Tuesday, December 13, 2011

End Scene

I got a call today from a number I didn’t recognize the number and assumed it was one of my exercise ladies calling to tell me she wasn’t going to be able to make it to class tomorrow, so I didn’t pick up.  I got a text a few seconds later, with a message from Don, our country director, asking me to call him.

“Shit, they're closing the office” was my immediate reaction. 

While I copy Don on many of my email messages, he and I don’t talk on the phone ever.  So I knew getting a call from him probably wasn’t a good thing. It wasn’t; the Regional Office is closing.

When I first got this job I was amazed at how fast Dee called me back with the news.  I told her “Good news travels fast, bad news usually takes a while.”  People linger over bad news, hoping the situation will change, hoping the numbers will change,  not wanting to ruin someone’s day.  For several months now the future of the Regional Office has been in question.   I knew Don and Dee really like the idea of a Regional office, and when we were set to expand, it made complete sense.  But the economic situation in the US canceled the planned influx of volunteers and cut our budget.  I knew without seeing them then numbers weren’t pretty and weren’t working in our favor.  I think we were all hoping for a Hail Mary budget turnaround, but it didn’t happen.  The hanging doubt over the future of the office made it clear to me the office was closing, it was only a matter of when. 

“If the office is open in 6 months; it will be open in 5 years” and my hopes aren’t high, is what I told a fellow volunteer. If they could find a way to make the office work in the short term, with the current budget, I knew they would be able to make it last in the long run.  That was about 2 months ago. 

I don’t know what they are going to do with me or when the office is closing its doors.  Don was tired and very apologetic on the phone, sorry that he couldn’t deliver the news in person.   He just got back from the states after traveling to give Emily back to her family.  It has been a tough few weeks in Peace Corps and I hope he gets to deliver some good news soon.

Hopefully they’ll let me stay in San Ignacio until after the exercise competition is over.  It would be unfortunate to lose the momentum I’ve started building with the 150 women who have attended my class here.  I also have become quite attached to the volunteers down here.  Misiones in particular is a special place and Asuncion has never had any appeal for me.  I don’t know what I would do with Tucker either if I had to move again.  There is also a meeting I wanted to schedule between all of the volunteers in Misiones and the Governor and his staff, as well as some small workshops I wanted to put together.  Maybe they’ll let me be a Regional Coordinator, just without the office.  I’ll miss the air conditioning, but I can still get a considerable amount of work done on my own.  Hell, my house is big enough.  If they gave me the copy and printer, I’d be almost as good as the existing office.

That said I’d also like to work more with Dee, who is an absolute rockstar in my eyes. 

Who knows what is going to happen.  Don said we’d talk more tomorrow and start working out.  I’m just glad to know one way or the other, officially.  Limbo is no fun.  No hard feelings though.  I knew Don and Dee tried their hardest to make it work.  But they have to do what is best for everyone not just little ole’ me.  Fortunately this probably couldn’t have happened to a better person.  Working in ambiguous situations is something I’m extremely good at. Hopefully they’ll realize and remember that and will be able to write me a fabulous recommendation someday. J

I’ll let you know more when I do.  Till then I’ve got some roasted cauliflower to eat, a p90x plyometrics workout to test out, and a workout routine to tweak for tomorrow’s class.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Up and Over

Emily's Memorial Service at the Peace Corps Office

The event started around 7:30pm with a full house, more than attended the Peace Corps Director Williams visit one speaker noted.  Speeches began with Nikki Briggs, Emily best friend as Master of Ceremonies, speeches from Elisa, our sector director, Dee the assistant country director, a letter from Aaron Williams, the global Peace Corps Director, and a video tribute from Emily’s G.  Briggs did an absolutely amazing job of keeping herself collected most of the time; I was quite impressed.  If it had been Bree, I’d be a puddle of the floor for the forseeable future.  The video tribute wasn’t quite finished, but what we were see was so touching.  G33 is a very close, very special G, and that comes out crystal clear in the video.

After the initial speeches, the rest of us attending the ceremony were allowed to share our own memories of Emily.  The service started around 7:30 and ended after 11pm I think, so you can only image how many people got up to speak.  Some of her Gmates who we didn’t get to see in the video spoke, some added to their video comments, some of us who didn’t know her as closely shared the moments we had with her too.  Even people who didn’t know Emily, but were still touched and detested by the loss of one of our own spoke eloquently about the Peace Corps  Paraguay family.  Final words were giving by Santiago’s family, Emily’s fiancĂ©.

Some people made us cry (I’m looking at you Dee), some made us laugh, some gave us a greater appreciation of our experience in this country and the people sitting next to us.  It was a wonderful tribute to a wonderful person.

At the end of the ceremony a dove was released in Emily’s honor.  The Peace Corps logo is a star coming off of an American flag and becoming a dove; Emily also had a tattoo that read “She flys on her own wings”.  The dove, who had been sitting in a box in the air conditioned office most of the day, flew up… and over…and straight into the glass wall of the hallway surrounding our medical office!

After the shock wore off, and quickly confirming the bird had not injured itself, everyone burst into laughter.  The bird flew away of its own accord a little while later.  Now whenever I start getting misty about the whole situation, I just think about that damn bird and it makes me smile.  Emily had a great sense of humor; I think she would have appreciated the moment.