09 March 2008

The Beginning of the End

With a girlfriend Stateside, I have probably put more into planning than most Peace Corps volunteers. When I joined Peace Corps, I already knew what I wanted to do afterwards (go to graduate school) and where I wanted to do it (Madison, WI). A week ago, I was accepted to get my Masters in Science to the Applied and Agricultural Economics program at the University at Wisconsin - Madison. The program has a development economics concentration that I hope to be part of.

The question is, now what? This is my first realization that yes, there is life after Peace Corps and that there is a limited amount of time before I go home. In five months, I will be attending courses as a graduate student, so I really have three or four months to wrap everything up here and make sure that my projects don't die without me.

The most important part of development work is the dismount. After helping people along for months (or years), the ultimate goal is that they continue programs independently. It's a little like teaching to ride a bike -- You can explain away, but the most important part is to know when to let a child balance herself. How to ensure people keep planning their work? How to make sure they realize the importance? An environmental volunteer once put it this way: "I spent two years trying to convince people to throw garbage in a trash can -- now I have to make sure they empty the trash can."

I also need to honestly assess my work of the last two years. Did I get as much done as I wanted? Could I have worked harder or smarter? Did I focus on projects I wanted, or what Guatemalans wanted? I didn't take enough pictures. I should photograph everything I should see.

Soon, the next chapter of my life will begin, and I'll become one of those people that warmly remembers waiting in the rain for hours for meetings that never happened, recalling the adventure and forgetting the humidity. I'll tell stories of Mayan festivals, remembering the . As I age, I'll start to tell people younger than I that it's the best thing I ever did, and that they should do it despite reservations.

We'll see where I end up.

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