So much has happened in the span of two weeks, ranging from exhilarating highs and abysmal lows, its hard to put make sense of my own incongruent thoughts in my head, not to mention writing it on the page. Yet, documenting this experience has been one of my ways of processing everything I have learned and been through since being here, so I owe it to myself to do just that.
The main event of last week was our Close of Service Conference, or COS Conference for my cohort within Peace Corps aka the M24s. COS conference is meant to do many things, including setting us up for the last three months at site, going over the “Peacing out of Peace Corps ” process ( aka lots of paperwork) and just generally going over plans for the future. Over the three days we gave feedback about various programs and regional management, we talked about the thoughts of readjusting back home, and started talking about future plans, resumes, career advice and what not. Part of the process was learning how we could turn specific Peace Corps skills into resume lingo. How can I reference that I lived in a glorified tent in Mongolia for two years on a resume? The tips were great and now my favorite new term is “ambiguity tolerance”, which I might have too much of now, in all honesty.
This was all swell, but due to an ‘incident’ , some members of our cohort could not come to COS. In larger groups, it might not have mattered, but when we arrived in Mongolia, our group was a comprised of 48 members, a comparatively small group to previous cohorts. Being a small group gave us the privilege of the ability to say that we know everyone and could enjoy everyones company. Needless to say, this also makes early terminations or admin separations deeply felt. So for COS conference we were a group of around 28 volunteers. . . Due to underlying events the mood was generally soured, and we missed the very distinct voices that weren’t able to join us. No one tells you that when you join Peace Corps you will make a bunch of new American friends. I for one am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to get to know my government approved friends so well. I know there will be many mini-reunions in the future.
Despite the difficulties, I would be remiss of me to say the conference was useful. Probably the most beneficial part of the conference was being able to discuss anxieties about returning home. Ever since I watched a particular episode of Buffy a couple of weeks ago, the one where Willow returns back to Sunnydale to return from the coven, and *magic* she can’t see her friends, and they can’t see her… It struck a cord in me, mostly because it stirred up my subconscious anxiety of returning home and not being on the same wave length as those around me. I’ve grown a lot in the last two years, will my friends even recognize me?
So it was comforting to find that I’m not the only one with this particular anxiety, and now I know I have the skills to mitigate these little hiccups. Also the time during COS Conference to spend with my intimately small cohort was precious. I even started a running program with one friend, and a we all played many games of Pandemic and Bananagrams way into the evening.
After three days of conferencing, we returned to UB to meet up with the full cohort in our hostel that pretty much has been a home a way from home these last two years. We gave out superlatives to every member in our group, and watched a slideshow of pictures from the last two years. The hosts that night were very good. Budget Cruise Ship good. Most of the superlatives were PC focused, and I was really please with mine . It was led with the intro about our Aimag “You know , when I think of murder and mayhem , I think of Zavkhan”, “Oh yes, with V. being the one ‘Most Likely to Commit Site-mate-icide'” . Considering that my site-mates superlatives were “Most Likely to be Killed over Yogurt and Puns” and “Most Likely to have a Shrine to Himself in his closet full of vests” , my superlative should be self explanatory.
It was a pleasant evening, and gave most of us some closure. It was probably the last time that the majority of us would be in the same room. Some of our members would be leaving earlier then expected, but I was amazed at their chipper-ness and impressed with their plans for the future. They will do great things. Again, I couldn’t feel more fortunate that these are my government approved friends.
Over the next following days we did our Medical and Dental work. I’m glad to announce, in a country where people gulp candy like air, I have no cavities, which I will take as an epic win.
But of course COS conference was also the point where we were officially assigned our dates for coming home, and , drum-roll please, I will be leaving Mongolia August 6th. From Mongolia, my intrepid travel companion will join me on an epic journey by train to the land up north… Visas are being processed as I write, and we are arranging travel itineraries now. It feels liberating to plan travel for future, yet disheartening to think that I will need to start saying goodbyes to this community I have lived in for the last two years. I walked into my teachers room when I returned to work to people saying they missed me and asking about my trip. At this point, it’s the beginning of the end, and will need to start wrestling with my thoughts and feelings about leaving. Didn’t I just get here , like yesterday?
Till Next Time- V.