Learning about all of the different PC events that we would have to attend in our service, COS was always so far off in the distance. Even after our last event, MST (mid-service training) COS still seemed a long many months away. As I write, all of the conferences have come and gone. From now until the end of my service I am a single volunteer. Even though everybody's Peace Corps service is largely an individual or community accomplishment, for me the group mentality has always been at least a bit present until late Saturday afternoon. By group, I am referring to my swear-in group, group 26.
Unlike at other Peace Corps posts, PCRo volunteers conduct all of their required PC training events as a whole group. We staged together, trained in Targoviste together, swore-in together, and we just conducted our last in-service training event together, the COS conference. Immediately after leaving PST and each of the in-service training events, I have on every occasion felt a strong bit of loneliness. After spending at least a couple of days with a large group of people that I call friends, I am once again alone on a train reflecting upon those days. I have learned that such a feeling will only last a day or two maximum, but at the time, sitting on that train and looking out into night, the feeling's strength is at it's peak. This last conference was a bit different in that some final goodbyes had to be spoken. We will not meet again as group 26.
On a lighter note, the COS conference signifies the fast approaching completion to our Peace Corps service. When someone signs up for the Peace Corps they know that it won't be easy and that they have the option to back out at any point in the process. Many people do decide to go home early and they always have good reason to do so, but looking at fellow group members at the COS conference I couldn't help but say to some of my closest friends "wow, we made it". If you've graduated college or highschool then you know about the bittersweet feeling that I felt as I said some goodbye's to fellow 26ers. I'm sure that that feeling will resurface as I prepare to leave my site.
The conference was a very busy event held at a nice 4 star hotel in Sinaia. Sinaia is one of the most well known tourist towns in Romania. It is a small town in Prahova Valley at the base of the eastern edge of the Bucegi Mountains. The Prahova Valley is one of the most beautiful mountain regions of Romania and by far the most visited as it is the closest to the nations capital. Sinaia offers good skiing, hiking, and great views from it's gondola. It is also home to the Sinaia Monastery and Peles Castel, residence of King Carol the first. Highlights of the conference include but are not limited to: PC service timeline, cutting Ted's hair, interviews, discovering beautiful Sinaia, birthdays in the lobby, Manuela and Ben painting, Chels's poem and superlatives at the COS dinner party. Of course there were also some really informative sessions put on by staff to help prepare us for the next few months of ending our service in Romania the coming months of readjustment back in the states.
View from my hotel room