Having just finished everything I could to expedite my Peace Corps exit process on Friday, a wash of emotion is rolling over me. The past two years have passed in a flash, though I remember many winter days that felt slow as molasses creeping down my window. Making any judgements on everything that has happened in the past two years is rather overwhelming but one feeling that rides aloft all my other combating ponderings and reflections is gratitude. One of my favorite quote is from Tracy Kidder's book Mountains Beyond Mountains, a study of the life and work of Dr. Paul Farmer. It simply states that "lives of service require lives of support" and it does not allude me for one second that I could ever have done what I did in Peace Corps without the scores of people who showered me with their unconditional love and support. My friends and family showed terrific understanding and kindness both on a regular basis and when I needed it the most, perhaps some even without knowing. Packages, proddings of encouragement, letters and chats that made it clear that they had every faith in my abilities were the things that buoyed me along; without them I might have sank. So I would like to acknowledge a few of those people now.
Firstly, I would like to thank YOU for reading this blog. I'm never quite sure how many people read what I post. I know 11 people officially follow it but I also know that not all of them visit regularly. However, I am told that others make a habit of returning to see what I've been up to. My mom's work friends, my elementary school administration staff and homies in New York and Hawaii have popped up on my radar as readers in the past two years. I hope they are still following. But at any rate, whoever you are, thank you. I've truly enjoyed writing my little essays these past two years and I hope you have gotten at least a fraction of the joy reading them as I have posting. Without readers, there would be no blog and believe it or not this has been a very significant and constantly positive part of my experience here in Mongolia. Thanks for your patience with my posting speed and the frequency of my comma splices.
I'd like to take time for a special shout out to Benjamin. You are the only follower I don't know but I love that you are reading my blog! You have been a subscriber for so long and I've actually dreamed up possibilities of who you could be, some outlandish, others realistic. Regardless, I'm happy to have you.
My friends have been wonderfully constant and loving throughout these past two years. The ones who sent letters bravely across the ocean never received a reply, and for that I feel shitty. But I have carefully kept each and every note that reached me from Kate, Colin, Jamie and Janelle. Kate even sent me a motley, watercolored mask that she made Spain; it lived on my wall until very recently. Many of them also kept in close contact, caring and invested as always in addition to their posted manifestations of support. And thank you to Cassie, the well-read belle who took the time and resources to send me a package that included food for thought in the form of books plus beautiful blue handwarmers and a scarf that kept me warm and good-lookin' all winter long. Thanks also to the kind Marsha Baily for the birthday package chockablock full of magazines that were gleefully devoured by both my students and I.
Other friends provided their indispensable love in a more immaterial form. Killian, Big Rachel, Mona, Paul, Caitlin and of course Ashton were all wonderful voices from far flung lands both urging me forth into the unknown and bringing me back to my roots. Always if I felt unsure or downtrodden they were there for a good pick-me-up; these are truly special friends to have. I'm beyond lucky they're on my side and would have lost my sanity without them. I love them greatly.
Thank you also to the men who have graced my life over the past two years- you know who you are. You have cared for me immeasurably in so many ways; I am lucky to have learned so much from you and spent time in your company.
Thanks also to Carol Brantley, my original inspiration to join the Peace Corps and perpetual cheerleader. I can't wait to dish about our experiences over brunch at Ria's, the same place you told me about your adventures for the first time only a few years ago.
Of course none of this would be possible without my wonderful family. Firstly thanks to my cousin Linda for having a baller lingerie style, the adorable birthday package and being a faithful commenter on the blog. Your blog is always uplifting and fun, such a nice way to spend time online and a neat window to your world. And as for someone else- every time I heard from my little sister my whole world became brighter, even in the darkest of winter days. Hearing about your adventures in India and Portland gave me a respite from my own realities and filled me with joy for her story. Though it was difficult to communicate regularly, I always looked forward to our talks and couldn't wait to hear the peels of your laughter from so many miles away. I'm still sad I never made it to your graduation. Also, I think it should not go without recognizing, my grandmother was so dedicated to keeping in touch that she bought a computer, internet service and printer. She has faithfully sent e-mails about once a week, which I very much look forward to. Grandma, in tough times I try to channel your lifelong gusto and energy, hoping desperately it's in my blood, too. You sent care packages and greeting cards so unflaggingly and are without a doubt the most admirable, motivated and excellent grandmother a girl could hope for. Finally, none of this could have been possible without my parents. From my shampoo to my shoes, I owe it all to them. They spent inordinate amounts of time and money enriching my mental and emotional well-being and poured their lives into my education, tools which without I would never have been able to succeed here. Thank you for countless packages, Mom and Dad, and always being ready to chat about anything from answering my boring banking questions to dispensing words of comfort during the occasional meltdown. You were my rocks, always ready with jokes, stories, encouragement and advice, all of which I sought from you during these two years. Not to mention, you were the most faithful readers of the blog. To everyone else: they don't believe that I couldn't have done Peace Corps without them but it's true. Don't let them tell you any different.
I'm sorry if I missed anyone. There are so many people who have supported me it's mind-boggling. Countless people from our elderly family friends to our 6-year-old neighbor have lent a hand in my life here. I am eternally grateful to everyone. Thank you.