Farewell to the MinnesotanPosted: January 6, 2013
Every volunteer has had that moment. It’s the moment where you’re 99.7% sure you’re going home before your 27 months are up.
Early termination (ET in PC lingo) will always surface on the edge of your brain on your bad days. Peace Corps is so crazy an experience, that you’d be crazy not to think about going home. It’s okay. It’s normal. It’s an indispensable part of being shoved out of your comfort zone, which is what Peace Corps is about.
Of the 44 Az9s who arrived originally, eight have decided to finish their service early. Among their number is the Minnesotan, my site mate and site wife, who will be taking a crack-of-dawn flight from Baku back to Minnesota this Tuesday morning. And she will be missed.
It is not an easy decision for anyone. Chances are, you’ve put in at least six, if not more, months into your application. You’ve stepped on a plane with a ticket to an obscure airport, psyching yourself up for two years of no running water or something similar, ready to commit. You know it won’t be easy.
And then, after all that your host country and Peace Corps throws at you, when all signs start pointing to that early ticket home, people often take the easier path: sticking it out, thinking that tomorrow will give more reasons to stay, belittling tough times (“It’s only a rough patch!”). I can safely say that not one case of the Az9s’ ETs was someone who “quit.” After throwing in so much effort – living in a world you will never have the opportunity to live in again, even if it’s insanely difficult – feeling like you’re just walking away is not how anyone wants to end it.
Reasons to leave are manifold. Why does anyone leave their job, for example? In Azerbaijan, we’ve had volunteers with family matters escalating at home. We’ve had host organizations that have not been hospitable or effective. Sometimes people leave for medical purposes, after being seriously injured or ill. There are other opportunities, such as professional or personal ones, that a PCV doesn’t want to miss. And yet, ET’ing is still a decision fraught with emotion and stress.
I think I will be out of sorts for a while. Site mates are the most likely PCVs that you text to about squat toilet misadventures or drag around to awkward guesting situations – even to argue intensely with, when the pressure cooker you’re stuffed in, alongside cultural differences and disparate personalities, requires the release of steam. But things weren’t working for the Minnesotan. She had many reasons in Azerbaijan and at home, and in the end it made sense for her to go.
Dear Minnesotan, I wish upon your head the most wonderful of American reintegration experiences – including massive meals at Chipotle and taking walks at night. Also, your short hair looks great (you wouldn’t believe me – HA). You got me through good times and hard times, and it wasn’t a cakewalk – far from it. But we learned a lot, we’re still surviving, and we have been joined in site-matrimony. Here’s to your new beginning! Yaxşi yol, dear friend and site wife.