So, COS...it's been on my calendar for about a year now. It's been no secret that 2013 has already had its share of challenges. I have gone back and forth between dreading and looking forward to the COS Conference. I mean yes, I would get to see all the original M26's one last time and we would be away from everyone else in a secluded location in Moldova with no supervision but also there was nowhere to hide and I would have to be in rooms with people I had basically written off. As usual, I created 1000 scenarios in my head not knowing in reality what it was going to be like.
So I arrived at the Peace Corps Headquarters in the center of Chisinau and met up with all my 'classmates'. We all piled onto a fancy bus and they shipped us off to a secluded 'resort' called Vada Lui Voda. (It pretty much sounds like it looks). It was SO quiet and so green and no I wasn't high. We had the place entirely to ourselves. We all checked into our rooms, ate lunch and walked around to enjoy the solitude. The afternoon began with some 'sessions' like the ones I had hated back in PST (Pre-service training) where the administrative staff encourages us to share and write on flipchart paper. The problem is, we're not in PST anymore and we're not all strangers, so this evolves into a lot of inside jokes and private and side conversations. I never realized JUST how much side conversations annoy me and I again long for my mother's ability to just stare down the room until they are silent. We got through the afternoon. We had a dinner, the food was okay but my dear friend, Chris had thought ahead and brought a lot of meat as well as his grill. And the barbecue was on. There we were a mere two years later, all sitting around like we were old friends. Where had the time gone? I know it's cliche, but seriously, how did this happen?
We learned that 64 people were invited to serve in the M26 group in Moldova. 55 arrived here. And guess how many of us were at the COS Conference? 32!!! Yes. I was one of an elite group that had survived. So I looked around at these people. There were a bunch of them I really didn't know, there were a few that I genuinely didn't like, there were a few who I adored and there were a few who I honestly can't remember life without them. But one thing we all had in common was that we were all still here. It just made me smile, it was so weird. I never finish anything. I get bored so easily and I was one of 32 people who had finished this. Crazy.
After a good night's sleep, we had to report in the morning at 7am for breakfast. (Ugh!) Then a full day of 'sessions.' Some were interesting, surprisingly and some could have been summed up in a quick email. I decided to combat my boredom and ADD with movie making. My friend, Dahnika, lent me her video camera so I spent my day shooting footage of people to compile into a movie at a later date. (Coming soon).
At the end of the day, we had a 'roast.' We had all previously drawn each other's name at random (supposedly) and had to sit in a 'hot seat' while a fellow volunteer 'roasted' us for 2 minutes. Most of the education volunteers were sentimental and wound up crying. Our group was total dicks to each other...and that's all right. It's how we roll. After dinner, everyone was heading down to hang out by the river. I saw it as an opportunity for some alone time. I went to the room and showered and sat on a swing outside my room and read for a while. It was a good moment. People started filtering back in after dark. I hung out with a few people for a while but still made it an early night. The next morning it was another early one as we were filled with information about post service insurance, readjustment allowance, post-service traveling, job workshops and in the midst of all that we had our language skills tested one last time. It was a lot of information. I've never been more grateful for my Starbucks Vias and my Dunkin' Donuts tumbler that keeps my coffee hot. (Thanks again, Mom).
As the day came to a close, they threw us a big celebratory lunch with lots of meat and well, who am I kidding, there was a lot of meat. We packed up our stuff and waited for the bus. And I was sitting in this outdoor amphitheatre waiting for the bus with my three friends, Dahnika, Jen and Lindsay. When I arrived at PST, I thought Dahnika was this snotty little girl who had no time for anyone but herself and her bitchy best friend, Lindsay was this athletic, blonde, gorgeous, super positive motivated girl who I was determined to hate and Jen (Kitsy) was this super nerdy, studious serious student who had no desire to socialize or have fun and got under my skin at every turn. And now...they were three of my best friends that i have made here. So strange how things change.
We piled on the bus and it was done. The last time we would all be together. We all leave in July on separate days so we definitely won't be a big group again and it's probable that I won't see the majority of them. And that was that.
So I, of course, was thinking about to my arrival here back in June, 2011. It was an all night flight. When I got off the plane it was hot as balls without A/C in site. I was tired, I was way fatter so I was SUPER hot, I was dressed in 'business casual' because things like that mattered back then, I was surrounded by strangers. When I got to my village, I was shoved into a house with strangers who spoke no English, didn't know what food I liked and they lived at the top of a steep, steep hill that I had to walk up every day. When I got into 'my room' I had discovered my passport and all of my money was gone. I fell asleep and hoped it was all a dream. When I woke up, I almost didn't get out of bed. I honestly don't know why I did. But I did. How did I do that? Why?
So 2 years later, I am 85 pounds lighter, I now speak 3 languages, the lessons I've learned are way too valuable to merely be written and the things I have to look forward to are immeasurable. As I sit here under this pile of paperwork that I have to complete in the next 75 days, there are no regrets.
|The surviving M26's|
|The COD Group July, 2011|
Jen, Lindsay, Andrea, Maria, Tom, Christina, Me, Jessica, Jamie
Conrad, Michael, Courtney, Jesse and Rozzi (not pictured...she was chasing a butterfly or something...)
|The COD Group, April, 2013|
Jen, Me, Lindsay, Violeta (our Program Manager), Michael, Conrad, Tom and Jesse