May 20, 2013
In Peace Corps, we call going home Close Of Service or COS. As in, ‘I can’t wait to COS.’
And, like every stage of Peace Corps, this process is accompanied by
a workshop. It’s been this far off milestone for us. When I first started researching Peace Corps during our application process, I was introduced to it as the last conference you do as a PCV. It made a big appearance on personal blogs, I think primarily because of the abundance of showering a volunteer was able to do.
Oliver and I prepared to go to our COS conference after Oliver’s family flew back to America.
Our group is at 23 volunteers. 39 of us flew to Swaziland from America originally but people went home for various reasons like medical, family matters, it wasn’t a good fit, etc. It’s been a long time, maybe over a year, since our group was assembled in one place.
One of the volunteers in our group had been petitioning the office to take us to Forester’s Arms, not a backpackers or junky conference center, but a place where people actually want to go on their vacations. Forester’s Arms was all we expected it to be. There was even a towel warmer in each of the bathrooms and free internet. We were going to be there for four nights and it felt nice to settle in and get caught up with everyone. The food turned out to be AMAZING. And this is not just because rice and beans make up a good part of my diet, this food would have been good to anyone. And the quantity. It felt like we were always eating. Courses and real silverware made us feel like we were in a restaurant. Hot chocolate, puddings, homemade bread, soups, salmon….
But enough about food. We were at the conference to learn something!
There were some sessions about leaving our sites—like how to avoid being thrown a big going away party and then being presented with the bill for the cow your community slaughtered for you. Most of the sessions focused on reintegrating back into American life. Some of it was about job searches but also about getting back into American culture. You would think it’s easy to go home, you know everything about the place, but apparently it’s difficult for volunteers to adjust to things like the pace of life in America and the amount of consumption.
A lot of it was about goodbye though. The US Ambassador came to thank us for our service and told us how much she values Peace Corps and can see its relevance to Swaziland. One volunteer made a playlist for our group, people took photographs, tentative (and outrageous) plans were made for reunions, we all tied our arms together in some sort of Thai tradition, it was nice.
I really value the time that I’ve spent here in my community and with the other volunteers. Oliver and I have a BIG life change coming our way. That’s always exciting but it’s also hard to leaving.
Our Country Director said this video is a spitting image of what it’s like to return from PC—you just want to keep talking about it.