Thursday, June 16, 2011

COS Conference

Fall 2009 Stage at COS COnference

For the past three days my entire stage has been in Dakar for our COS (Close Of Service) Conference. This is a point in my service that I never, ever thought I would attend. I didn't think I would make it through PST and then I thought I would be going to grad school in 2011 and wouldn't make it to the conference, but, as I've learned in Peace Corps, you never actually know what's going to happen and I made it to COS Conference.

The real purpose of COS Conference is to bring the next stage to leave together in order to give us mounds of paperwork and instructions for ending our Peace Corps service and returning to the United States. What COS Conference really is is an opportunity to get everyone in your stage together one last time and stay in an air conditioned hotel in Dakar for four days. Unfortunately, that AC gave me a terrible head cold, which I'm still struggling with. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were filled with vast amounts of paperwork to be filled out in the future, job prep information, and how to continue our service in the US by speaking with schools, participating in recruiting events, etc. The conference wasn't super informative since I had already ravenously read our COS manual, which I received a few weeks ago and outlines most procedures, but the conference was the last time I'll probably be able to slow down and think and process.

With volunteers spread across Senegal, there are only a couple of times each year we all get together and other than trainings there's no time when you are along with your stage, the people who crossed the Atlantic with you and suffered through the same PST. It's really fun to see everyone and hear about how life is so different in a village than in Thies, but that we share many of the same frustrations and our perspectives on Senegal aren't all too different. I love hearing everyone's personal anecdotes about site from accidentally adding too much bleach into her drinking water, to 3 day long bus rides to Mali, to me getting peed on by a goat while sitting in a car, to making bagels over a gas tank or being asked to participate in a traditional wedding, everyone has a great story.

During the day we sat in a conference room learning and sharing and at night we sat around the hotel pool or in our air conditioned rooms reliving our favorite memories, making news ones, and discussing our plans for post Peace Corps life. That next stage will start at different times for different people in my stage. Myself and most of the SED volunteers will start leaving mid next month (because our replacements have arrived in Senegal 2 months early), while our agriculture stage-mates will be leaving anytime from July to November. There are also the brave PCVs will be extending a service for 3 months or 6 months or even a year. COS conference is supposed to bring us together and make us think and it definitely accomplished that for me. I am so unbelievably excited to come home and as I'm wrapping up my Peace Corps experience I'm proud of what I've accomplished and believe that my service has come to a logical conclusion, but at the same time it's really, really, really sad.

Wednesday night (the concluding night of the conference), Chris, the country director, invited us to his house for some food as a thank you for our service and as a last meal as a group. Jackie made a freaking amazing slide slow with pictures from the past two years. I'm not close with everyone in my stage, but there's the person I sat next to on the plane from DC to Senegal, or the people from my PST training village, or the person I spent a weekend with at a regional house. Most of all, these are the only people who will ever really understand my two year Peace Corps experience in Senegal. They know how crazy it was, how much I hated PST, and the fabulous adventure it was.

Not to be super sentimental/ nostalgic/ sappy... I will move on. COS Conference also represented the last few days I will have to think about my service, or, at least, start thinking about my service. Wednesday morning I was part of a crew of 2 year SED PCVs who got up at 4:45 to great the new SED stage at the airport. One of these people will be my replacement! Crazy!


  1. Alyssa,

    Congrats you have almost officially made it. As you said, there have been hard and difficult times and there has been great times. The great times over the years will be the best memories, but the hard times will make you a better person, if that is possible.


  2. Man, this is surprisingly difficult. I never thought I would say this but............I am so happy you volunteered for the Peace Corps. So happy! I am looking at the photo of your stage and realize I am viewing a great group of Americans. I am so grateful you have made their aquaintance and shared this experience with them.