Champa and I now know when we will finish our Peace Corps service: on July 3.
We and the other members of our Moldova 31 group gathered at a Close of Service (COS) Lottery on Saturday afternoon to take turns choosing dates this summer when we’ll each wrap up. Peace Corps staggers our departures to better manage all of the logistics.
Everyone’s name was placed in a hat, with the three married couples each listed together. As people’s names were called, they selected one of the available departure slots on a large calendar.
Ours were among the first names called. We chose an early date because we plan to take a two-week trip with some friends and then head home to reoccupy our house in North Carolina, which will be vacated shortly before then by our tenants. Many of our fellow M31 volunteers are also planning COS trips, a tradition among departing volunteers worldwide. Some members of our group need to return home quickly to begin jobs or graduate school. One just accepted a new Peace Corps assignment in Tonga.
When all of us first met at a hotel in Philadelphia in May 2016, one of our Peace Corps “stagers” said we were meeting our new “government-issued family.” During our time together in Moldova, we’ve become that and more.
We all had fun on Saturday posing for funny photos next to our departure dates, as we’re doing here with our friend Ingrid, and for a group photo together. Most of us then continued the party at the Smokehouse Restaurant launched by two former volunteers.
I found it all bittersweet. Now that Champa and I have an actual date, the approaching end of our Peace Corps service is no longer an abstraction. We know when we will reunite with our family and friends in America, and we cannot wait to see them, but we also know we’ll have to say goodbye to our host family and Moldovan friends, and to the other volunteers with whom we’ve shared this unforgettable journey.
The countdown has started. 163 days to go.