Monday, June 20, 2011
Of Adventure, Service, and Leavetaking
Since I first began the long application process to be a volunteer in the Peace Corps in 2009, I've cringed whenever someone makes a comment about my "adventure." I know being a PC volunteer IS in the broad sense, an adventure ("an unusual experience," "a risky undertaking"), but in my mind there is a distinct difference between adventure and service. Adventure is something I do for myself. Service is something I do for others. And as corny as it sounds, service is the reason I joined the Peace Corps, leaving family and friends and a comfortable life to serve where I'm needed. So when news of a recent government study showing the low level of need for volunteers in Romania came to my attention last spring, I had to admit to myself that--in my particular village in my particular region--I had already reached that conclusion. This may not be true currently at all sites, but in a village where the school has perfectly competent English teachers and the mayor's pockets seem unusually deep, my presence is at best one of ambassadorship. At the same time, unplanned developments in my family and with some of my friends have created greater need for me back home. So when I put it all on the scale, the tilt was obvious and I just couldn't justify staying on in Romania to continue my "adventure." But oh, the difficulty of saying goodbye! I've repeatedly thought I'd like to be two people--one to go and one to stay. Because there are so many reasons I'd like to stay in this beautiful and complex country, enjoying its people, countryside, food, music, and traditions. I liked my Red House apartment, the big-sky sunsets, and many special people in my village and in the city. I became very close to my counterpart, a superb person professionally and personally. I'll miss my PCV colleagues, especially the Westsiders, and several others with whom I bonded during the training months. I sincerely hope my 60 blog entries have given my readers a good sense of what life here is like and that I've represented my country well in my association with Romanians. I arrived back in America last Saturday night after teary goodbyes in Oradea to find teary hellos at the Atlanta airport. My heart is full and I know I'll be gleaning poems from this experience for a long while to come. Happily, I'll be returning to Romania in September with fellow Unitarian Universalists on a tour, so I was able to say "so long" instead of "goodbye" to several people I know I'll get to see then. And that trip will certainly be an adventure, something I'm doing for myself, a pleasure I look forward to.