Finished out our Close of Service conference this past September. It’s a strange time, that week in the city. All of Group 15’s training periods have been happy—being together again, hyping up to go back to the field. This time was not so upbeat. Normally you head to your COS conference three months before your actual, official COS date. But PCM’s changed its intake calendar. Trainings for other groups got backed up and we had our conference forty-odd days out from COS. You’re allowed to leave the country a month early or a month late, which meant that some of us were leaving a week after the conference. No cushion of separation between the conference and the exodus.
The first half of the COS get-together is predictable. We give presentations about the work we’ve gotten done during out stay, look over the indicators we’ve fulfilled within the Mexico project framework and get forms signed and checklists checked and talk about the tattoos we’re going to get. It’s the second half of the thing that might surprise, given over to what the Peace Corps calls reverse culture shock.
You get culture shock going to wherever your host country is and you get it again when you go back to the States. Big cultural changes both ways. But I think it’s appropriate that they call them by at least slightly different names because they’re distinct phenomena, maybe pretty profoundly so.