the beginning of the end // close of service conference

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close of service conference!

i’ve contemplated the melodramatic title of this blog post, but whatever, i’m sticking with it…just prepare yourself for a lot of potential sappiness in the coming month. why might you ask? nooo it’s not because there’s an “anne of green gables” marathon on t.v. or i’m watching “little women” again, but because the time has come for my peace corps close of service (COS) conference and for me to begin processing everything that has happened in my past 2 years of service in ukraine.

well, there’s no way i’ll be able to process everything that has happened at this point within the next month, but it is time to fill out paperwork to leave, plan good-bye parties, thank you gift giving, figure out what to do with all my stuff, and oh yea, what to do with my life when i get back home. that too. my brain is already kind of feeling like Q0945324JFKL321293!!!ELSYSTEMERRORKEJEKJE0010100 right now — but i’m fairly certain my fellow soon-to-be-leaving friends feel the same way.

when we first came to ukraine back in March of 2011 my group, group 41, was 106 (107?) volunteers strong. we remarkably only had 1 volunteer leave during our first three months in training and are finishing with 91 volunteers (14 of whom are extending service for either 6 months to a year). the numbers are impressive. our group is last of peace corps “mega growth” spurt, meaning that due to budget cuts newer groups of volunteers have shrunk in half (not in height, but population).

now, of course eeeeevery group is sure to think their group is the best, but our group really is the best (says a completely un-biased source). certainly there are smaller groups of close-knit friends, but there aren’t any jr high-esque hater cliques that are not such an uncommon occurrence in large groups such as this…unless i’m completely oblivious to it. honestly though, i don’t think it’s often that you can say a group of 91 volunteers really truly became a cohesive all-inclusive good-spirited family.

it had been a long time since i’d seen a lot of my fellow group 41 volunteers. for many, there were “haven’t seen you in two years!” and even a few “wait, you’re in our group?” reunions (maybe that’s we all still get along?). our close of service conference was held in chernihiv, the same place we had our arrival (to ukraine) retreat. it was weird to be back in that same place, to find myself sitting in the same room that i sat in 2 years ago waiting so anxiously to find out which training group i was in. we all had so many emotions going through our heads at that time and i think this time wasn’t much different.

we spent our time together writing out flip charts of what we’ve learned, overcome, and how things have changed us. we brainstormed ways to say good-bye to urkainians and americans, listened to talks on life after peace corps, tried to understand medical coverage options, and in general tried not to freak-out too much. when we weren’t thinking about the radius of our TB test, paperwork, and future plans, we were enjoying some last laughs together. a few volunteers put together a superlatives slide show (fellow volunteers wrote-in and voted on superlatives for everyone in our group), there was a “power couple” competition, and lots of time at night for catching-up.

it was only fitting our hotel stay would be reminiscent of college dorm days — running from floor-to-floor room-to-room to hang-out with different people  —  because in many ways our COS conference was a sort of “graduation” (i’m still surprised no one played that one song by vitamin c). most of us are at that point in our lives again where we have to face major transition, where we’re really not sure what’s next or where we’re headed. leaving ukraine, peace corps, and friends made, in addition to re-adjusting to life back in america while searching for a job is a lot to take-in. a. lot. but at least i know i have such a great group of friends who understand all that exactly.

how do i feel? besides sentimental, i’m a bit overwhelmed. everything seems to be happening at once i’m i’m trying my best to keep up with it all. i feel like i’m running full speed ahead without enough road laid out ahead of me…..hmm running analogies just make me sad because turns out my running injury is tendonitis and i will be out of the game for a while (sad sad day). i really think that’s part of the reason i feel so foggy since running is usually my method of processing things. that and writing.

anyways, i shouldn’t let that ginormous chocolate-binge-inducing cloud of thoughts keep me from celebrating the fact that we’ve made it this far. i honestly didn’t think, at multiple points in my service, that i would make it this far. we all made it. for the longest time this COS conference seemed light-years away and suddenly it has already happened. i’ve begun to say good-bye to friends i’m not sure when i’ll see again, have my last day of school marked on the calendar, and will soon purchase my last train tickets. there’s a lot coming up in my last 5 weeks in ukraine so bear with me. : )

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we all sat in this room when we first arrived 2 years ago…weird

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it wouldn’t be peace corps metting without loads of flip charts!

condimentlove makes an appearance

condimentlove makes an appearance

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josh and michael presenting

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simon, elyse, tondraya, kathryn

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me and my dear friend hayley

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“power couple” competition. the married couple (josh and mary may) won! woo!

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practicing our ukrainian “brick face”

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representing the ukrainian flag

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jenny and catharine

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some lovely ladies

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my training cluster! we all made it!!

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group 41 volunteers! these people are amazing.

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time to say good-bye

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enjoying the spring weather while waiting for a bus

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щаслива дорога!

congratulations to my fellow group 41-ers!! it’s been more than a privilege to serve with you and call you my friends. reunion 2015??

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