Monday, January 11, 2010

On to the Home Stretch

I spent the first part of last week updating my status report and finishing up the marketing strategy document that I’m leaving behind; I’ll continue to fine-tune those until my last day (I wrote my monthly report for Peace Corps before I went to Palawan – after writing every other monthly report at the beginning of the following month – so it was a “blue moon” monthly report – in the same month as a celestial blue moon; I thought that was kind of cool when I realized it!). And I found out when my last day is! January 18. On Thursday I received an email with all of my COS information. I already knew about some of the required documents – a Description of Service (the formal document that eventually is the only record kept at the Peace Corps office in Washington), a final report (same format as the monthly report – so maybe I can cut and paste from those), a PNVSCA form (Philippines National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency) – there was one of those at the beginning and one in the middle so this is the one at the end, and a final evaluation for Peace Corps. I could have gotten started on those earlier but I liked the idea of starting them after the holidays – I think I can churn them all out this week.

I had forgotten about all of the other forms – something saying I leave no debts, closing my bank account, a thank-you note to my agency (actually, I don’t think Morocco had this one), a privacy waiver, a home-of-record form, my post-service travel itinerary, an authorization for use of personal material, a final site form, a Corps Care (like COBRA) signup form, my WHO card. And then there’s a checklist – I need signatures attesting that I’ve returned any books I borrowed, my life vest and my medical kit, and then there are other signatures for other things. None of those is especially time-consuming, but taken together, they somehow fill the time between COS appointments.

It’ll take longer to exit than it did for orientation! Next Tuesday I have a dentist appointment and a physical. On Wednesday I have an appointment at the PNVSCA office. On Thursday I have an exit interview with the Country Director, and on Friday an interview with the Peace Corps Response Coordinator. That’s next Friday – first, this Friday there’s an exit conference with him, my supervisor and my counterpart. I’m not going to do any formal presentation of my plan or my status report; we’ll just meet. I’m not printing anything out; just emailing everything. That’s good! If I have time after doing all of the paperwork, I want to work on my Third Goal presentation (already tentatively scheduled for Peace Corps Week, the week of March 1, to the Princeton Club of Chicago, and my World-Wise Schools class is interested too) and a Philippines photo slide show to show to friends that I see along the way home.

And I have one last – big – accomplishment. At the end of the day on Friday, I got a call from USAID. They’re going to fund a big portion of the latest relief effort (the first relief effort was funded before they had gotten back to us, but they said to submit other proposals, and I did). There are still people living in tents and evacuation centers up north, and now they will have USAID-funded Habitat-built toilets! I feel especially good about this because at the Housing Forum back in September, the president (may he rest in peace) said that his one hope for me was that I would bring in USAID money. Now I have!

It’s hard to believe that next Monday is my last day at Habitat. I will miss people, and I’ve enjoyed the work, but I don’t feel sad, really – certainly not as anguished as I felt when I was leaving Morocco last year. At the same time, I don’t feel I’ve emotionally checked out. I’m finishing up, but I’m still engaged in what I’m doing. I’ll continue to follow up on things, and if there are small projects that I can work on while getting everything else done, I’ll work on them. I’m looking forward to my post-COS travel – last year I couldn’t plan anything beyond buying the one-way ticket to Bangkok. This year I have an itinerary (after looking at the distances I decided that short flights would be better than long - longer than overnight, that is - train or bus rides, so it forced me to plan) and even some hotel reservations, but I’m going to figure out what to do in each place as I go.

I’m sending a box home – one big box. It has craft items I’ve picked up, gifts for people I see as I travel home, and some clothes, just to lighten the suitcase load. Almost all of the clothes I brought to Morocco is staying behind here (maybe going to the Bajau community). They’ve had just about three years of wear and tear, and they are worn and torn. But I’m glad I had them to wear here!

I felt some sense of finality when I changed my Northwest reservation (a difference between Peace Corps and Peace Corps Response is that for the latter, when you depart, they also give you the return ticket – mine was for my COS date, January 23) – I’m leaving Manila for good on February 15 and will land in Los Angeles, also on February 15 – but that sense has since turned into mild annoyance that I don’t yet have the email confirmation. I have the rough timing of my Amtrak trip across the country (glad I will be seeing some friends along the way!) and now I have the known of what life will be like when I base myself in Southampton again. I’ll get settled and then go to New Orleans for the Habitat for Humanity build that I’m organizing. I don’t feel anxious about what’s next after that, but I can’t say I’m looking forward to it either. It just is. So maybe I’m manifesting my (so far, one – and it might stay that way) goal for the year – to live more in the moment!

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