Sunday, June 30, 2013

Series Finale

As I approached the end of my Peace Corps service, as usual, I turned to television legacies to relay my thoughts and feelings. I pondered the best final episodes of television sitcoms.

Would I have a Newhart show ending where I wake up and realize I just dreamed the last seasons of my life? Would it be a Family Ties ending where the entire cast comes onstage after I say my goodbyes as I leave my village? Or would it be a Wonder Years tearjerker where the audience has to grapple with the fact that things sometimes just don’t turn out the way they thought they would… and realizing that’s OK?

In the end, it was a little bit of all three.

How Do I Feel?
My handling of the end has been odd, I must say. In the final weeks at site, it seemed my sadness manifested itself by way of not eating or sleeping, but I shed fewer tears than I expected. I will chronicle a few moments where I did break, however:
1) One of my brightest students, Luqman, gave me his pramuka (scouts) sash, his school cap, and a note telling me I was the best teacher (lie, but it got me right here).
2) My friend, Peni, a Muslim student, gave me a set of Rosary beads with a message saying "God Bless You".
We did it, Peace Corps. Bringing it all together.
3) My class X-1 wrote notes for me to bring home to America, and in Tiara's she wrote,"I and all friend very sad if Mrs Erin return in Amerika. And I would in the future if I have livelihood, I would tell my family about Mrs Erin teacher English from Amerika and teaching in MAN Padangan."
The thought of one of my students telling her kids about me just never would have occurred to me. It was more than I could handle.  
4) I gave yet another speech to my fellow teachers and friends and tried to explain that, while I might have had a lot of experiences traveling to different places, leaving this place would, by far, be the hardest thing I'd ever yet done in my life.

5) My ibu (host mom) uncharacteristically shed tears in the final moments before I was getting in the car to leave my home for the last 2 years, and this made me also momentarily lose composure.


6) Walking up the same road I strolled in those first days in Indonesia in Beji, my training village, I wondered when/if I'd ever get back there. I said good-bye to the family who first took me in and made me feel like Indonesia was my home. Then, I temporarily and unexpectedly lost it in the back of my host dad's car as he drove me to the bus.   

My thoughts turn to 27 months ago when I was driving in my aunt Sr. Tesa's minivan on the way to JFK. While passing the site of Ebbet's Field, I got a text from my pal, Christine, asking, "Leaving do you feel?"

My answer: "At peace. It's time."
Feels about the same now.
What I Learned
I originally had pegged my last entry to be a summary of things I had learned, but I think you’ve had enough of my nonsense for two years, and it might be time for me to start closing up emotional shop to prep for my next moves in life. But I’ll share a couple of things:
A) PC showed me that I can be kind of an asshole.* And we’re all probably more selfish than we care to admit. And that cues can be taken from other cultures on how to remedy this.
B) We’re made of some tough stuff – all of us. So far, my ranking, with the most grueling being a 1, is as follows:
1)     Suffering through the ordeal of getting over a long-term relationship
2) Peace Corps service – and all that entails
3)      Studying for the Series 7 exam while working 60 hours a week
4)      Marathon running 
If I ever experience childbirth, I'll update this accordingly. 

The Thanking**
Family. When I discussed applying to Peace Corps the first time more than ten years ago with my mother and father, they didn’t seem exactly overjoyed. This time around, when I actually went through with it, I think they swallowed some of their feelings because they knew it was something I really wanted. As did my brothers and sister when I traveled to each of their houses to break the news that I not only applied, but that I would probably be leaving the country in a couple of months.

Thanks for making me who I am (it is sort of your fault I ended up doing this in the first place). And for letting me find out that not only could I do Peace Corps, but that it was something I could be good at and love.  
My PC friends. You’re da bomb. It was never my plan to make friends with volunteers here, but it is almost sickening how close I feel to you after two short years. I suppose it might have something to do with all the poop talk and bed sharing. You each have taught me so much – just by being who you are. And through your kickin’ dance moves. ID4, IDFLY, ID6, and with ID7 continuing the legacy – thanks for building such a rad and accepting community – one that I am very proud I will belong to for the rest of my life.


My village communities. I distinctly remember in my first few weeks at site riding bikes with kids in my village. Two of them, Ratih and Ayuk, were laughing and trying to hold hands while riding alongside each other as we passed the pasar (market).

I was riding behind them, and I couldn’t believe they let me, a stranger, be a part of this moment – along with so many other moments. I couldn’t believe I could just come in out of nowhere, plop down into these people’s lives, and they would accept me. Just like that. I knew right then how amazing this is  - and would be - getting to do this.

There is no way I can ever properly thank an entire community for all they have given me these past years, but here’s a go:
Ini adalah sesuatu yang istimewa, sebuah kehormatan, dan sebuah kebahagiaan untuk menjadi bagian dari keluarga MAN Padangan dan Desa Padangan untuk dua tahun terakhir. Terima kasih banyak dari hati yang terdalam.
I also passed out about 750 copies of these to my village:  

I’ll be thinking things over. I’m also doing some traveling on my way home to catch up with some old friends. You can follow the ridiculous-ness of my travels here, once I get it up and running:  I Got Nothing Else Going On

I don’t know what the future will bring, but I can only hope there will be butter. And I know that when I hit the duka (downs), as happens no matter what country I happen to be in, or if I am rindu-ing (missing) my home and friends in Indonesia, I can take comfort in knowing that the sun will always come out tomorrow…

A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. – George Moore 

It has been a pleasure processing my thoughts with you watching. Until the next adventure...

*Another nice Peace Corps memoir read: I Joined the Peace Corps to Keep From Becoming an Asshole (It Worked, Mostly) 

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