Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ask Dr. Bob

On a large 24”x18” piece of yellow construction paper I made a table seven columns by eight rows. Fifty-six boxes. One for each day of service I have left in the Peace Corps. I labeled the columns with days of the week and grouped the rows into June, July and August. I titled the poster, “Calendario de Proyectos con Annalisa” (Calendar of Projects with Annalisa).

I began to populate the calendar with my remaining projects, trips away from site and daily obligations. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 3:40-4:50 English classes at Basico with Jeny. Completion of Service Medical Appointments in Antigua June 22-24. Women’s group cooking class: Pizza and planting tomato seeds, 3pm Saturday, June 25. Inventory review workshop, 5pm Wednesday, June 29. Pollo Xinca Cost of Production Analysis, Saturday, July 9... the table slowly filled up. When it was done, I taped it to the Coca Cola display fridge in the coop tienda and shared it with the socios at a meeting on Monday.

As I plan my last projects, I also have to figure out how to wrap up my service with a healthy sense of closure. My dad has coached me on this phase of my Peace Corps service. A phase that he refers to, in psychiatrist jargon, as the ‘termination period.’ Over one particularly long phone conversation about a month ago he explained this critical stage of decathecting to me. I was on one end of the line swaying in my hammock while he was on the other end, presumably, sitting in his swiveling office chair. “The termination period is a period of separation between a doctor and patient,” he began. “At the end of a treatment, a physician must work with the patient to show their time together was effective in treating the illness and that the patient is capable of sustaining his recovery even after he is not under the direct care of the physician...” (Did I paraphrase correctly, Papa? “Close enough,” as you might say.)

In any regard, the take away I got was that these last few months of service is a time for me to reflect with the cooperative on all of the work we have done together and the progress we have made. It is also a time to discuss how to sustain these improvements even after my departure. I have taken his advice to heart and have started reflecting on my service with the Coop socios. The presence of my bright yellow calendar stands as a reminder that my days with the coop are limited and has allowed me to ease into ‘termination period’ conversations. Sometimes, however, I contemplate, between myself and the cooperative, who is the doctor and who is the patient. For, I, most certainly, will come out of this experience the most changed.

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