Thursday, July 27, 2017

Saying Goodbye

As I write this, I am sitting on the bunk of a hostel bed. Sally and I are one day from departing Mongolia. Our flight leaves tomorrow morning. We have completed the Close of Service paperwork and are now Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. It has been a wild ride, one that is enlightening, awarding, and incredibly challenging.

The last few weeks at Chinggis were a whirlwind of countless last minute activities and planning. Sally and I have been planning a large vacation through parts of Europe and spent a week working out the details and itinerary. There was also a number of things we needed to do at site to close out our service. This included housing checks with our landlady and closing our Mongolian bank accounts.

We also spent a lot of time saying goodbye to the people we have worked with and gotten to know over the past two years. We each met with a number of our counterparts and CPs for either dinner or brief visits. Mongolians do a good job with saying goodbye; it is often a short simple affair or a small party, not the long drawn out affair that is present in other cultures. The sad reality of leaving Chinggis is that we may not see many of these people again.

On Sunday morning as we left our apartment for the last time, a number of neighbors and CPs came out to say goodbye to us. One neighbor, who has been a sort of grandmotherly figure to us these past two years, kissed us each on only one cheek. Then leaving us in suspense for the other cheek she said, “I’ll give you the other kiss when I see you again.”

Over the past few days we completed a number of tasks that PC needs us to do to wrap up the paperwork end of our service. Yesterday the group of volunteers who are leaving this week gathered at the office for one last goodbye to the incredible staff that has supported us during our service. Each of us ceremonially rang the bell and were applauded for our service by the staff and volunteers.

The PC office in UB has been a sort of sanctuary and headquarters for us these past two years. After leaving the office, the 14 of us who are leaving this week went to a restaurant to celebrate and say goodbye. It is sad to say goodbye to so many great people, but it is nice to know that the volunteers are going on to new and exciting adventures and that we may see them again in the States.

It is surreal to be done with our 26 months of service. A part of me is in disbelief and halfway expects to return to Chinggis. Another part is extremely excited and ready to leave Mongolia to start the journey home. Our service has been completely different than we might have expected, but just as good as we could have imagined. Sally and I are very satisfied to have had this experience, but we are not too sad. It feels to us that it is time to close this chapter and move on to the next one. Adventure awaits!


P.S. Even though our service is at an end the blog will continue for several more months as we wrap up the final chapters. Here are things to look forward too on this blog now that our service is at an end: Reflections on PC service and lessons learned, Sally’s amazing grant project, details on our awesome return journey through Europe, the whys and hows of shipping a cat across the world, reintegration into America (is Post Traumatic Peace Corps a thing?). 

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