COS

COS stands for close of service. In PC jargon it means 2 things: the final conference and the day your service ends. I’m writing about the first one right now 🙂

Our group started with something like 58 people. Currently we’re down to around 46. Some couldn’t handle it here. Others had medical problems. Recently a lot have found jobs. There are many reasons a person might leave during the course of 2 years.

The conference was a multiple day affair located in Aghveran. If you are a long time reader with a great memory, you will remember that we stayed at a hotel in Aghveran upon arriving in Armenia. Our conference was not in the same hotel. Instead, we were in a nicer hotel up the road. I saw our COS hotel 2 years ago while on a run with other PCVs that contributed to some nasty altitude-sickness. At the time we all thought, “Wow, it looks so nice. I don’t think we’re supposed to be here.” Well, consider it a reward for making it close to the finish line.

COS felt like we came full circle in many ways. The setting obviously helped. You could reminisce about our first days here, those strange, terrifying, impossible first few days.

I thought back to what it was like then. I knew none of the other volunteers. They all seemed crazy to me and very different from my friends. Everything seemed odd. The smell of the blankets. The coldness of the rooms. The look of the food. I could understand nothing. I was scared of the Armenians. And I was so confused as to whether I made the right decision to ditch my previous life for this uncertain thing.

Now I think about what it’s like today. I have 46 friends (okay, that’s being generous). They still seem crazy to me. Everything seems normal now. Nothing has phased us for a long time. I can understand a lot. I am no longer scared of Armenians, usually. And now there is absolutely no confusion or doubt about my decision to come here: it was one of the finest of my life.

COS itself was just a series of sessions about wrapping up our life here. I even did one with a fellow volunteer about identifying skills we’ve gained. But the important aspect of COS is closure. It’s about catching up with all your friends one last time. Saying goodbye. Thinking about the last 2 years. Wondering about the future. Asking everyone the same questions: Are you early COS? (We can COS on July 3rd or August 3rd) What are your plans after PC?

As I soaked in our final conference, our final gathering, I also tried to reflect on my situation. It seemed like most people already knew about my plans to go to Poland. Maybe that’s because it’s one of the more uncommon things people are doing. But telling countless people about it, getting some good advice, and listening to others share what they will be doing all helped me to realize that I am happy and content with my plan. I’m excited even. I couldn’t have said any of that a few months ago. So I guess that’s some sort of progress just on its own. I am confident in my decision and open to the ambiguity and newness it entails.

I looked forward to this conference a lot. It signals the end. It’s a chance to say goodbye. It’s the last one! I can also say that I feel it’s time to leave. I feel that any longer in this place would be wasting my time. I’m no longer stretching myself or learning much new. I am ready to begin the next chunk of my life. I am ready for a lot of things besides Armenia. And I am ready to finish up this wonderful experience and remember it for the rest of my life. It’s time to hand Armenia off to the A-20s.

COS makes me remember a discussion I had with Wayne after our swearing in ceremony, which now feels so long ago. He said that he thought the A-16 COS conference was too soon. I wonder if I’ll feel that way too. There are 3.5 months left. That’s a lot after you just essentially said goodbye to everyone. Anyway, I remember thinking then that COS sounded so cool – a chance to celebrate with all the people you’ve struggled alongside. I couldn’t wait to do my own COS, but it seemed impossibly buried into the future. Now that’s it’s over I am in a bit of shock.

The conference also marks the final language test. As a dorky guy who has mostly enjoyed learning the language the last two years, I was looking forward to the final exam. This exam’s score is what we get to put on our resumes the rest of our lives. The idea is that your language is strongest now, but that’s not always the case. However, I do feel like my language is as strong as ever. Despite not living in a family, not having really any outside-of-work Armenian friends, and almost never working in Armenian, I have managed to gain a decent grasp of the language. Most of that has come through a year and a half of dedication to language lessons. Multiple times a week, for nearly 80 weeks, I trudged 20 minutes one way to my tutor’s house. Some days I didn’t want to go. Other days I really didn’t want to go. But I always went. And that dedication helped me have a strong final test. I won’t know my score for a while, but I accomplished my goal of using 2nd conditionals (If I were X, I would Y) without struggle. Since I have only once used these in a non-tutoring conversation, I was very happy when I successfully used them a couple times during the exam.

Speaking of that, it also marks the end of our tutoring reimbursements. So, another big part of my life here has finished. I had my final language lesson on Monday. I was happy and proud of all the work I’ve done as well as the relationship I’ve built with my language teacher. Now I’ll fill that time with even more Polish self-study.

Slowly but surely this life is finishing. It’s a good feeling, kind of like graduating high school or college. It’s not bittersweet yet. Just a warm feeling about the other volunteers I’ve met, the things I’ve done, and the Armenian experience. I’m grateful for all of these things and will try to savor the conclusion.

A-18s (Photo: Fred Linden)

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5 Responses to “COS”

  1. Wayne Burt Says:

    I knew that this overdue blog would be about COS. I’ll be looking forward to some uplifting words in the blogs to come, but will not be surprised if any of your remaining experiences will be uplifting.

  2. Peter Says:

    My handsome little roommate, getting ready to leave a world that was once uncertain for yet another! Me, the refrigerator, and the xbox (my nuclear family) are all so very proud of you.

    Peter

  3. icenugget Says:

    Wayne – Overdue indeed. I felt little pangs of anxiety knowing that my blog was collecting dust. I have a half-baked post written but didn’t have enough time to finish it before COS.

    Peter – Glad you and the fam (hehe) are proud. If only we could celebrate now with all of them…killing some Nazi zombies while enjoying some sandwiches or something.

  4. Peter Says:

    Haha “You think we have another time for STATE before the 12:45 class begins?”

  5. icenugget Says:

    Remember when Leonard retired? Such a touching sendoff.

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