Currently I´m laying down in a hospital in David due to an infected foot that swelled to unnatural proportions originating from an unsightly purple and red big toe. How it happened? I really can´t tell you. Somewhere between hiking around the jungle, crossing dozens of rivers, and making my way through the dirty streets of Panama City and David, all in my trusty chacos (which aren´t so trusty anymore seeing as they are about to tear in two) I got a small cut and bacterial infection. So I´ve been hospitalized overnight and am finally granted some time to actually write a blog post.
My Peace Corps service is coming to an end. Even though I still don´t quite believe it myself, I will be flying into Portland International Airport on October 12th of this year. Crazy! That gives me 6.5 weeks until I leave my site and 7.5 weeks until I leave the country. Having just come from my close of service (COS) conference, it is actually beginning to sink in. At the conference I had to say goodbye to some fellow volunteers who arrived with me here two years ago, and whom I certainly will never see again in Panama. Getting to this stage of my service has brought on a whole new phase of reflection. I came to Peace Corps pretty much solely with the idea of serving a community in need. Never in my fantasizing of what Peace Corps might be like had I considered that I would make some lifelong friends. Nor did I realize what an important role my fellow volunteers would play in my emotional and mental stability. They have gotten me through some of the hardest times and although many people around the world can relate to the experience of Peace Corps or any service of this style for that matter, these friends have seen me go through triumphs and challenges like no other. It has been an incredible experience to get to know a group of people from all across the United States risking everything that is comfortable in hopes of making a difference in a country that none of us chose, but all have come to love (and sometimes hate). Panama is a beautiful country and I will most definitely never live in such a tropical paradise right on the beach ever again. But it´s not over yet…
I´m excited to get back to my site where the lovely Maggie Melcher (my follow-up volunteer) has bravely taken on coordinating the work crew over the last week and a half. If everything is on schedule we will now have completed one 900 gallon tank and the 2000 gallon tank, and be about half way finished with the second 900 gallon tank. Leaving only the second half of tank 3 and all of tank 4, plus one spring source capture which a group of volunteers are coming to help me build on the 3rd of September. I´m still hopeful that we can finish all concrete work before I depart, leaving only tube connections and burial for Ms. Melcher. Given how hard the community has been working to knock out these tanks I think this is very possible. I have to say, we´re doing great things in Playa Balsa, I´m consistently left with a sense of pride towards the efforts of the community and how far they have come throughout this process. That is not to say that I do not have my days where I get grumpy and feel the stress of managing this project, but as always, stepping away for a few days rejuvenates me and brings out the greatest admiration for my community.
What has not sunk in is just how much I am going to miss my community. Although I always knew it was a temporary home, it was a home nonetheless. I´ve become extremely close to these people and love them for all their magnificence and flaws. Plus, the natural beauty is truly my favorite place on earth. Luckily, with loss comes renewal. I´m already getting excited about sleeping under a comforter on a cold night and cuddling up to a fireplace with a glass of whiskey, with my family all around me in the living room. I´m so very ready to spend time with all the people I love and have missed, from old friends to my one year old niece. Reuniting with Helen Jones, my beautiful fiance remains unfathomable, and yet something which I have been waiting the last two years to come true. What a ride.