I think this is going to be my last regularly scheduled post (“regularly scheduled?’ you say, “It’s been more than two months since the last one!”)
I know, I know. But darn, somehow blogging just didn’t make it into the top slot on my list of priorities in my last weeks in Malawi, when I was closing up my work there and enjoying last adventures. Nor did it make it onto the list during my first weeks back in America, when there were many friends and family members to hug, craft beers to be guzzled, and delicious meals to be consumed.
There was also the small task of moving to New York City and beginning grad school…
So I feel that this will be a post that mostly relates recent activities rather than neatly summarizes and cleanly wraps up my Peace Corps experience. (Though I think you’ll have to look pretty hard to find a PCV that can ever neatly encapsulate their service into one blog post of a reasonable length, to be honest.)
Here we go:
My last few weeks in Malawi were spent finishing up school, grading exams, and preparing my site for a replacement. This involved great resolve to keep teaching at school when the students and other teachers were totally checked out, but grading my last set of exams had the joy of “this is the last time I’ll ever have to do this!” Making arrangements for my replacement meant a lot of phone calls to my APCD and a lot of help from my head teacher, but the housing eventually got up to PC standards and now the new volunteer is there and teaching!
My last few days in country were spent in Lilongwe, where my cohort and I had lots of paperwork to complete, staff signatures to sign, and zitenje to buy. Some gooodbyes were exceptionally difficult, but in the end, I successfully closed my service, and after a final dinner together at the country director’s house, I was off to Joburg.
This time, my travel plans didn’t hit a snag until I got back to the US – made it to DC just fine, but my flight into the large, efficient, glorious University Park Airport in State College was canceled. The only way to remedy that without spending another night in Dulles was to change my flight to Harrisburg and have my wonderful parents drive to come get me, which they did. I was greeted by my smiling mother and father, ho also may r may not have been holding a welcome sign and waving an American flag.
(My first meal at home was salmon and asparagus, with a GLBC Dortmunder Gold, and it was just as great as I remembered.)
The next few days in State College were kind of a blur, but involved examining all of the clothes that I’d left at home and deciding that I didn’t really have any reason to keep most of them – I also washed everything I brought back from Malawi. I continued eating well, catching up on TV, and trying not to die as I attempted exercise.
Just a few days later, I was off to NYC, where a whirlwind weekend included: signing the lease to my apartment, eating burritos and drinking margaritas with my brother, making the trek to Ikea, and reuniting with my BFF at a rooftop bar in Chelsea.
Back to State College, and it was time to pack for real, while watching as many Olympic events as possible. Went to the dentist, got a haircut, and conducted other errands before making the real move to the city (that’s what I call it now that I live here).
Before I started orientation on August 29th, I also managed to: assemble my Ikea furniture, reunite with more hometown friends, attend my cousin’s beautiful wedding in California, and make my way to Target and Trader Joe’s. During orientation, my classmates and I were introduced to the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health through a wide range of activities including lectures, yoga classes, lots of free food, and others.
I journeyed to various parts of Manhattan to collect craigslist furniture and tried to make my room look like a real person lived there. I ventured to the Bronx Brewery and sang horrible karaoke with new friends. I went the wrong way on the subway for an embarrassingly high number of stops. I found the way to the beautiful running path along the Hudson River that’s only a few blocks from my apartment.
Since classes started last week, I’ve gotten back into the swing of being a student – reading hundreds of pages for my “Foundations” classes in history, ethics, and human rights as they pertain to public health. I’ve been really surprised to find that I’ve enjoyed health economics the most so far. I’ve figured out where the best places to sit are in the various classrooms, and mustered up the courage to introduce myself to people sitting next to me.
In the last few weeks of endless introductions, a lot of people have asked, “How has the transition been?” And honestly, it’s been great. There have certainly been times of overwhelming feelings, like “wow I miss my friends in Malawi,” and “how the f is a coffee that expensive,” but it’s been good overall. I’m certainly not complaining, and I’ve already connected with a community of other RPCVs in my classes that provide a venting outlet, when I really need to talk to someone who actually gets it.
I’m doing well and having a great time, and I wanna give one last shoutout to my family, friends, and other random readers who have seen this blog along the way. Thanks y’all, I appreciate you taking the time to read my words and try to learn about my journey.