What happened? And Why Am I back in America?
Wednesday— Day 1 of my Journey Home
Around 4:30pm on a Wednesday afternoon I received a phone call from PCMO (the Peace Corps Doctors). It was a typical phone call with an unexpected turn that went something like this:
PCMO: How are you feeling today?
Me: Same as usual, I lost my voice 3 times today during school, I’m coughing the same cough I have had for the last year, and I’m exhausted, but same as usual.
PCMO: Okay, well PCMO DC just sent us a letter and you are Medically Separated.
PCMO: You will be going back to America
PCMO: You will come to Manila on Friday
PCMO: This is a lot to process, take a deep breathe.
I didn’t understand, was that my imagination, did that just happen? I needed to say it out loud, I need to talk to someone. I had so many questions, PCMO told me they would answer my question in the Manila office, and that once DC decides it’s final.
I went outside of my room and told my host mom, she started to cry. I had no reaction, it didn’t seem real until I said it out loud to her. “I’m medically separated from Peace Corps,” I can still hear myself saying it.
We just hugged for a really long time, then while she was still grieving, I told her I need to call Jaron.
Calling Jaron and having to tell him that I was going to go home, and not knowing if/when I was going to say goodbye was overwhelming. I was scattered brain and freaking out, I feared we would not get the chance to say goodbye. Overwhelmed I had to think of everyone around me, and I knew I needed to rush to the school.
As school ended, I was worried I wasn’t even going to get to tell my principal the news. Some teachers live far away, and they tend to leave the school as soon as its its over. Two members from my host family walked with me to school, and supported me as I told my principal. As I walked I noticed everything differently, the way the little kids wave and smile at me. How they try and talk to me in the few words of English they know. I looked at the mothers who called me over to hold their babies. I saw the brightness of the trees, and listened how the wind wrestled the leaves even though I felt no breeze at all.
Then I felt sick to my stomach, approaching the school the students greeted me as normal. All shouting my name, and saying, “good afternoon.” They had no idea, and I couldn’t imagine breaking their hearts.
My principal smiled brightly as I entered her office, but her smile turned into a worry as she could feel my emotions. Being in a foreign country, we are often unable to express ourselves with words, but we focus on each others body language, without speaking she knew something was wrong. When I told her that I was medically separated, it was a concept that didn’t make sense. When I said I would be leaving the Philippines, it seemed she didn’t understand.
Then in the middle of her silence,she began to cry. Suddenly I felt my eyes wet. It had really hit me, my host family knew, Jaron knew, and now my school knew. I just wanted to get out of there. I didn’t tell any of the teachers, I just asked the principal if I could have a meeting with the teachers in the morning and tell them myself.
As I walked home, as I do everyday, it started to rain.
My host mom said that the Philippines was crying for their loss, mirroring our emotions and crying with us.
The worst part was that due to the time difference I had to wait for hours to tell my parents. Day one of no sleep. I was so mixed with emotions I didn’t know what to do, I was dying to wake them up, but there were so many questions that I didn’t have the answers to myself.
I had a scheduled speaking event for International Day in my town Plaza on that Thursday, and I had planned an Around the World day at my school for that Friday. I am very close to my host family, my first host family and of course I had my boyfriend Jaron, during the phone call I couldn’t’ really talk, my mind was full of all the people I was worried I wouldn’t have time to say goodbye to, let alone the students and teachers I considered my family.
I asked Peace Corps if I could please stay for my events and to say goodbye. They let me stay until Monday. At least it was some answer.
The journey of coming back to America has been long and full of emotions. I decided to break up my 4 day goodbye into parts, so part one is Wednesday. I think the best day was Friday.
Thanks for your support and for those of you who have welcomed me home, I am happy, much healthier, and have my first doctor’s appointment tomorrow.
Thanks for reading,