As of Friday October 31st at 4:00pm, my service has ended and I am officially a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer!
I spent the beginning of this week buying last minute remembrances, saying goodbyes to people around town, doing all my favorite things one last time, and packing everything I own into the two bags I came here with nearly 27 months ago. I left Santa Marta on Thursday morning to head to Barranquilla where the PC Colombia office is located. As I rode the bus over the mountain out of Santa Marta, I caught one last glimpse of the place that has been my home for the last two years. Saying goodbye is never easy, but I am comforted because I know that Santa Marta and I will meet again someday.
Thursday evening after we dropped all of our things at the hotel I got to go to my favorite restaurant for the delicious salad bar. I spent all day Friday at the office completing exit interviews and taking care of administrative tasks. In my downtime I helped make Halloween decorations for the office Halloween party!
On Friday at 4:00pm we gathered in the office for the Bell Ringing Ceremony, which is the official close of a volunteer’s service. While it might seem like ringing a little bell is not that significant, for a Peace Corps Volunteer, it marks the completion of a meaningful and life changing experience. I had the pleasure of COSing with two good friends, Nina and Dianna. We each said a few words about our experiences (I got about a word and a half out before I started crying…) and we thanked our fellow volunteers and the Peace Corps staff for all they have done for us during the last two years. Then we each rang the bell and the rest, as they say, is history!
I spent the weekend cramming in all of my ‘lasts’ around Barranquilla. This morning, I woke up at the crack of dawn to say goodbye to Nina when she left for the airport to head home. I couldn’t get back to sleep so I grabbed some coffee and sat out on the patio to watch the city wake up one last time. A few hours ago I said chao to the Hotel Caribe staff and loaded my bags into a taxi. I enjoyed the long drive through Barranquilla on the way to the airport. The driver was an older costeño man with laugh lines deeply etched into his face, evidence of a life full of alegria here in Colombia. We chatted about his family, my time in Colombia, and sang along to Diomedes together. I watched the burros pulling their carts, listened to the fruit vendors shouting their offerings in the monotone voice I have come to love, smiled at the students running by in their uniforms, and gazed at all the places that were once so foreign, but are now so familiar. I have all of the expected emotions. Sadness for what I am leaving behind, excitement for what’s waiting at home, disappointment in what I never managed to do, and pride in all that I accomplished.
For now, it is time for me to board my plane, say goodbye to Peace Corps and Colombia, and head on to whatever adventure life brings me next.
Until next time……..paz y amor.
To see more pictures click here!