December 9th I officially swore out as a Peace Corps volunteer, and I still don't think it has hit me yet. It was a hectic time gearing up for the 9th and the days thereafter. Instead of doing one big goodbye party I decided to do a bunch of small ones at different houses. I even had a small one at the school with some teachers and gave them all my environmental ed material with hopes that someone will look at it! They've had 6 years of EE volunteers in that school now I think they know what to do!
We (my group) also had a big ol goodbye party at a hotel for 2 nights before swear out which went by too quickly. Funny story, on the day we had to get to the hotel for the party was also the day before a PY holiday, The Virgin of Caacupe day, where many people would be making a pilgrimage to the cathedral in Caacupe to visit the virgin and get a wish or something. Lauren and I left around noon and hoped the buses wouldn't be too packed, the hotel we had to go to was very close to Caacupe. We lucked out and got on a bus while it was empty so we were able to put all the bags and suitcases we had in the back(Lauren had all her stuff with her since she was leaving after the close of service conference friday). Unfortunately the bus got really crowded and they bus helper never told us when to get off so we ended up going to Caacupe! It was a pretty cool scene with everyone walking up and people selling stuff on the side of the road. We took another bus back down the hill to a fork in the road that we should have gotten off at, except we got off the bus too late and actually had to walk with the pilgrimage people and all our bags for a few mins to the fork. I guess I did a mini pilgrimage!? We got to the right bus stop to get to the hotel and it started to rain and no buses were coming because they all decided to make some money and go take people to Caacupe. Thankfully the hotel came and picked us up all wet with all our stuff!!
Anyway, the close of service ceremony was really nice and that night we had our last Ahendu concert where I saw many of my friends for the last time, since a bunch were leaving the country the next day very early. Nick and I went back to site though since I still had more people to say goodbye to aaand pack for our South America trip. It was really sweet to say goodbye to all the PY'an friends I made here, they gave me gifts and told us we had to come back to visit. My almacen lady down the road from my house couldn't even handle the goodbye, I gave her an oven mitt and she started crying and crossing herself and had to walk away. It was really sad to say bye to Meech kitty because she doesn't know that after we leave we're not coming back. Thankfully another volunteer is coming to live in my house and take care of her. It's also a good thing because there is so much stuff in my house that she gets to be in charge of now!
I have to say that I am happy with how my service went. I didn't 'save the world' but I think the things I accomplished with my school were very successful, especially my end of the year event and recycling project. I was ready to leave but there will be things I will miss about Py like the friends I made, the tranquiloness and watermelon season. But onwards and upwards, literally, because we're going to the bottom of the continent and working our way to the top!
I can barely even collect my thoughts about end of service because there was SO MUCH going on with the packing and goodbyes and trip planning and memorial service for a fellow volunteer and, as I mentioned, it still hasn't sunk in. But..it was a great experience, and I'm very glad I did it.