Goodbyes are the worst. Starting out on a new adventure can be scary, meeting different people can be awkward (especially in a second language), day to day routine can be boring, but goodbyes are the absolute worst. Twenty-seven months have passed since my first blog post and now I am preparing to say goodbye to my neighbors, who have become family, my work partners that have become mentors and my friends that have become so much more.
Apologies, I haven’t updated this blog in a while, life got busy and normal and the blog moved to the back of my mind, but I will give you a quick update on the projects. I just attended the second Constuye Tus Suenos conference filled with some 50 entrepreneurial Dominican youth, always inspirational. As for the women’s project, it is both wonderful and frustrating. Wonderful because they have made real progress. They are using notebooks to track expenses and sales and balancing their books! They have organized into three teams: administration, production and sales; to be a more efficient business. The sales teams are moving! Each week they take product to a different list of local stores to promote their products and now have tripled or quadrupled the numbers of stores they sell in and are still motivated. Last week I sat down with the administrative team and as they opened their notebooks, the president said, “Alright, let’s plan what we have to do in May. What’s our sales goals? How much product do we need to produce? How much of the raw materials should we buy? Who is going to buy it and when?” I was so proud. I can see that change is truly happening within them. It’s not me leading meetings anymore, or pushing them to do things, it’s them who are leading the charge. I am so proud of them and felt guilty/sad leaving them, but great news is Peace Corps is sending a follow-up volunteer to continue working and aiding them. I have no doubt the women will continue to have positive change and advance.
The project has been frustrating because the renovation of their factory which was supposed to be complete by March 30th, is still half done. The story is too long to put it all here but from the donors to the architect to the hardware store, nothing has gone right and it doesn’t seem the true goal of renovating the women’s factory is first on anyone’s mind. I’ve tried to move things along and fight for the women but it has been difficult. Two months ago I warned I may not be around for the inauguration and everyone laughed, of course it would be done by May, and here we are May 5, 2015 and the factory isn’t close to done. Sadly I won’t be around for the inauguration of their renovated factory but it doesn’t really matter to me. I was around for the real change within the organization, within the women and within myself and that’s what truly matters to me. I measure my service by that true change.
So with all these updates it brings us to my current state, the worst part, the goodbyes. Two years ago I said goodbye to many loved ones in Boston, but it didn’t seem as tough as this. Everyone in America has internet and is pretty easy to communicate with, people in my village barely have cell signal. This village is so small, everyone has become part of my life and vice versa. The women from the organization have become like mothers to me, the kids like adopted children, nightly coming over to do homework, and the men like fathers. I have neighbors in particular, that without, I couldn’t have made it through my service. They fed me, they gave me their drinking water to bathe in when all there was was contaminated water, their grandkids kept me company nightly in my house or on walks, they truly accompanied me throughout my entire service. When I was bored or lonely, their house was my house, their family mine as well. I can never thank them enough for all they’ve done.
So you can see why the goodbyes are going to be so hard. I have a week left here in my little wooden house surrounded by cacao trees and love and still can’t imagine how I am going to say goodbye. Two years flew by. Now I am trading in these dirt roads and friendly neighbors for the concrete jungle and neighbors I don’t know yet in New York City. I’ll be in Boston for two weeks probably dealing with a lot of reverse culture shock and then starting a new adventure in NYC doing financial counseling for underserved populations there. I’m super excited as well as super nervous I may have forgotten how to ride a subway and speak English. Hope to see everyone while I’m home and can’t wait for the best part, saying hello!