COS (Close of Service) Conference
Group 29 / Ukraine / 2005-2007
The moment I have been waiting for for two years has come and gone. I'm really, at the same time, in disbelief and at peace with it. The four days we spent at Perlyna Karpaty, a resort settled in a forested nook in the northeastern edge of the Carpathian mountains, were some of the most enjoyable of my service. As opposed to the first time our entire group (74 remain of the original 116), the decidedly American energy that bubbles to the surface when 74 United Statesians gather together was infused with a healthy dose of Ukrainianess. An example of this is that during our final dinner, we sat at long tables dressed in an abundance of food and drink much like our Ukrainian forebears. During the dinner, a three piece string band played Ukrainian folk songs. We were excited and sung and danced along for all of them; however, when they played English language songs, our enthusiasm was less palpable. It was a time for us to celebrate our hard work and two years in Ukraine. It was also a time for me to really, truly realize how much of Ukrainian culture I have stitched into myself. I also have come to realize that when I leave Ukraine this November, jettisoning myself across the world as an RPCV, I'll be sad.
I haven't admitted to myself that I'd actually be sad, but it's obvious to me now that I've been lying to myself. It's hard to live here, and I do look forward to a resumption of my life in the United States, but it's also great to live here in ways it's hard to adequately explain.
At our conference, we celebrated our accomplishments. We said hello to colleagues and peers we haven't seen for a while. Karen and I (and Ben) also lamented the absence of Kris and Jen Wiley, our friends from the first days in Ukraine. They were our spine during service, providing us with the support that allowed us to stand when all we wanted to do was slink to the floor. The conference was not the same without them, and they were truly missed.
We also took a few trips during our conference. Some elected to go horseback riding (I had enough of that as a kid and Karen has a strange fear of horses) while others took the ski lift up to the top of a high mountain. We did trip number two and ended up going to the same place Case and I went skiing back in February. It was beautiful, but we had to leave early because I had to get back to a Language Proficiency Test. I ended up scoring Advanced High (the highest score short of fluent, native-like ability that's possible) but our meeting was interrupted because we had to take a group picture so that score can't be counted officially (which sucks). I'll have to take the test again in October and hope I can score the same.
Now we're about to start school--our last two months of teaching. I'm sure it'll go faster than i anticipate and I'll be seeing all of you before I know it. until then, enjoy your lives--that's what they're for.
P.S. My (our) thoughts are with Greg and his family during this difficult time. RIP Rodney Milholland (1978-2007).