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Peace Corps: COS (Close of Service) Conference
May 17, 2013, 10:00 am
Filed under: Paraguay

Well, I finally made it to the beginning of the end of my Peace Corps Service: my COS Conference.

A COS Conference, or ‘Close of Service’ Conference, is a 3-day event, 3 months before the end of your service. The Peace Corps invites your entire training class (mine is G-36) to attend mandatory workshops on readjusting back to life in the United States, logistics in finishing your service, how to wrap up projects and say goodbye to your communities, financial planning, in-country and sector feedback, potential job opportunities in Peace Corps and the US government, resume building, and best of all: a mountain-load of paperwork.

The first day of our COS Conference.

For the Peace Corps, your COS Conference really is a mark of the end of your service. In other words, it’s Peace Corps telling you that it’s time to face the music: your time is almost up, and all of that tereré drinking and general tranquilo lifestyle you’ve lived over the past 2 years is not going to serve you too well if you don’t have a plan for the future.

Vicky drinking Guaraná soda out of a wine glass. Always classy.

So let’s just state right here that this COS Conference totally crept up on me. It feels that I just got to Caazapá last week, yet suddenly we’re in May and I’ve been living in Paraguay for 2 years. There’s still so much that I’m learning about Paraguay, that I still don’t know- so many more projects I could work on, and that I’m still working on. I still don’t speak Guaraní to the point where I can understand all of the grossly offensive jokes at parties. Where did the freaking time go?!

But as we all hung out at the super fancy hotel that the Peace Corps put us up in and gorged on incredible and limitless buffet food, I couldn’t help but realize that the true intention of this conference was absolutely coming to fruition: within 3 days, my mind totally shifted. My service in the Peace Corps is truly coming to an end, and before I’m even fully cognizant of it, I’ll be back in the United States. At the conference, we were encouraged to write out lists of what we needed to do to wrap up in our sites- professionally and personally. Before I knew it, I had a laundry list of objectives. ‘Visit Dora’s family, Visit Wilma’s family, Invite Carlos and his wife for dinner, have a luncheon at the Cooperative, wrap up Geography classes by end of June, set aside furniture for future Volunteer at Dennis’s house…’ and the scribble goes on. It was all right in front of me: a map to actually finishing my service, and saying real goodbyes to people I’ve lived with for the past 2 years.

We also had a series of ‘I’ve actually taught this as a Peace Corps Volunteer, are you seriously making us do this?’ activities, such as ‘setting expectations for the conference’ and situational cases that we discussed in groups and then discussed as a whole. One such activity was drawing how we saw ourselves during training, during our service, and then post-service. For training, I drew myself as a starry-eyed optimist, dreaming about the amazing Peace Corps Volunteer I would be. For my service, I just drew a giant bubble that said “A HOT MESS.”

Evelyn and Dion, showing off some of their drawings.

The biggest indication to me that our service really is coming to an end was our ‘COS Picture.’ Every COS Conference, Peace Corps Paraguay takes a big picture of the training group. It’s usually posted on Facebook and in Peace Corps Newsletters- another signal to other Volunteers that yes, that G is about to leave. I always used to stare at those photos of earlier training groups and wonder what could possibly be going through their minds now that they’re so close leaving Paraguay. It is definitely weird being one of those Volunteers now.

As usual, my G had to take a series of weird photos, because we’re awesome like that.

Ita Training Group

J.A. Saldivar Training Group

Our G36 ‘Prom Photo’ that is just about as awkward as us. 

Trying to create a G36 pyramid…

…And failing.

The best part of the COS Conference was the photo shoot. And of course, hanging out with my wonderful G-36. I feel extremely lucky to be part of such a special group of people, and it was great to spend time together.

Since I’ve gotten back to Caazapá, things haven’t felt quite the same. But I suppose that’s how it’s supposed to be. I only have 50 days left in a place that I’ve called home for 2 years, after all.

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