Friday marked the end of a long 11 weeks of training, and being officially sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Although I was excited and relieved to finally be done with training, I was sad to leave behind my new routine I had finally become used to and the new friends I had grown so close to over the past several weeks. I felt like I had just settled into my new life in Peru and it was already time to go.
On Thursday afternoon I stopped by the gym to say goodbye to my aerobics instructor, who we’ll call “T”, as well as the women from our class. It was one of my hardest goodbyes. They had become like a second family to me, and going to class was something I really looked forward to. It was an escape from all the stress from the day, and for 45 minutes, really allowed me to just be in the moment, free from all negativity, just focusing on the next dance step. As I mentioned before, T is someone I really admire. She has an infectious energy and undeniable charisma that just draws you in and immediately lifts your mood. You can be having the worst day ever, but when you’re around her, you can’t help but smile because that’s just the kind of person she is. I’m really going to miss her.
When I woke up at 6 am on Friday morning and looked around my room, I tried to wrap my head around the idea that it would be the last time I’d wake up in that cozy twin bed and lay eyes on those bright purple walls. The last time I would be woken up by cats fighting on the tin roof, roosters crowing, or by the lively dachshunds, Doggie and Chanel barking outside my door. It felt surreal as I sat down to have my last breakfast with my host family, it felt just like any other breakfast, and that I would see them again that evening at dinner to recap the events of our days. It didn’t seem like our last breakfast together, but it was.
By 8 am I was in a taxi in my most formal outfit with all my bags on my way to the training center for the last time. Once there we gathered all of our things together and boarded a bus for Lima where we would go to lunch, and then go to our swearing in ceremony at the US Ambassador’s house in Miraflores.
We got to the Ambassador’s residence a little after 1 pm and before taking our seats had a quick look around the premises. It came as no surprise that the Ambassador had a beautiful luxurious house, and outside there was a giant pool with lots of open space. It was the ideal spot for the ceremony, and the weather (70 degrees and sunny) couldn’t have been better. We took our seats outside in the patio and listened to speeches by the Peace Corps Director, and Ambassador, among others. They talked about competiveness of the program, and the fact that Peru received the most applicants of all countries. For this reason, they reminded us, we had won the “Peace Corps Lottery”. They talked about the huge responsibility we were about to take on representing the entire United States, and that we were all ambassadors. Above all, they congratulated us for making it this far, for the work we had accomplished and for the work we are about to take on.
After the speeches, reciting the Himno Nacional del Perú, and singing the Star-Spangled Banner, we were officially sworn in as volunteers. A reception followed and was catered with various tasty hors d’oeuvre such as empanadas, mini quiches, taquitos, brownies, cookies, among others. I definitely took full advantage, as did all of the host moms who came out in full support. In addition to sampling some great food, I was also interviewed for a national Peruvian news program in which I talked about why I decided to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. There were various members of the press there who took our pictures, some of which have already been posted on the US Embassy of Peru’s Facebook page.
It was quite the exciting afternoon filled with many hugs and tearful goodbyes that were cut short because we were rushed out to the bus station (to catch our bus to Cajamarca, which left at 6 pm). It was tough saying goodbye to everyone, but perhaps most difficult to my host mom who I’ve grown very close to these past few months. I told her however, “no es un adiós, sino un hasta luego” (It’s not a goodbye, just a see you later”).