By Jason Cochran
Hello dear PC-Colombia Volunteers and staff. I promised the Oíste editors that I would put in one final article, yet finding time, motivation and words has been tough. While not wanting to be that guy who never leaves, I still want to share with you my re-entry thoughts as I hope they will be informative for those soon to go through that, and also food for thought for those about to embrace their final year and for those whom I have not met just getting started.
As happens with re-entry, Colombia seems like thousands of miles away and many lifetimes ago, yet it has only been two months. Late summer has given to brisk fall mornings with shorter days, and I have a constant chill I cannot get rid of and know that it will only get colder. Yet I enjoy wearing my flannel shirts and not constantly sweating.
Re-entry after 14 years has been interesting on all fronts. Going from office to cubicle, supervising many to none, having my nights and weekends duty-officer free yet spending up to two hours a day commuting; enjoying the complete silence in my neighborhood surrounded by oaks, maples and what seems like thousands of white tail deer. We have been watching our kids play in amazing parks, speaking English full-time and enjoying seeing them come up with excuses to visit the Target toy section (“Dad, I want to look at clothes…”). Nevertheless, they and we miss Colombia.
At some point it has dawned on me that I am an immigrant in my own country, and like an immigrant, we find others like us seeking comfort in the known. We have been adopted and taken in by other immigrants, whether they be West African or Latino, they see us as one of them and have opened their arms to us as your host families have upon your arrival. We are pointed towards resources for new immigrants by our new friends and neighbors despite my insistence that I am from this land. And through this experience my eyes are open to a whole different sub-set of the US population that I would have never been able to experience if it were not for Peace Corps. This has eased the re-entry and been an empowering and enlightening experience that I am thankful for.
Peace Corps has a powerful way of showing you the world when you leave then showing you it again when you return. You will never see life in the United States the same way again. We get excited when we meet other Colombians, Panamanians and Paraguayans (and probably freak them out a bit with our exuberance). You will know so much more about the layers in your society and have the ability to be that bridge between the sub-cultures, continuing your service in ways you did not foresee when you entered.
So, yes, readjustment takes its time and is everything they tell you (and more). But like your service, it is an opportunity to continue to discover things about you and the country you left two years ago. And in the end you will be better for it.
Keep up the great work in Colombia, I was very proud to have served with you these last few years.