Less than ten days until I am no longer a Peace Corps Volunteer. These past few weeks have been filled with a daily dose of shock and slight bewilderment. As my last week creeps closer, the fact that I am at this stage in my service still hasn’t quite set in. After all, the new group is only getting their site announcements this week. Was it really two years ago that I was sitting in their exact spot?! Even when I pinch myself, it doesn’t quite set in. Aside from the lapses of reality, I have spent a lot of time packing. Saying goodbyes. Packing. Planning my post PC trip. Packing. Procrastinating. Packing.
I came with two suitcases. I am going home with three. And I am still struggling. Where on earth did all of the stuff scattered around my apartment come from? Well, here is a little secret; Peace Corps does weird things to a person. Physically and mentally. I have picked up odd behaviors and tendencies I never came close to in the states. Which is why I could now star on Hoarders: Peace Corps Edition. All of those great thrift store finds, random Albanian gifts and care package goodies have remained virtually untouched and unmoved over the last few years. Before any judgement begins, let me explain the PCV mentality. I will blame most of this on the care packages that the awesome few of you have sent. These items are cherished. I repeat, they are CHERISHED. Reserved for only the most special occasions because we have absolutely no idea when we will get more. We will make Sriracha last for a year. Or store peanut butter in the top cupboard to avoid daily spoonfuls. Or hide Franks hot sauce from other volunteers. And Oreos, okay…those never last longer than a few days. I have felt a tad ridiculous as I stared at all of the unopened and unused items I requested from America. Let’s hope I can pack up the rest of my apartment and leave any hoarding dispositions behind.
Some of the young neighborhood kids benefited from my apartment clean up. I packaged up old notebooks, markers and decks of cards for them. The excitement that lit up their faces as I handed over these small items was adorable.
I recently stumbled across an article about the philosopher, Erich Fromm. He believed that human beings had two basic orientations; having and being. A person with the having orientation seeks to acquire and posses things. Which he forecast would only lead to dissatisfaction and emptiness. A person with the being orientation focuses on the experience. They derive meaning from engaging and sharing with people. Which he thought would lead to a life of fulfillment and happiness.
Over the last two years, I have collected post cards from each city I have visited. My travels have taken me all over Europe and as I scanned through the pile, memories surfaced. Inside jokes, transportation disasters, lessons learned and favorite moments came tumbling forward. All of which, produced a heartfelt smile and an occasional chuckle. Not once did this happen as I was shoving my clothes and trinkets into my suitcases. I quickly realized my most prized possessions from the last 27 months have nothing to do with material items. Maybe Fromm was on to something after all.