home sweet home

I’m home!

I said hello to Scott

and we said goodbye to Cambodia

the midwives at my health center

my neighbors

we hung out with my host family

Image

Image

and then we made our way home

we got our fill of Buddha’s

reminded me of what I missed for 2 years

now I’m back with friends

and family!

I’m so happy to be home! Peace Corps was the experience of a lifetime and I am so glad I did it. Thank you for reading!

Off to find my next big adventure.

Love,

Brenda

RPCV

It’s official! I have successfully completed my Peace Corps service and I am a RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer).

Scott is already on his way and I doubt I’ll be sleeping tonight I am so excited to see him for the first time in TWO WHOLE YEARS at 10:15 tomorrow morning!!!!

This last week has been strange. I moved out of site a week ago and was in Phnom Penh working on final paperwork, running errands, and trying to consolidate my belongings. I’ve talked to my host family every day since I left the house and I’m dreading the final goodbye on Tuesday at the airport.

I’ll post some pictures once I get home but for now thanks for following along over the last two years! Can’t wait to be back in America and reconnect.

one month

One month from today I will be in America and it’s totally blowing my mind.

At the beginning of June I went into Phnom Penh for a few days and started the very long process of completing my Peace Corps service. I had my final medical check up, my final language exam, and my exit interview with the Country Director. It was strange because I knew I still had over a month left at site but I had already done a good chunk of the stuff I needed to get done before I left.

I’ve been at site pretty much since then. I went to my very last wedding and had a great time. The first wedding I went to is the younger sister of the girl who was getting married at this wedding so it was all very full circle. I knew a ton of people at the wedding and had a great time.

The next week I had my going away party for my health center staff. We went to the mountain in my village and sat in a cabana over a lack of lotus flowers and had lunch. There was wayyy too much food, we had some sort of fish stir fry, fried frogs, fish, roasted chicken, stir fried veggies, soup, beer and soda. Everyone had fun and I’m glad I was able to throw the party for my staff. We had lots of leftovers so Pa called a bunch more people over that night to help us eat everything. It was a long day hosting 1.5 parties.

About ten days later my Ma decided to make the biggest pot of curry I have ever seen and call all of our family and friends over to eat. We had curry with rice noodles and went through 25 kilos (55 pounds) of noodles and finished the whole pot. It was another really nice day sitting around with family and friends as they came and went.

I spent a few days packing up my room and got most of it done. My trunk is now living on the porch filled with everything to return to PC, my big rolling duffle is full of clothes to pass on to other pcv’s and slowly but surely things are ready to go.

Thursday I headed into Phnom Penh one last time before I leave my village to meet Hillary Clinton and the new group of volunteers. A group of volunteers was invited to go to and Embassy reception and meet Hillary Clinton, who was in town for the ASEAN Conference. I was lucky enough to be able to go and shake her hand. I was speechless; it was a very cool morning. On Sunday night the new group of volunteers arrived to start their two years of service. I said hello to them and headed back home to say a few more goodbyes in Battambang and spend some time with my host family.

I brought home a 7-pound Durian today for everyone to share and hung out in a hammock with my sister while the power was out and we all roasted in the afternoon heat. It was nice to be back and I look forward to soaking up my last ten days in the village!

that just happened.

My host family went through and sorted out all my trash.

Today I spent a good chunk of time going through my room to continue the packing process. Cambodia is lacking in large garbage bags and dumpsters. Trash here is either burned or sold (plastic bottles, soda cans, raid cans, etc). I knew this would make packing and moving out of my room a massive pain so I bought some of the huge plastic bags that people put 50 kilo bags of rice in before the send them on the bus. I had one full of things I was ready to get rid of but I knew I couldn’t just throw it in the trash pile.

I brought my bag downstairs and watched as Ma dumped it on the ground and proceeded to take the things she wanted and sort the rest for burning or selling. It was a trying experience.

Then Ma took out the latke mix my mom had sent for us to try in December and made me latkes and I happily ate them all when no one else was a fan. The smell of Hanukkah in the house made me forget about the trash incident and finding out that the rest of dinner was crabs caught in the rice paddies and ant salad made me appreciate the latkes even more.

It’s been a busy month or so since I last wrote and I’ll have a post to better update soon but I started all the official COS stuff for Peace Corps and had my exit interview, I had 2.5 going away parties, I put together my going away present for Pea, and we took family pictures.

I have less than two weeks left at site with my host family and I’m starting to have really mixed feelings about leaving them. I am so excited to come home but I’ve had such a great few weeks (and two years, really) with them that I have a knot in my stomach about saying goodbye.

 

cos and goodbye parties

Earlier this month I was in Phnom Penh with all the other volunteers from our group for our Close of Service Conference. It was touted as a conference chock full of useful information to help us get through our last few months of service and transition back in to life post-PC. I found it to be pretty on par with all of the other conferences and trainings we’ve had. A few things were interesting and useful but a lot of it was mind numbing and not. We celebrated with a sunset boat cruise along the riverside and handed out superlatives.

I then headed back to site with a new puzzle to solve. How was I going to get two years worth of belongings out of my site and to Phnom Penh?  Also, how am I going to get my trunk that is so carefully wedged into my room out and down the stairs? And here I thought moving out of my dorm each year was an adventure.

With my time at site quickly winding down the topic of when I’m leaving (two months from today!) and parties comes up pretty much everyday. This weekend I went to a birthday/ going away party for another volunteer in my province. It was fun even though the most adorable baby peed all over my pants. We were talking about a new side of Khmer culture that we had known about but not really experienced first hand until now, the culture surrounding throwing/hosting a party. In Cambodia, as I have come to learn, when a party is being held in your honor, you pay for it. When my host mom said she would throw me a going away party she also told me how much money I should give her so she could throw it. Coming from America where, with birthday/ going away/ similar casual parties, the guest of honor might be the only person not helping cover the cost of the party, it’s been a little bit hard to swallow. On Thursday, the day before my friends party she was worried because we hadn’t been paid for June yet and she was not going to have money to give her family to make the party. Luckily her family is very generous and ended up buying all the food and drinks and a special cake and didn’t ask for money.

I came home and my family asked the usual questions, how big is her house? How many people live there? How many people came to her party? How much money did she give her family? This launched quite a discussion about my party. In the end it looks like I will be throwing (aka paying for) two going away parties (for myself, at the request of others); one for my health center staff who have been asking for months about a going away party, and one at my house for my extended family and friends. After talking to my host mom about the party I went to and her realizing that I would need to throw two separate parties I think she is willing to pay for more of my party at my house and is going to help me find ways to keep costs reasonable to for my health center party because, as she pointed out, they eat and drink a lot.

In the end it is just money and I would rather leave my site knowing that everyone had a good time but it just goes to show that even two years later there is still so much about Cambodia that I have to navigate step by step.