I’d call it a flood, a flood of emotions, a flood of memories. That phrase, as trite and overused as it may be, is the best way I can find to describe 27 of the most incredible months of my life.
There’s pride and happiness, the result of the fact that I did it. I made it. I finished. There’s thirst, but the bottle of crappy train wine that’s slowly disappearing in front of me and lubricating this post is taking care of that. There’s sadness, the result of leaving many lifelong friends without any guarantee that I’ll see them again. But I think, most of all, there’s gratitude. I’m thankful for all the experiences, good, bad and everywhere in between.
I’ll start with the bad, because, even if I arrived with a stubborn smile on my face, honeymoons don’t last 27 months.
I’ll remember the blocs, the gawd-awful blocs that announced, through a megaphone, that I’d arrived in Eastern Europe.
I’ll remember the loneliness, the crippling loneliness brought on by winter evenings and suffocating walls.
I’ll remember the homesickness, the kind of homesickness that comes through rose-colored glasses and makes you long for the very things you used to dislike.
I’ll remember the students, the little bastards that you love and hate, sometimes all within the span of a syllable.
I’ll remember the frustration, the eye-scratching frustration.
But there was good with the bad, the kind of the good that, long after this train ride is over, will have erased the bad.
I’ll remember the țuică, the homemade spirit that led to the unforgettable nights, the unforgettable nights that I couldn’t remember the next morning.
I’ll remember the people, the warm, welcoming people who always had a chair and a full glass for Mr. Met.
I’ll remember my colleagues, the ones who patiently listened to me as I stumbled through expressing myself in a foreign language.
I’ll remember my neighbors, the kind people who took me in as theirs, for better or worse.
I’ll remember my friends, especially the one who gave me his recently deceased mother’s gold earrings for my first daughter. (True story.)
I’ll remember the mountains, my mountains, my mountains that surrounded me and often made me question why I deserved to be there.
I’ll remember the psychiatric hospital, my home, the place that showed me so much love, even if it typically only resides at the end of a joke.
I’ll remember the country, the relatively unknown place the size of Oregon that turned out to be one of the most geographically beautiful, culturally enriched places I’ve ever been.
I’ll remember the lump, the one in my throat brought on by a 6-year-old student telling me she loves me, a grown man dripping tears on my shoulder as he tries to keep it together during our goodbye, or typing this post.
But most of all, I’ll remember the morning, the January morning when I logged on to peacecorps.gov and started applying, because that’s the memory that led to all these, and many more. That’s the one that changed my life. That’s the one that opened the floodgates.