Leaving On a Jet Plane
I pay attention to the time. For me, being “on time” is actually arriving about 10 minutes early. This sense of time is heightened when I travel, starting with planning a trip. As the actual departure date approaches, there is an inevitable “countdown.” Three factors directly impact when my countdown begins: 1. the length of time between buying the ticket and the departure date; 2. the amount of work that must be done before leaving; and 3. the trip’s purpose.
I knew in June 2012 when I applied to the Peace Corps that the duration of service was 27 months. Under certain conditions, PCVs can “close” their service 30 days early and many volunteers take advantage of this benefit. All but 5 of the 26 remaining PCVs in my cohort are leaving the PC on July 7th. I am one of the 5 remaining.
For months there has been talk of where to go on the way home. After all, who knows when any of us will be back in this part of the world, so we should take advantage of the situation. Some of the places RPCVs (Returned PCVs, as we will be known) are stopping are France, Italy, Japan, South Africa, Turkey and the UK. But before the jetting begins, there is one final gathering of volunteers this weekend, so the farewells are just around the corner (2 days and counting).
But Monday was the first time I actually felt the reality of my departure as I said good bye to a dear friend. The funny thing is that she’s the one leaving, not I. For the last 2 years, I’ve had the great pleasure of working with a smart, hard-working, dedicated and very determined young Armenian woman. Several PCVs have helped Gayane G over the last 5 years; I am just the latest one. I tutored Gayane in English, introduced her to TED Talks, helped prepare her for TOEFL and GRE exams, edited essays, critiqued her oration and, in the process, became part of her family. Together we watched videos of tornadoes and other things she had never seen and had cross cultural discussions while sipping tea and eating gata and my favorite cookies baked and served by her mother.
I am very proud of Gayane for all she’s done and honored by the small part I played in her reaching her goal. Tomorrow, she leaves for the US as a Fulbright Scholar. She has earned 2 tuition-free years to study in Virginia and receive a masters degree in economics. It’s hard to believe that the next time I see her will be in “America.”
I know it’s no easy task to let your child leave home for years. And while those of us taking a trip are anxiously anticipating it, for the ones we leave behind it’s a very different story. We travelers have new and exciting experiences ahead, but those at home have no such expectation. What I can say, in light of my recent experience, is that the days are long but the years are short.
Wishing my friends and fellow A21s բարի ճանապարհ.
As for me, 35 days and counting!