Saying Goodbye but Not Just Yet


In just two weeks I will start my COS conference with the Peace Corps. COS stands for “close of service” and in many ways “continuation of service,” too.

A flurry of emotions churns in my stomach when I think about this. I just returned from a very long and much-needed vacation, quite a few actually (I’m still editing photos and preparing blog posts, so you all will see those soon). I immediately started working 16 hours days with a special counterpart on a Gender Empowerment camp and flitted in and out of my host family house as I prepared for the camp. It dawned on me, damn, I am going to miss this place.

My friend Andrew, a scuba diving instructor down at Koh Nang Yuan, just wrapped up his last week of work in Thailand. He experienced a vastly different life in Thailand from myself, yet at the same time, he experienced many of the same things I expect to think and feel over the next few months. He talks about how when we hit our peak then settle into comfort and autonomy, that is the point when we’re best off moving on to the next thing that will drive us to climb the ladder of personal challenge again. That is where we grow and change. He says it better than I do so go and read about it in his post Say Goodbye. Besides, he has some pretty wicked pictures of Thailand island life and scuba diving (including a big group of Peace Corps volunteers).

Over this 5 day Gender Empowerment camp I just helped facilitate, I grew closer to my friend/counterpart Pi Mu and the 5 students from my school than I have been capable of prior. Actually, I grew closer to them than I ever thought possible. My close relationships and how hard I have worked to integrate here finally came to surface. When I returned to my house here in Thailand, I collapsed on my bed, exhausted but filled with absolutely joy and pride for the service I have done. Proud of my struggles, proud of my openness, vulnerability and honesty with my community.

And where does this bring me? Well, it brings me closer and closer to goodbye. Yes, goodbye. It looms in the distant future now, about 4.5 months away. Actually, I have settled into Thailand and my life so much that I have not checked my countdown in a month or two now so I can’t tell you exactly how long. All I know is that I tear up slightly when I think of closing my service, closing the journey of my life in Thailand.  Is this a real-life bildungsroman ? It just might be.

Last night my host mother asked me if I wanted to go to the rice fields with my Yai (grandmother). This is the same grandmother whose heart is failing quickly who I wrote about in my post My Yai is My Best Friend. Eagerly, I said yes. The sun just began to set into the horizon, splayed with rice ready for harvest. The deep, red sun cast a mixture of shadows and warm highlights across the land. I jumped out of the pick-up truck with my grandma and walked with her along the rice field. She parted ways with me, dug around in the rice and came back up with a clump of rice in her hands. She inspected it closely to see if this year yielded a good harvest. “Is it beautiful this year?” I asked. She nodded followed by a soft, throaty grunt.

I walked Yai back to the truck and she said, “I’m tired. I’m going to die already.” I laughed and joked, “No you’re not! You’re not dying. Actually, right now we’re walking. You’re walking. And you’re walking faster than me!” I replied as we walked arm-in-arm and I towed behind her slightly. No, really, she walked faster than me. “Slow down,” I said. “We’re not in a hurry going anywhere.” I smiled.

And that is exactly the way it is with the end of my service. I can talk about it, worry about it, plan about it, sure. But the truth is, I’m not saying goodbye just yet. I’m still here trying to make everyday just as important as the first day I arrived. Until next time…Sawatdee Ka สวัสดี ค่ะ

My Yai Plucking a Chunk of Ready-to-Harvest Rice as the Sun Sets

My Yai Plucking a Chunk of Ready-to-Harvest Rice as the Sun Sets **click to enlarge**

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5 responses to “Saying Goodbye but Not Just Yet

  1. Julia, what a great read. Although wildly different, I feel that I understand what you face, the hardest thing of all, change. Thanks for sharing. The best thing you said, I felt, came at the end, when you essentially chose to live in the moment. I think that’s the best that we can do at any time. Great post Julia, thanks for the mention!

    • No problem, Andrew. I’m excited to keep following your adventures and insight. And don’t count an Annapurna Base Camp Trek in Nepal out of your plans. I’m looking for a trekking partner 😉

  2. Julia,

    Don’t ever stop writing about where you are and where you plan to be, even if you’re just visiting me in a little podunk like Richmond, KY someday!

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