Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Close of Service: A Conference

The final conference a PCV experiences (as an attendee) is aptly named Close of Service. AS a PCV prepares to complete their two years of service, this conference, held 4 months before the PCV's official end date, provides information and closure for the soon to be RPCV (returned Peace Corps Volunteer).

Now, just the mention of Close of Service or COS, around a soon-to-be-departing group of PCVs can [almost] insight a riot. We are talking
  • Hot showers
  • Good food
  • Nighly Settlers of Catan marathons
  • COS travel planning
After almost two years of feeling like a fish-out-of-water, a PCV gets to spend hours talking about how much they have integrated and how that integration is going to affect them as they work to re-assimilate into American culture. It is a pretty heavy conference, although, everyone seems to come away from it feeling lighter...

Anyway, I just went to this conference. Mostly I saw PCVs making lists of all the restaurants they plan to hit up once they touch down on US soil...

For me, the entire conference was...hard. As a 3rd year PCV, I was not allowed to attend my own COS conference, so...that was difficult. As much as I enjoy the Az7s and have had a bang-up time getting to know them this last year, I deeply felt the absence of my own PC group. Stories and inside jokes made little sense to me and several times I felt like bursting into tears. Of course, I always was rocking a horrible head cold and my stomach had just decided to boycott food.

The only thing that really kept me from becoming a big baby was the other Az6 extendee who seemed to take it all in stride. His fortitude did quite a bit to keep me together and he often reminded me I was just  being silly. The whole idea behind COS is for the PCV to get some information and say good-bye - not only to the other PCVs, but also to begin the process of saying good-bye to their host community.

My blubbering was not helping that.

At any rate, I came away with more of a drive to figure out what I plan to do after COS and a deeper respect for that Az6 PCV. That's a good of a start as any :)