Time: Thursday Night
Location: Parents house, Fresno, California, USA
So, now it is all over and done! After a crazy final month, trying to wrap up a number of projects, I actually and officially completed my two years of Peace Corps service in the Kingdom of Tonga! Well, mostly completed... I have a few more things I've promised to do - writing up some notes, continuing to participate on a few committees via email, and sending a couple of items to friends in Tonga.
As expected, packing up to leave Tonga wasn't as difficult as packing up to leave the US, but it is still amazing how you can always collect junk that you need to get rid of. I left behind a ton of computer parts, a couple of laptops, and a desktop computer with folks at Peace Corps Tonga, as well as a stove, bicycle, and a backpack of candy to my neighbor Kava and her kids. I distributed other bits and pieces to various friends, and, of course, a bunch of stuff got left on the Volunteer "free" table for other people to take and use (remember, one man's garbage is another man's treasure).
Saying goodbye is always a sad thing, so I think it is just better to say "see ya later". The world is such a small place, and paths are always crossing again (and again). Speaking of which - I ran into Jim Shiba, one of the old Aerospace Corp CAE Dept crew just last week in Hawaii. He was leaving a restaurant, just as I was entering. We looked at each other as we passed, then turned around and said "Hey!!". I have not seen Jim in something like 17 years! Just goes to show you... Anyways, back on subject.... I am planning on returning to Tonga in a couple of years; probably after Tungi Arcade is rebuilt (then, I can give Sela a hand with moving the computer and POS systems to the new Bookshop). Besides, I did not manage to get out to Ha'apai during my last weeks in Tonga - and it is still on my travel agenda. I expect that I'll see a few people passing through Honolulu; there is a significant Tongan population in Hawaii.
I suppose that I should eventually write up something philosophical and reflective regarding my Peace Corps experience. If time permits, I'll get around to it, when I get back to Hawaii and all of the relocation hassle has settled down a bit. For now, I guess I should just say that it was indeed a great experience, and I'm glad I did it. I'm especially glad that I chose to do it now - that is, mid-career, rather than just after college or later after retirement. It was an optimal time - when I have significant work/life experience to contribute and yet still enough youth & energy to carry through with the actual work. Of course, there were few things which I'd rather not live through again (damn dog), and a lot of things which were absolutely frustrating (fakahela counterpart); but, overall, the positives far outweighed the negatives - I've seen a bit more of the world, fixed a few things, and made new friends. Life really doesn't get much better than that.... :)