February 20, 2015

The Long Goodbye

Goodbyes can be awkward and emotional. Which is why I am not enjoying my current long and strung-out goodbye with the Dominican Republic. 

Leaving the U.S. for the D.R. was relatively easy. I was excited for a new adventure and I knew I would only be gone two years. Leaving the D.R. has been completely different. While I am excited to start the next chapter in my life, I am leaving behind not just a job, but a community. I have no idea when I will have the chance to visit the D.R., and since my community doesn’t have cell phone service (let alone internet), keeping in touch with my host family and friends is going to be a challenge. My neighbors have also realized that our relationship is about to change, and they can’t help but remind me constantly that I will be leaving them soon.

The goodbye started in November when my neighbors started to ask how much longer I would be living in the D.R. “Don’t worry,” I said, “I still have seven months left.” But worry they did. In December my host mom cried as I said goodbye before I headed home for a two week vacation. Kids have written me letters asking me not to leave and have also threatened to steal my suitcases. My project partners have asked me on several occasions to stay another year. To everyone who asks me to stay, I politely explain that while I love them all, I miss my family and my country, and that I want to live in a modern city. 
Some of the kids have gotten possessive of my stuff.

Yet, while I have tried to make the decision to leave seem like an easy one, the decision to leave was a hard choice to make. I seriously considered staying on the island for another year, but in the end America won. There is still a small part of me that wants to stay, so every time a student asks me to stay it is like a little knife it pricking my heart. In my dreams I take all my neighbors to America with me and spend all my time watching them experience luxuries we take for granted, like movie theaters, hot running water, dish washers, elevators, amusement parks, etc.

Something I am still trying to figure-out is what am I going to do with all the stuff I have accumulated over the past two years? My neighbors would like me to give everything I have to them. Even before people began to ask when I was leaving, they would tell me things like, “Susi, I like your shirt. Give it to me when you leave.” Now that my departure is only a few months away these requests have become more frequent. My 10 year-old BFF has threatened to kill me if I don’t give her my plastic storage container. I don’t mind giving my things away, but I am concerned that there will be hurt feelings if people don’t get what they want. As of now, my plan is to wait until the day before I leave to give things out that way I only have to deal with angry neighbors for one day.
My neighbors want my cat too - but he is coming with me!

As for what is next for me after Peace Corps, well I don’t have that figured out either. However, if I have learned one thing from Peace Corps it is not to stress. I know everything will work out for me, I just have to be patient. While I wait for my life to sort it self out my siblings and I are planning a trip across Europe to coincide with the end of my service and my sister’s graduation from college. Our tentative route is: Barcelona, Nice, Milan, Munich, Prague, Vienna, Athens, and Istanbul. If you have any recommendations or tips for our grand european sojourn be sure to let one of us know!