(My buddies, Florentino and Mariano, on top of Cerro Duima. A special goodbye hike we made to the top)
The latrine project is done. The beekeepers had another successful harvest this year and are going to start selling at a new hostel in Western Panama to diversify their sales. The coffee farmers had some hiccups, but are well positioned for the future. I’ve said my goodbyes, shed an exorbitant amount of tears, and moved out my little bamboo hut in Cerro Iglesias.
I am fortunate to have had an incredibly positive Peace Corps experience. If I didn’t have some amazing new adventures to look forward to, I might feel this loss more strongly, but overall, I feel ready to move on. That said, Cerro Iglesias will always be a part of who I am and will hold a special place in my heart.
My final week in site was action packed and memorable. The community organized two major despedidas, one in the upper part of the community and one in the lower part. They were very formal events, complete with songs, prayer, speeches, tons of food, a piñata, gifts, and of course, all of the wonderful people that have made these two years so special for me. It was all really touching and I’m glad that this experience has finished up on a really positive note.
(The piñata that looks strikingly like a gringa at one of the goodbye parties at the school)
On my final day in site, I had what equated to a living wake and invited everyone over to say their final goodbyes and to check out my front porch sale- with blowout prices. I had accumulated so much stuff over two years, despite living pretty minimalistically. Everything was sold at super cheap prices, nothing much surpassed 50 cents, except the big ticket items like my gas stove ($25). I wanted to eat my rooster that day, which I have been fattening up for months now, but I was too busy playing hostess. When my neighbor stopped by that evening, I was sulking on the porch, having sold all of my pots and pans-not realizing that I might still need to eat before I left the next morning. She told me I was not so smart for doing that and then walked away. A few minutes later I heard a loud “baa-gock!” come from the cacao tree behind my house where the rooster sleeps. I laughed because I knew what was about to happen. About two hours later, my neighbor came over with a steaming bowl of rooster soup and yucca! It was a really nice gesture and I was so thankful to have such a wonderful dinner with my neighbors on my last night in Cerro Iglesias. Food doesn’t get much more fresh and local than this!
In the morning a whole crew of my favorites in town came over to help me with my bags. We waited for the chiva under a zinc roof while the rain poured down around us. As the car pulled up, I got in, knowing it would be my last time, but couldn’t really convince myself of it. Tears rolled down as we pulled away. I’ll be gone for a little while, but this is not goodbye. I will be back. Mego will return, someday.
I feel like I should have some big epiphany now that it’s all over. I’m sure that I’ve changed in many more ways than I know. I’ll probably realize it more when I finally settle back into life in the States. I leave Cerro Iglesias with the slightest twinge of guilt that afflicts most Peace Corps Volunteers- the feeling of receiving more than you could ever give.
Thanks to all of you that have read this blog, followed my pictures on Flickr and supported me over the past few years. A special thanks MANY of you that came to visit!! I am so glad that I got to share this experience with you. Your support has been vital to my success and sanity in Panama.
This will be my last post on this blog, as I have reserved it for the 27 months of Peace Corps only. The next adventure starts soon and is very much inspired by my Peace Corps service. A group of friends and I are riding bicycles through Central America in an ambitious effort to continue development and capacity-building work at the grassroots, level, while enjoying the beautiful scenery and culture that this part of the world has to offer. Follow my next journey www.cyclesofchange.wordpress.com
(My knitting group ladies, coming by to buy the last of the yarn)
(Comarca girls- my main support network! Andi, Kat, Aleah and Meredith)
(One of my most adored families in Cerro Iglesias- Los Sire)