Saying Goodbye, Part III

My final days in Thailand were a jumble. The news of my father’s health; the decision to cut short my time in the Peace Corps; the persistent, suffocating aloneness; the packing; the indeterminate plans for an indeterminate future all kept me awake at night and unfocused during the day. I was anxious. I was fearful. I was disappointed. I was confused and depressed. I could not stay in the present. When I finally made the decision to ET I knew things would happen quickly. I finalized my choice on a Monday and was to be in Bangkok first thing Wednesday morning to begin the three-day process of ending my long held dream of serving my country in the Peace Corps.

Monday I packed. I had two bags and a weight limit. My house was a mess, there was a pile on the floor of things I knew I wanted to take home and a pile that I knew could be left behind. The pile of things to take home was then divided into things I knew I needed and things I simply wanted. Those piles were then divvied up into things I needed to have right away when I arrived stateside and those things I could live without for a while. I had managed to get a big box the week before, anticipating shipping things home and it was filling up quickly. Not having a scale to weigh my load with I cautiously packed shoes and souvenirs into the luggage I’d take with me. The little pocket notebooks crammed with daily scribbles detailing how hot it was, what I ate, and how to say things in Thai were stacked into that box to be shipped. Essential underwear, T-shirts and shorts were packed in the luggage. The art supplies I never used and the collection of mostly-solved New York Times crossword puzzle books were stacked into the box. It was going to be summer back home so the socks I never had to wear in Thailand and the lace up shoes covered in mold could take the slow boat home. Even though I had no plans of pounding up green curry paste anytime soon, the eight-pound granite mortar and pestle was going home with me.

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After the initial chaotic packing Monday morning, sweating in the early heat and humidity that was the beginning of rainy season, I walked to the municipal office and broke the news to my counterpart that I would be leaving, not to return. She showed concern but I saw relief in her eyes; we never really knew how to communicate. By the time I walked back to my house a few hours later my landlady had already heard the news and greeted me at the door to express her surprise and how much she’d miss me. Or at least that’s what I told myself she said.

IMG_5235I was down to the final 24 hours in my little village and there was so much I needed to do and so much more to worry about. I needed to finish packing, I needed to get to the post office down the mountain to ship the box and weigh my bags, I needed to ask my counterpart to help me deal with the airline, I needed to book a hotel room in Bangkok, I needed to settle my internet bill, and I needed to clean out the refrigerator. I began to worry about those final three days tying up loose ends with the Peace Corps: the goodbyes to the staff whose names I never learned, the exit interviews, the closing of my bank account, the medical tests and specifically the three-day poop test. (Being perpetually constipated, this was going to be a problem.)

I dreaded the next few days. I dreaded the goodbyes and I dreaded the travel. I was worried about how I was going to adequately and sincerely thank everyone for their kindness knowing I didn’t have the skills to adequately and sincerely do that. I was sleepless and exhausted, my guts already twisted and knotted thinking about the cramped cabins and seats on the series of flights home. I was worried about arriving home, needing to buy a car and wondering how I would get to the car dealer to do that. I was a week and 8700 miles ahead of myself projecting and thinking about the drive across New York State—my first time behind a wheel in a year and a half—rushing to my Dad’s house wondering what condition I would find him in and what his future would be. I thought about my own future and my head was filled with worries and doubts and an endless, disordered To Do list.  I was going home.

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About rich1019

A new adventure is just around the corner. While not an adventure seeker by nature, I'm open to new experiences. Peace Corps. Life is calling.
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4 Responses to Saying Goodbye, Part III

  1. Susan says:

    I’ve thought of you often this summer, wondering how your transition home was going – or not going. So good to hear your voice again. I found myself feeling anxious along with you as you tried to fill suitcases and do 100 things with no time to think. I’m hoping life has settled down in a comfortable way for you and look forward to the next installment.

  2. rich1019 says:

    Things haven’t really settled down yet. But I’ll be getting your room ready soon.

  3. Judy Hedstrom says:

    Hi Rich,
    I so understand! We went through the same process with similar feelings, though our leaving was due to Ron’s health. He is, fortunately, quite healthy now, and after his surgery is, miraculously, tremor free.
    I do hope you are finding your way and adjusting to life post Peace Corps. After ten sessions with a counselor, courtesy of PC, and with nearly a year of adjusting, I am doing much better. It would be so good to see you and be able to talk. We’re still tbinking about that road trip….
    Best to you
    Judy

  4. Agh … such empathetic pain on reading this. I’m so glad you’re home and on the road to PC recovery. I have a bit over two months in Armenia now. Travel home all planned, tickets bought. I also have a bit of meaningful work, finally, to top off what’s been a frustrating two years, though there has been a lot of fascination with this country. I admire your sticking it out the year and a half. I know you worked hard at it. For that, please feel you did your best and there are better things to come. I’ll be home in NY in December and really look forward to seeing you over the holiday. We’ll toast to “the toughest job you’ll ever question.”

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