I just thought I should give people an update if they still check this. I never really finished writing about the last few events of my service, such as my going away parties and thank yous, and I'm not going to try now, with so much time gone by.
Since finishing my Peace Corps service in June, 2007, I've visited Dulce Nombre twice. I'm still with Lester, and he stayed with us up in the states for a few months after I moved to Baltimore. Dulce Nombre and the Santa Rosa area had changed in many ways after a year of absence, although most things were still the same. About a month after I left, the new library of Dulce Nombre opened its doors. Here's its new website! I urge you to find ways to support this project and other similar projects - they always need school supplies, money, costumes, and ideas.
The library is beautiful. Every time I have dropped in it has been full of young people reading, engaging in group activities, a meeting to start a debate team, or workshops on various topics. They have accomplished a lot in the year since they opened. Thanks Riecken Foundation, and more importantly, a great dedicated group of townspeople.
Dulce Nombre also has had several of its main roads paved - it looks great! They are also working on paving the 7 km between the town and the highway, which will hopefully make a big difference in bringing more business, resources, and quick access to the hospital to the town, although hopefully not more pollution and trash.
The first time I visited, in May 2008, I surprised everyone except Lester. I had to show up at my closest friends' houses within a couple hours of arrival so that word wouldn't spread before I got there. Lester's mom almost had a heart attack, as did Efrain, and the Profe, although I had to surprise her over the phone. It was very fun to sneak up on everyone like that! I had lost weight since leaving so everyone had to comment on that, and they updated me on everything that has happened. A few friends were no longer there, a few projects were no longer going on, but the women's group was somehow continuing and several other long term projects, such as the teniasis project I had started with the nurse and the Profe were finally bearing fruit.
As for me, I have finished my first year at the Institute for Policy Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Over the past year I have learned so much about so many things that I feel very fortunate and excited for what is to come. One more year to go :) I am torn between working in a nonprofit, going abroad and having more adventures, or moving to DC and starting a safe but interesting career. Only time will tell. Peace Corps set me on my way to studying public policy, and attempting to figure out ways in which to approach, analyze, and solve public problems.
I miss so many things about Peace Corps! I most of all miss my other PCVs, whom I've only managed to see a few of since COS - Sarah, Kattrina, Lauren D., and I may see Mike soon when he comes to DC. I hope to see Justin, Jenn, and my other favorite people soon, and hope that there is a reunion sometime soon. I also miss the freedom, the rich experiences, the laughs, the adventures, the adoration, the humiliation, and everything that makes up a wonderful Peace Corps experience. If you are considering it - DO IT. I hope to do it again someday!