By Erick Uribe
Unexpectedly finding myself at a Close of Service (COS) ceremony after a drawn-out day of Pre-Service Training (PST) preemptively put the next two years into perspective. As I went about that day pondering the various possibilities for site-placement and potential secondary projects, a group of seasoned CII-4 volunteers was closing out relationships with their communities, counterparts, and colleagues. There we were, sharing cake on a muggy Thursday afternoon, standing on opposite ends of this Peace Corps journey.
Though the overlap we share with CII-4 volunteers may be brief, it has provided me with a slight glimpse into my own future. As they prepare to leave the communities and country they have called home for the last two years, I put myself in their shoes and begin to feel the anticipated nostalgia for everything I’m currently experiencing as a trainee. With that in mind, I see even the quirkiest or possibly irritating details about my life in Colombia as novel and interesting. In two years time, I expect to miss taking cold showers every morning, eating salchipapas for breakfast (again), and especially spending long days at Colombo with my fellow trainees.
A common bit of advice that we’ve received during PST tells us to do only one thing once we arrive at site: observe. While I understand the sentiment behind this consejo, I hope to do so in the most active way, by picking up on the logistical nuisances that make my school and community unique, while also grasping the significance of the subtle details that make this whole journey incredible. I see this sort of appreciative observation in the eyes of the CII-4 volunteers that remain and know that I don’t have to wait until my own COS is around the corner to start taking in the beauty of the present moment. Instead of anxiously waiting to swear in and get to site, I plan on maneuvering these next few weeks slowly and deliberately.
Still, I know that the next two years will inevitably consist of long days, deep frustrations, and bitter failures. And while any idealism surely will be impossible to sustain indefinitely, in those moments, when everything seems pointless, I hope to remember the raw emotion and gratitude I’ve seen radiating from those who are preparing to leave. Standing there two years ahead of where I am now, they’re implicitly telling me that despite the uncertainties that lay ahead, everything will be okay. Besides, soon enough I’ll be the one preparing to ring the bell, looking at the CII-8 trainees and hopefully filling them with the same sense of comfort that all of the current volunteers have given me.