Hello blog readers,
It has been a while since I have written. Following Peace Corps tradition, I have taken the past few months to travel and reconnect. It has been wonderfully exhausting, and has consistently kept me away from keyboards and wifi connections.
While I am very thankful for the mini-sabbatical, now I am back on the grid and happy to resume writing.
The next entries will chronicle my travels in Mexico, Europe and the USA. Once we are caught up to the present day, I will announce my recent big life decision: where and when I have chosen to set up my new home. Stay tuned!
On the first of May, I closed the door to my apartment in Mexico for the last time. Since I was trying to prevent it from slamming shut in the wind and in my haste, there was no fanfare. The moment was strangely reminiscent of my last goodbye: I was again hurrying, again unsure if I would arrive at the airport in time for my flight.
Unlike last time, I spent the final moments in my city enjoying a farewell breakfast and zipping my toothbrush into my suitcase. I was peaceful and relaxed, and I had accepted that my time in Mexico had come to a close. The hour had just escaped me.
When I casually asked my roommate what time it was, his answer made my eyes bulge. There was no way that I could make it across the city in less than 15 minutes to catch my bus to the airport, especially not carrying suitcases with a noticeable limp to my gait. To raise the stress-barometer, I had forgotten that it was Mexican Labor Day; a parade was causing a major traffic slow-down at that exact moment.
It just would not be true to form if I left Mexico relaxed, I suppose.
Still, this time was different. This time, my roommate hailed a taxi with me, and then spent the ride coaching me on alternative ways to get to the airport quickly. We laughed together about the inevitability of being late in Mexico, both secretly savoring our last moments together.
Our hug was rushed but satisfying. “We had a good run together,” I whispered before I half-ran/half-hobbled to my bus. I made it in time and sighed as I relaxed in to my seat and watched my former home fade into the background. Unlike before, there was an air of finality to the moment.
This is why I had come back. I wanted to say my goodbyes.
I left my bedroom exactly as it was when I moved in: semi-dusty and partially furnished. Hangers and a dated teal bedspread were the only decorations in the small but sufficient space. It was hard to imagine that this room had been my home for more than a year.
Seeing my barren room made my best friend very sad. The faint echo of our voices personified a big elephant in the room. It was an emptiness that asked, “when will we see each other again?” Her sadness was the hardest part for me.
We vowed for a Christmas trip to the southern state of Chiapas together. I hope with all of my heart that this can happen, but logic tells me that it might not be possible.
Before everything was packed up, I saw my bedroom just as I had left it. At the urging of a fellow volunteer, I had heartfelt goodbye with my apartment before everything was sorted and packed.
I was impressed with how creative I had been with decorating on the cheap:
It was great place to live. I will remember it fondly, although I will never miss being constantly cold nor the occasional gas leak from our stove!
It was time to move on. After a few minutes in the space, I put on some good tunes to keep the mood light and began to sort my possessions into several piles:
- To be shipped to the USA
- To be gifted to my community in Mexico
- To be eaten
- To go to the trash
The process was remarkably fun and freeing. It was one less thing to worry about, and one more step in saying goodbye to Mexico.
My trip would not have been complete without a trip to the national park. I was a little bit nervous but very excited: would my wobbly ankle survive the commute as well as a walk on my trail? I had not yet been able to do something so physically demanding since I was injured in February.
With the help of a fellow volunteer, I made it to my former office without issue. It was one of those rare sunny, warm moments in the park. It was a perfect day for a hike.
¡Qué milagro! Laura yelled across the parking lot, grinning as she watched me limp my way to the office.
What a surprise to see you!
I am sure that my smile was just as big as hers. I was so happy to see them all again, and I was hungry to catch up on the latest gossip. We all took time to chat, to share the requisite tacos, and to assemble a hiking team.
Once everyone was ready, we took off slowly to the trail-head. Marcelina, my former counterpart, was really excited to share all of the news about the trail. She grabbed my hand to help me over the segments with trickier footing, all while she impressed me with all of their plans for managing the trail.
During my absence, park staff had developed a long list of ideas on how to best interpret the trail. They will:
- offer guided interpretative tours that focus on utilizing all five senses to explore and appreciate the forest biodiversity;
- emphasize Leave-No-Trace environmental ethic and ensure that all visitors understand how to minimize their impact when visiting natural spaces;
- use my photographs to market the trail via facebook and brochures.
My visit could not have made me happier. I could see the impact that I had made: I was instrumental in creating new infrastructure that will allow the park to expand eco-tourism, and I made great friendships while doing it.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the trail will be held at the end of this month. Congratulations to everyone at the national park for coming together to create a lovely new resource for visitors to enjoy!
Returning to Mexico was a reminder that being medically separated from the Peace Corps was the best decision for my health. Daily life there is too hard with my injury, even three months later.
The trip also showed me that returning for a week was a good plan. I was sorely in need of a mental transition, and the trip allowed me to finally accept all of the big and sudden life changes. Now I can move on with a positive outlook to the next chapter in life.
Since then, I have been wearing a silver bracelet. It was my goodbye gift and I treasure it; the MEX stamp on the clasp reminds me of my best friend every day. However, having the opportunity to say goodbye in person was the biggest gift of all.
Adiós México, ha sido una experiencia inolvidable…