" on the 6th, he left on the 10th, and I was gone again on the 13th. We showed the new volunteer the ropes and he's going to be perfect here. I know it even more now but I knew it back then. On the 13th I headed out early and was able to make it to the Swear-In ceremony with my babies. I was like a proud momma watching each one go up and accept their certificate of completion of training. I also finally got to meet my boss' newborn son. He is beautiful, weighed 9lbs 10oz at birth and slept in my arms the whole time. Afterwards, pictures were taken and we headed separate ways to get ready for the "Swear-In" party in the colonial zone that night. I drank 2 chocolate milks and was alllll done (lightweight? Cheap date?). The next morning was PCVL orientation. I was a hot mess all day. Haha but the new PCVL for business, region 3, and I worked our way through all sorts of new information about the work ahead of us (did I mention that I almost cried when we were told about all of the resources we will have available-copier, printer, scanner, etc. it has taken me three days before to simply print something...). That night I went to take a nap at 5pm with plans to get up at 7, get dinner and hang out. I didn't wake up until 2am. Oops. The next day, I was a much better person and we had the second day of orientation involving "coaching" and what it all means and how to do it right. Ending a little late, we had to rush home and get ready for a dinner that our training director threw for all those that were involved in training the new groups: business and education. So back to that beautiful apartment, delicious food, good company, incredibly talented kids playing the piano, and the night ended with us volunteers being the only ones left.
Oh yea, so the other two trips to the capital? Thankfully turned into just one. I was expected to go back again the 20th-22nd after arriving back home on the 16th. And then at the end of the month? Leaving the 25th through the 30th. I decided to put my foot down. I felt as though I was being punished for accepting to stay for a third year. My time continuously got cut short and I was done. So, I argued my case, my one boss didn't like it, but I told her there was nothing she could do. I wasn't coming. So that week I spent my time playing softball, meeting with a community to hopefully someday get electricity installed, starting to pack (burning memories that will never truly be engulfed in the flames), running errands in DaJabon with a surprise beach trip, having my last community English class full of games and candy, and just...being there. And on Monday, the 25th, I was gone again. To spend one night and my first night in my new apartment. Passed down by an old volunteer. He left a lot of random shit and I showered with running water. That's all I really know for now. Pictures will come when I move in officially. Then, a week long conference with the group of volunteers that have completed one year of service. It was wonderful to see them all again, hear their success stories, work through their challenges, break boards, play silly games, and oh the work. So much so that I had to write down everything that we want to accomplish this year. For them, for the education sector as a whole, and for this country. And as Brendan said his goodbye to his group, I said hello. The switch is fast approaching. I made it back late Friday night and since then I have been here, not been here, helped with a raffle for the library, planned the office cleaning day with the community, continued organizing and packing, realized that my internet was cut already because I won't be able to afford it in the capital and decided just not to pay this last month, been rained in and an emotional wreck.
Today is the1st of June. I leave for good on the 6th. Today I want to visit my far away family. Tomorrow I have to finish the grant for the library in DaJabon, Wednesday is the first cleaning day, Thursday is apparently my going-away party only God knows where, Friday I want to go out one last time, and Saturday, they're coming to pick me and all my shit up. And I will be off. I have imagined this day for a long time. Whenever you have an expiration date on something, it's inevitable...right? But it's funny. I've done this a lot now. And I don't think I've imaged it right once. Vamos a ver.