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My Despedidas (Goodbye Parties)

I had only a few weeks, and my first stop was Teguc for my medical clearance and exit interview. When I went to the general practitioner, he was slightly concerned about me, and told me to eat more, saying literally "Come Mas", as I only weighed 116 pounds. I had gotten that way from all of the walking, working, and heartache of knowing that I was leaving all my best friends. Otherwise, my health was fair except that I had round worm eggs for which I received treatment. During this week, I had my exit interview, which I completed satisfactorily, coming out in the advanced level. I knew I wouldn't be superior, but I performed adequately.

While I was there, I had my last chance to see some of the people from my group. We were all taking care of our close of service exit activities. I saw my fellow volunteer, Andy, and he also remarked on how thin I was. That was the last time I ever saw him. Osmar and I got together twice that week, and had a few beers. He was there finishing his bachelor's degree in math, and was going to be leaving at the end of the week to go home to Dilcy and the family. We enjoyed our time together in Teguc. We knew we'd miss each other, and life would never be the same.

The next afternoon, I went to La Esperanza to say goodbye to everyone. Judy was having a party to celebrate a few things, including the end my of service. We also knew we would miss each other, as we had become great friends. I stayed with her that night, and felt conflicted, as I was having these great parties and despedidas. The next day, I visited my friend Dina, her children and her new fiance. I was happy to leave her in a much better situation than I had found her, two years before.

Next, I visited all my groups for the last time. The first place I visited was Plan Verde, where all my farmers and their families gathered in an organized last meeting. Aquilino got in front of the whole group, and told us about his exceptional time at the Zamorano School of Agriculture. He said that his life changed incredibly, when the Peace Corps came along, and he was very grateful. Then, Naro and Fermin said a few words, but Juana was still visiting her sister in Santa Barbara. Even though I always asked about her every Saturday, when her daughter came in for market, Juana never returned. Finally, Don Felicito stood in front of the group, and nearly cried over the impact my program had made on his life. All the families were there, and we had a big party with tamales. This group was organized, worked together and independently, and they were grateful. They made my job seem easy, once we found each other. My only complaint is that I didn't find them sooner, but once I got that bit of organization to my program everything else seemed easier.

My next stop was Guachipilincito to see my group there. Unfortunately, they didn't unite in a group that day. In fact, many of the families didn't really get along; so, I had to visit everyone separately. First, I went over to visit my friend Carmen and her now nine month old baby. I left her a blouse of mine, that I thought she might like. I was trying to give away as many things as possible. Then, I went to say goodbye to my other friend Carmen, and finally on to Filipe who took a pair of my jeans. He was sorry to see me go, but he still hadn't actually applied much of the knowledge that he'd acquired. Nonetheless, I knew I would miss him. Don Lucio was gone from his house per usual, so I never saw him again; but Paco was home, and he was ready to tell me all about the great class at Zamorano. He learned about the origination of the corn that they planted, and much about Integrated Pest Management. He came back with a great deal of knowledge, and enthusiasm. I wonder whatever happened to him. All I know, is that Guadalupe and he were grateful for the things they had learned, and we had a nice meal of tamales to celebrate!

I also took one more trip over to San Miguelillo to see Rene and his family, after the field trip to Zamorano. One of his daughters gave me a sewing sampler that she'd made at school. I still have it hanging on my wall. They had been a satisfactory group to work with, and I was thankful for them, too.

It would have been nice if the whole town of Concepcion could've come together, and had one party; but this wasn't meant to be, as most of the separate families didn't really get along. Instead, I visited each family, and had lots of tamales. In fact, I had so many tamales, that I didn't eat another one for about fifteen years after that. I also, took pictures of my favorite families, as pictured here. When I went to my friends the Nolasco's house, they were talking about how improved I was in Spanish. Gloria said something really fast, and I repeated it back to her. We were all impressed that I had mastered the language! It was a great feeling.

I remember the despedida with my landlord, professor Cesario and his son and cousin, not his wife, as she didn't like me much. She did make tamales for us, and we sat and drank some beers, and they tried to guess who my boyfriends had been. They named every one of them, but I kept on saying no to all! Anyway, it was an amusing afternoon.

I wanted to lessen my load, and so I gave away and sold many things. Hubert Del Sid came and got a bright blue t-shirt from the Montana pig races. I sold my makeshift closet to the Nolasco family, and gave my mosquito netting to Osmar and Dilcy for the baby. Allen, the new volunteer, wasn't happy with me, because he had to buy a new net, but I wanted to help my friends. I did sell him my three inch mattress, and my electric burner.

It was a bittersweet time for all of us. As I gave belongings away and said goodbye, I remember feeling a little part of me dying inside. Nahun and I said goodbye for the last time, a month before my close of service. How could I really say goodbye to these important people who had changed my life?

The whole thing was extremely difficult and impossible. At the time, I don't think I realized how hard it was.

I packed up, and went through La Esperanza to Teguc, where I took care of some lose ends. I had been there for about two days, when Dilcy and Osmar came to see me off on the plane. We spent the night in a motel, and I took them to a really nice restaurant. During this time, they told me that my admirer, Martin, had started drinking the day I left. That was sad to hear. It was time to go, but I had some extra money leftover, so I gave it to them and the Del Sid family. They took me to the airport in a taxi, and we said goodbye. I put all my things through the x-ray machine, but I forgot to collect the handmade map of Concepcion that I'd made with Don Tonio. It was lost forever.

On the trip home, I listened to Honduran music the whole way. Then, I craned my neck over my neighbor as we were landing in San Francisco. He was very annoyed with me, but I couldn't hold back. As I got off the plane I put on my Guatemalan Holy week hat. When I got off, my mother had arranged a small group of friends and family to meet me at the gate. They included my friend Stephanie from high school, and my cousin Anne Meyer. We had brownies and celebrated my return. I was relieved to be back, but definitely conflicted. No one knew my complete story. I hinted at it over the years, but now I've told almost the whole thing! Thank you for following this blog.

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