Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Reflecting On Nearly Two Years Of Peace Corps Service

I just finished my Peace Corps service earlier this afternoon, as today is my COS (Completion Of Service, or Close Of Service) date.  About nine other PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers) and I spent yesterday afternoon and this morning and this afternoon completing various administrative tasks.  In the last day or two, we've signed a lot of forms.  We also visited various offices at Peace Corps Headquarters here in Rabat, getting signatures of various Peace Corps staff members documenting that we've complied with various reporting requirements.  We had them verify that we've complied with assorted administrative requirements, including returning Peace Corps property, such as our medical kits and smoke detectors, and any books we took out from the Peace Corps library here at Peace Corps Headquarters in Rabat.

It feels good to have just finished my Peace Corps service.  Though I'm not sure how much I've helped here, at least I tried to help.  As a PCV, you'll never know the full effects you've had.

Although I won't know much about how I've helped here, there will be some interactions from my time here in Morocco and from the application process, and from the decision process to apply to the Peace Corps that I think I'll never forget.  Among them are:

* Sitting in church in August 2009 and listening to the pastor say that when we set out to help others and are worried about being lonely, that Jesus reassures us that He will be there with us.  That was the moment when I decided that I was definitely applying to the Peace Corps.

* Standing on the Sundial Bridge in Redding, California, in November 2009 and being approached by three middle-aged men who told me that they were on a treasure hunt.  They told me that they were looking for people who needed their prayers.  Immediately I responded that I needed their prayers, since I was applying to the Peace Corps to teach English in a foreign country, and was studying for the CLEP (College Level Examination Program) test to show my proficiency level in French to the Peace Corps.  We stood on the bridge, with our arms on each others' shoulders, praying, asking God to help me. 

* Driving north on Interstate 280 from San Jose to San Francisco on one particular afternoon in June 2010, knowing that the big blue envelope with the invitation from the Peace Corps was waiting for me at home in San Francisco.  As I drove home that day, I remember thinking that I was on my way to find out where I would be living for the next two years of my life.

* Driving north on 19th Avenue in San Francisco on that same day in June 2010, and, as I was only a few minutes from home, listening to the classical radio station play "Palladio" by Karl Jenkins.  I felt, and still feel, that its urgent, charged tempo and rhythm was apropos, as I only had a few more minutes to wait to find out to where I would be moving and serving in the Peace Corps. 

* Driving east on Interstate 580 right after I left the San Francisco Bay Area in July 2010 and sobbing as I left behind so many loved ones and the life I had lived there for years.  As I was sobbing, gasping for air, I was listening to the band Coldplay perform the song "What If."  As I listened to its message of being bold and taking the leap to live bravely, I reaffirmed my commitment to enter the Peace Corps. 

* Freaking out in early September 2010 as the time imminently approached for me to move out of the United States, in the only culture I had ever known. 

* Walking through the airport in Philadelphia where the other PCVs and I were meeting for our Staging date, when we had our orientation in the US preparing us to leave the US and fly here to Morocco.  As I neared the exit of the airport, I saw a poster advertising the Peace Corps which said, "Never have to start sentences with 'I should have...'"

* Speaking with my host brother, in whose home I lived during the first two months I lived here in Morocco.  In particular, I especially recall one conversation I had with him in which he was persistently apologizing for the attacks made in the US on September 11, 2001.  Despite my protests that he didn't have a responsibility to apologize for those attacks, he continued to apologize for them.

* Meeting a courageous young Moroccan Christian woman on the train between Marrakech and Fes in November 2010.  After she stated that it's illegal to be Christian in Morocco, she nevertheless shared her story of how she converted to Christianity despite the initial opposition of her family, who at first ostracized her and shunned her for deciding to be a Christian. 

* Leaving the cyber one day in November or December 2010 in the town in the Sahara where I lived for the better part of two years.  As I walked out into the Sahara sun, I despaired at how I felt that no one in the town would be able to understand how I felt, with the homesickness and culture shock I was feeling. 

* Crumpling emotionally in late January 2011 as I felt like I didn't have the strength to continue as a PCV, yet simultaneously feeling as if I had no choice but to continue with my Peace Corps service.  Feeling trapped, I cried out.  Soon after feeling so emotional, I found renewed fortitude as I thought of Jesus' words in Matthew 25:42-43.  I recalled His words there, how He reminds us that when we help the disempowered and disadvantaged, we are respecting Him.  Reminding myself of this teaching, I realized that I wouldn't be going anywhere, and that I would be finishing my Peace Corps service as scheduled, so as to help the people who I came here to Morocco to help. 

* Talking with a particular student at Spring Camp in 2011.  I was so glad to be discussing with him how God wants us to help each other.  I so enjoyed discussing the meaning of life with him, and even more knowing that he had been trying to live his life in a way to infuse it with meaning. 

* Meeting other expat Christians here in Morocco and attending Bible study sessions with them.  As I experienced spiritual community and fellowship with them, which I cherished very much, we supported each other as we tended to each others' spiritual growth.  Along with much of the spiritual reading I've done while here in Morocco, I felt like I benefited enormously from their support.

* Helping youths here in Morocco develop their critical thinking skills.  In the process, I feel that they articulated their ideals, what is most important to them, and how they want to live their lives.  In such creative writing exercises, they seemed to be describing the kind of people they admire and the type of people they aspire to be.  I hope that I helped them to be more conscious in how they choose to live their lives.

* Enjoying the magnanimous hospitality of Moroccans so many times.  I've been reminded that it is so important to be generous towards others and to take care of others.

Rather than bringing back a lot of new material possessions from Morocco, I'll be returning to the US with the insight gained from having lived in a markedly different culture.  I've learned, from different cultural norms, how I can benefit from approaching life in different ways.  I feel that I've learned how to be a better person.  I feel that during my Peace Corps service, God has taught, guided and directed me.  I'm so glad that I made the major changes in my life which were necessary to come here, since I feel that I am a much better person as a result of having so drastically changed my life. 

1 comment:

  1. WOW, thanks for sharing your experiences with us through your wonderful blog. I hope that you'll continue to write about your experiences returning to the United States.