COS in Peace Corps speak is Close of Service, when you are done with your two (or three) years. On the administrative side of Peace Corps, it mostly means completing a huge check-list of tasks, from turning in training books to talking to the Country Director. In other countries, I'm told, you turn in your check-list to prove you've done everything, and then, welp, you're no longer a Peace Corps Volunteer. In Nicaragua, we do things a little differently. When a Volunteer becomes a Returned Volunteer, you ring a bell in the middle of the office, so that everyone who hears it can come out to applaud you in the best and most embarrassing way possible.
I'm very uncertain if I want to do this or not
Luckily, I had some friends in the office when it came time for me to ring the bell, so it was even more special that I was able to celebrate with them...and cry just a little bit. Because just like that, I am no longer a Peace Corps Volunteer, and I'm afraid my life will never be as challenging or interesting as it was then.
After three years in Nicaragua, you'd think I would have learned that planning something a certain way is by no means a guarantee that it will go that way. Despite that, I had planned my trip home to go down like so:
Bus from Nicaragua to Panama
Fly from Panama to Ecuador
Fly from Ecuador to U.S.A
My flights were all booked, I only needed to buy my ticket for TicaBus. It's website was down, and their number wasn't picking up, but I felt confident, hearing enough from other travelers, that I would get a ticket at the office in Managua a few days before I needed to go. Two days before my travels, and the employees at the front desk told me that they were booked solid for three weeks. I later learned from a fellow traveler that when he took TicaBus the very same day I meant to travel, he had a whole row to himself, so I have no idea what info they were going off of, but they refused to sell me a ticket to Panama.
"We can get you a ticket as far as Costa Rica, and then you can figure it out from there," the lady at the counter said. "I just need to see your id."
I handed her my residency card, and she started processing my ticket. It wasn't until her coworker, who leaned in far too close to her, instructed her on the finer points of checking identification that we ran into some problems.
"Now, see, did you check when her residency expires?"
"No, let's see-it expires in two days, on the day she wants to travel."
"Now, see, we can't sell her the ticket."
"But my visa is good for another three months, and I'm leaving the day my residency expires, I don't understand why this is a problem," I protested.
"Now, see, we've had this problem before, we've sold tickets to people and we've gotten in trouble for it."
"How could you possibly get in trouble for it if I am leaving the country on the day that I am no longer a resident, and three months before my visa expires?"
"Now, see..." at which point I just stopped listening.
When I got back to the office and told the staff, they said they had never heard anything like that before, and if it were the case, no volunteer would have been able to leave the country at the end of their service. Ever. So I guess that made me special. I sure didn't feel special when I had to shell over about four times as much cash I had intended to pay to book a last-minute flight to Panama...but the next few days were soon to change that.
Waiting for the bus, just as riding on one, can be a very long process. It is often made more tolerable by reading a good book, daydreaming, or - if you are waiting with a pair of musicians - listening to live music.
My first site, Los Chiles, consists almost entirely of dirt roads. We paved one road this past year, and it was a huge deal. It was quite the orchestration though, so the chances of paving the other dirt roads are very slim, which is a shame, because dirt roads mean dust in the dry season, and in the rainy season...
mud. Lots of mud. Mud everywhere. Puro lodo. And you would think that I would have learned to wear better shoes, but on the day when this photo was taken, I had rushed out the house in flip flops without thinking about the consequences. Eventually, they got so caked in mud I couldn't walk in them anymore, and walked barefoot the rest of the way to my friend's house where she had a good laugh at me, and lent me her much more sensible shoes to wear for the day.
Back in November 2012 when my parent's first visited me, we actually started our travels in Costa Rica to see my uncle, aunt, and two cousins for Thanksgiving. Afterwards we traveled north to my region of Nicaragua, all with my mom's new camera. The thing about this camera was that we hadn't checked the settings on it, so it was set up to simultaneously take video as you took a photo. What resulted was this patchwork video of our travels from Arenal, Costa Rica to Sabalos Lodge, Nicaragua. Watch and see a monkey, lots of birds, pretty flowers, an absurd amount of iguanas, tourists, vehicles almost running over said tourists, a pineapple, the Rio Frio, my mom posing for photos, mud, the other Los Chiles, my butt, a tona, the Rio San Juan, San Carlos, my beloved (now defunct) pizza place, a river shrimp, my dad and me trying our best to smile for the camera, and a beautiful sunset over the river. Not necessarily in that order.
My family said there was something eating abuela's chickens. They said it only came at night. Said it slunk around in the shadows. My family called it zorro, a fox. Said we would have to trap it and kill it one day to keep the chickens safe. Finally one day, we caught it in a hollowed out log behind the latrines. Finally we had it.
I looked, expecting to see an actual fox. Instead I saw this thing.
A possum. That is a possum, not a fox. I tried not to feel cheated.
My host brother later tied it up to that tree, and we found a neighbor who had a pet boa he wanted to feed it to, so there was that.