On Wednesday morning I had a last coffee with the Wharton alum I’ve had a few coffees with – he added a dimension to my time here. And then Charlie and I took the MRT to PNVSCA, the Philippines National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency, for an exit interview. When we had gone there during orientation the van ride took forever in the traffic; it was an easy MRT ride! Manila seemed so big and overwhelming then – it still is, but we know it now. The exit interview was good – the concept behind PNVSCA, coordinating the efforts of all of the international volunteers here (as well as those of Filipino volunteers who serve abroad), is good. It seems bureaucratic to us, but the exit interview made me feel that there are people who are genuinely concerned.
Charlie and I had sushi lunch at the mall (and I had a mango shake) and then I went back to Habitat. I know, I had said my farewells, but the new president (he started at the beginning of the month) wanted to have an exit interview as well. My supervisor had given him a copy of my final status report and my final report to Peace Corps and he had gone through them line by line and had questions. Then he asked my opinion of things in general and what I would do if I were he; he also told me some of the immediate things he is dealing with (the Philippines is the only Habitat country that does the medium-rises, and International brought in a team to make sure the design was earthquake-resistant – turns out it may not be. And Manila had an earthquake, magnitude 4.0, just the other week (I didn’t feel it)). I didn’t realize how good it would feel to have someone go through my report in detail and ask for my thoughts and observations. And this from the new president of the organization, no less. I’ll have to keep in touch to see what new directions Habitat for Humanity Philippines takes!
Yesterday, I brought my big box to the Peace Corps office for mailing. How nice that they help you get your things home! My box was overweight (no surprise) so I had to split it into two boxes. This was fine, actually – I had only gotten the big box because that’s what the store had. Inside the big box was a smaller box, all taped up and ready to go, of things that can wait until I get to the imaginary studio apartment. Everything else, I just put back in the big box; the mailroom man will cut it to size and air-mail it, while the things that can wait will go by boat! I’m not going to say how much it cost to mail everything back. At least it was only one big box’s worth of stuff.
I had my exit interview with the Country Director that afternoon. She’s very low-key and the interview wasn’t structured, so I felt I rambled. I didn’t have an agenda per se, but I think I managed to tell her everything I meant to tell her. I felt good afterwards. Then Mary and I met at Starbucks and after coffee we went over to the pension; I’d had dinner there last week with Lynn, one of the PCVs I met at the build. The food is good and it’s nice to sit at one of the outdoor tables, so I proposed an all-PCRV dinner there. For a while it was just Mary, Mercedes and me, and eventually everyone came. Really nice to sit and talk and relax. Usually Peace Corps Response volunteers come and go one at a time, but it’s been nice to have this group, this community. I came up with a fun idea – the DOS (Description of Service) document is a template where you fill in the blanks with the particulars of your service; I proposed DOS Mad Libs, and everyone at dinner contributed a sentence.
This morning I took my big suitcase to the pension, where they’ll store it while I am inVietnam. That will probably be overweight too, but I am getting rid of some clothes, and I did budget my toiletries well. Then I had an exit interview with Milo. I had a chance to tell him about some of the dynamics at Habitat that I have only hinted at in my monthly reports and haven’t said much about here either – overall I am very pleased with the organization, with the independence I had, and with what I accomplished and what I leave them with, but, as one of the people I worked with said, maybe they could have used me better; I thought Milo should know.
Milo then took the group out for lunch (a Peace Corps Philippines tradition – not so in Morocco – but Morocco had the “stamping out” that was a sweet little ceremony, providing some closure). I got all of my signatures but I’m not technically done – the Description of Service and Certificate of Health weren’t signed by the Country Director, so they’ll be waiting for me at the pension when I come back here. It was good to say goodbye and thank you but not farewell. Tonight there’s a party at the guys’ house – the PRCVs and some of the current PCVs, who are in town for a meeting, will be there. Maybe the finality will sink in and I’ll feel more of an impact when I leave the Philippines in February – or maybe I’m just living in the moment and going with the flow.