It’s Date Night

It’s date night for us vol-less Senior Staffers. We had sushi at the trendiest of restaurants tonight, and took in a a movie- Water for Elephants. We needed this after a long day of paperwork, punctuated by Ensas with lime and tall glasses of ice.

Nope, we’re not in Teustepe anymore. I mean, we will return tomorrow. However, today and yesterday are about respite. Goodness knows we needed it after the despedida and debriefing in Granada.

The despedida was, as always, a crying mess of vols and host families and youth counterparts. After a brief celebration and memory sharing, and a failed attempt to watch final media projects in a space that was too light to let us actually see them when they were projected, we sang a boom chicka boom, and then… it was time. I hate this particular time. It’s always evidenced by the top of the bus filling up with backpacks. It’s evidenced by crying host moms and wailing volunteers. It’s a mob of people who love each other and know that in only seconds, they will be torn apart.

Perhaps the hardest to witness was the five boys of El Crucero. Micheal, a vol, Rafael, a vol, and their 3 youth counterparts- Ramiro, Jainer, and Samir, have been inseparable. And I do mean inseparable. As in, they perhaps spent more than 2 waking hours apart a day for the last 7 weeks. They laughed, they called Micheal by his last name, they made a video about immigration, they inaugurated their CBI with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Mostly, they were just a group of 5 teenage boys trying to figure out this big world together. I’ve rarely seen youth counterparts and vols bond quite like those five did. It was inspirational. And so, imagine tearing them apart.

First, Rafa comes to me. Then Micheal. Both asking to please, please bring these three vols to debriefing. I say no. Then comes Jainer, followed by Ramiro and Samir. Please, they say. Their faces, all five faces of five tall, lanky teenage boys, streaked with tears, their eyes puffy. I couldn’t say no. I just couldn’t. Which is why I have an APD to help me sometimes make sure I don’t do things like allow those three boys on a bus to debriefing. Instead, they grasped each other so tight I thought we’d never pry them apart. They looked into each others eyes and cried. They kissed each others’ foreheads. It was one of the most difficult goodbye’s I’ve seen in eight summers of watching vols and youth and host families say goodbye.

So, they boarded the bus. The day then passed in a blur, Granada and buying things and pizza dinners and evaluations and boat trips. 24 hours later, we were in a candle lighting ceremony.

I couldn’t believe how this one went, it was so special. In a convent in Granada, we all sat in a circle. In a bilingual ceremony, each person present lit their candle from a center candle and spoke about their experience. And boy, did people cry. I’m always impressed at this point in the summer, when it becomes apparent some who struggled learned from their mistakes, when those who did not get along all summer declare a sibling like love for their partners, when people talk about reflections and dreams and ideas.

Afterwards, interestingly, everyone got up and hugged each other. And then there were more tears. It was kind of stunning. I’ve never seen a candlelight ceremony that so naturally ends in hugging like that. Beautiful.

At which point we realized we would need to scrape a whole lot of wax from the floor. So we sent the majority of them to the hotel to pack, and a few vols and staff stayed behind with me to scrape wax droplets from the floor of the convent with coins. We hope the nuns don’t get angry with us!

And the next thing I knew, we were sending the last of them through security, and calling to let the on-call system know they were in the air. We had a passport scare or two, and we had to get the hotel across the way to sell us two loaves of bread at 4:40 am when the vols ate more than we thought for breakfast,  but what would AMIGOS be if you didn’t need to convince a hotel staff member that selling two loaves of bread at 4:40 in the morning to a random person not staying at the hotel was the best course of action?

And now, they are gone. Its so final.

I can hardly believe this part of my AMIGOS summers is over. I don’t get another group of vols, I don’t get another group of youth and vols to sing with whenever I want. My truck rides to pick up sick vols in the middle of the night are now memories, not realities. I can forget the emergency on-call number I have had memorized for several years now, because I won’t be the one calling it.

Sure, AMIGOS will always be there. It will always be part of me. Most of my good friends are AMIGOS. I’m writing a dissertation about AMIGOS. I am who I am because of AMIGOS.

But field summers, you’re what made me. And I will miss you. I will miss the grittiness of phone calls at 6 am under bug nets, during which volunteers explain they waited until it was 6 to call, since they’ve been up since 4:30 am with their host family. I will miss the staff meetings, and the intense inspiration drawn from an idea sparked by a staff member and a poster paper. I will miss the jars of peanut butter supervisors consume with vigor on the weekend, and the single restaraunt in Teustepe, Imperial. There’s so much I will miss.

It makes my heart break, seeing this end. Knowing I won’t be the one to convene these beautiful youth next year, nor the one to receive phone calls about vols from host moms who want to chat. I’ve gotten so much inspiration, love, creativity, passion, hope from this project- thank you.

I could write forever about my undying love for Boaco. But, I have to go do paperwork. The summer ain’t over yet.

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