Thursday, February 11, 2010

Belated Farewell

It is no secret that I am no longer serving in Peace Corps Philippines. I returned home to Buffalo in May, my emotions raw, bitter and frayed by what I termed "Peace Corps warfare" - a steaming conglomeration of unreasonable rules enforced with arbitrary levels of harshness, the failure of the medical unit to provide adequate and timely care, and a constipated, sometimes unnavigable bureaucracy. For my own mental and physical health, I made my life's hardest decision and terminated my service. The decision to join the Peace Corps and to serve in the Philippines was far easier than the one that ended that service.

That decision, torturous though it was, was the correct one. I spent the summer recovering my health, both physical and mental - the throat-closing cough would persist for several months, but the haunting spectre of my service on my psyche passed within two months. I got a job at Toys R Us, I moved into my own apartment, I applied to MFA programs in creative writing, and I got on with my life, a post-service purgatory.

Of course I have regrets. By the light of nostalgia, to paraphrase Kundera, I remember the esctatic exuberance of life in the Philippines, life with my friends and my co-teacher and my host family and my students on their good days. I prefer not to dwell on those things that made my departure so necessary. I regret that circumstances were not such that I could finish service and be well at the same time. I regret not following the path I'd lain out for myself, the path other PCVs and I were supposed to follow together. I regret prematurely leaving my co-teacher and my students. I regret the loss of the experience I had so badly wanted.

What I do not regret is going in the first place. The people I met, the experiences we shared, the knowledge I gained about myself and the Philippines were invaluable. Like so many Peace Corps Volunteers and Peace Corps hopefuls, my desire to serve and travel was a zealous burn. Only in going did I learn how misplaced that desire was, how ill-suited I was to weathering Peace Corps warfare and certain realities of service. But the Philippines is always with me - I eat silog on a regular basis and recently tried my hand at leche flan again, I pine for fruits and desserts I just can't have, I consider the Pinoy "third party" method of disagreement a valid option, I mix my Cebuano with my Thai and contemplate the necessity of pasalubog. I was profoundly affected by my time in the Philippines, as all PCVs are affected by their countries of service. In some ways, I am better for this - my efforts to better understand the religious life persist, as does my disdain for the American propensity toward celebrity worship in the face of far graver needs. In other ways, I wonder how long it will take me to shuffle off the Philippine shadow - whereas before service I was unfazed by, say, cinematic sensuality, I am now uncomforable with sexual content in films or even kissing on TV, a product of living in a more conservative society. I suppose we cannot pick and choose how we will integrate our experiences, and reconciling my Philippine life with my American one is my ongoing personal project, even eight months after I left.

I did not, however, storm into this blog again just to wax on about my personal changes and post-service progress. What I wanted to write is this: I am so proud of my fellow PCVs from batch 267. They have done a tremendous job in the face of their own adversity, in whatever form that adversity presents itself. Whether they are Ed volunteers, CYF or CRM, they have made personal strides as well as professional ones. I am so happy for all their small and large triumphs, I sympathize with their setbacks, and I rejoice in their strength of character. They do what I could not.

This will be the final entry in this blog. I considered resurrecting it as a more personal, non-Peace Corps related blog, but I find the subjects of my life to be not terribly blogworthy, and the internet does not need another idiot riding the waves, thinking the mundanity and minutiae of their every days are somehow compelling.

I am signing out. Good luck, Peace Corps Philippines 267. You make me so proud.