Saturday, July 31, 2010

I am writing this from my new apartment in Durham, North Carolina. Tomorrow I am transitioning to the next chapter of my life, as a Peace Corps Fellow at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. I’ve been back in the States for nearly three weeks now, reconnecting with friends and family. To my surprise, many of them have followed my blog the past two years and have requested that I write a “last entry.” It pains me to remember the day I had to say goodbye to Embera Drua, and I’m just beginning to really process the incredible experience that I have lived the past two years. Nevertheless, here it goes…

Leaving Embera Drua was the single hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I had been so busy finishing up last minute projects and passing things off to community members, the sadnesses of my leaving didn’t hit me the last day as I packed up my house. Nearly every community member stopped by for a solemn visit as I moved out of my little jungle abode. In the evening, Embera Drua’s leaders organized a big community meal of arroz con pollo (chicken and rice). Before the meal, each leader of Embera Drua took a moment to thank me for my service and say goodbye. The tears finally came as the woman got up to speak, and I completely lost it when my female students spoke, thanking me for all that I had taught them. Each person that spoke truly touched my heart, and moved me to reflect upon the relationship that I had had with each of them.

After dinner, some men put together an impromptu Embera music conjunto and there was dancing. Miguel Flaco gifted me the flute that he played with that night. I packed it, the perfect souvenir from my last night in the village.

At the culmination of my two years in Peace Corps, I am ready to close my service and embark on the next chapter of my life. I have undergone all emotions associated with integrating into a new culture: honeymoon phase, resentment/annoyance, and full acceptance and immersion. Yet I will honestly hold my years in Peace Corps Panama as some of the best years of my life. I can not recall a time in my life where I have felt so happy, fulfilled and at peace.

I will carry with me the beautiful memories of my service. I will remember how special it was to:

Wake up every morning in my own hut in the jungle, that I helped to build. Fall asleep in my hut every night, listening to the sound of the river’s rapids. Enjoy the simple things. Sit and really listen fully to a story from an elder. Spend time playing with a child, with no where else to be. Cook from scratch everyday. Go to bed shortly after the sun goes down, and get up when it (and the roosters) rise in the morning. Think. Read. Just be alone with yourself and your thoughts. Live with a beautiful indigenous culture that understands and respects nature, and is at such harmony with its surroundings…

Peace Corps has provided me such perspective on (albeit cliché) “what really matters.” As I re-acclimate to life in the United States, I am thankful for my country yet also somewhat saddened by its self-centeredness and shallowness. I think about the issues I used to stress about as a young professional in America, and I am proud to say how much the focus of my energy and attention has shifted. I take the lessons learned in Panama with me, as I chart out the type of American I want to be and what kind of life I want to lead.

Moving forward, Peace Corps has guided me in answering the impending question of “what I want to do with my life.” I especially picked Duke for its concentration in Social Entrepreneurship. My ultimate goal is to find a connection between business and the social issues that have become so close to my heart. I look forward to working with like-minded students and professionals over the next few years.

With so many thoughts, but nothing really left to say, I end this Panamanian Adventure.