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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Knee Surgery, Marijuana Pills and Peru

I know I haven't written in a while. I apologize. It's been a very odd past couple of months where I thought life was going in one direction but ended up pulling me in another completely unexpected one.

As I write this, I'm in Lima - but let's go back to late September with about three months left in service. My projects were finally advancing nicely and things were going very well in Rio Grande. On the side I'd been working with my boss on staying a 3rd year with the PC in Lima working for the Peruvian equivalent of the EPA and OSHA - the thought being I could make contacts in the Peruvian government and industry and later strike out on my own as an Environmental Health and Safety Consultant here. It wasn't a done deal but we were getting close so it seemed that I had a pretty good plan going. I came up to Lima for Peru 14's Close of Service (COS) conference where we covered the ins and outs of readjusting back to life in the US. During the conference, I ironed out some details and committed to stay a third year. Plans be damned and life took over from there.

A couple of days prior to the COS conference, I played league softball for my team in Lima. On an embarrassingly shitty Baltimore chop grounder to third I was legging it out to first when I felt a pop in my right knee. It hurt like shit so I went to the doctor to get an MRI after our COS conference. Turns out I tore the meniscus in that knee.

Several weeks prior to all this, my mom had had an operation (sorry - I'm getting kind of Quentin Tarantino with the timeline here but bear with me). Unfortunately, things didn't turn out as expected and Mom remained in the hospital for quite some time. She called me exasperated to let me know that she needed yet another operation. I knew from the tone of her voice that I needed to come home to be there for her, for my brother, and for my Aunt Lale, who has been a saint through all this. The Country Director here graciously allowed me to go home during this trying time. So I went to Texas presumably for 3 weeks.

I flew home and my mom had the operation. Things went as well as could reasonably be expected and we all were cautiously optimistic. Recovery was very slow initially but thanks to the healing power of marijuana pills (prescribed by the doctor) she started making progress. I'm happy to report that, although she has good days and bad days, she's back at the house and taking care of herself. Quick aside - I cooked her a fried egg and toast for breakfast the day after she came back home. The following morning I offered to fry her up another egg but she politely declined and said that she would do it. I thought - this woman is truly remarkable and wants to get back to taking care of herself and not feel like she's being a burden. Turns out I can't fry an egg for shit and it was too greasy so she basically fired me as the cook and took matters into her own hands.

Meanwhile, while my mom was still recovering in the hospital, I decided to get my knee looked at by a 3rd party. The Peruvian doctors recommended I have the torn meniscus surgically repaired. The PC doctors in DC recommended the conservative route of physical therapy. The orthopedic doctor in Texas said that physical therapy likely wouldn't accomplish a whole hell of a lot so he recommended I get it scoped and I'd be as good as new in a couple of weeks. The PC agreed so I went ahead with the surgery. The procedure was uneventful and I still hoped to be back in Peru in two weeks. Three weeks tops. Then the shit hit the fan. I received an email from my Country Director and a few of the PC doctors in Peru thanking me for my service and that I would be missed. I was doped up on Vicodan, confused and wondered what the f%ck was going on - Turns out it is PC policy to medically separate Volunteers who have surgery in the last 3 months of service. Unfortunately, no one had communicated that policy to me beforehand. My PC service ended. Abruptly. Without warning. I was devastated, furious, depressed and determined to appeal my medical separation.

The following day my former boss from HUB International, Todd Macumber, called me up to say that a position as a Risk Consultant had opened up in Texas just that week. I was still in a Vicodan haze and out of sorts and told him I'd think about it. A week later, Todd arranged a meeting between me, the President of HUB in the Dallas office and the Chief Sales Officer in the Forth Worth office so we could feel each other out. The meeting went fantastic! They were happy with my skill set and that I knew how HUB worked. I was impressed that they understood what I did and how it could benefit their clients and HUB. HUB made me an offer, I jumped at it and that's that. I officially started last week but hit the ground running in January.

So now I'm back in Peru for three weeks. I couldn't just let the last two years of my life come to an end without closure. I'm in Lima visiting friends and saying goodbye to the wonderful PC Peru staff and Volunteers, some of whom are staying and others going back to the great unknown. Tomorrow I travel back to Rio Grande to say my goodbyes to the community that took me in as one of their own the last two years. If I'm lucky, I'll get to go to the jungle or eat ceviche on a nice beach for a few days.

So, even though my best laid plans went astray, the story has happy ending. I get to go back to Texas to be with family. I've got a very nice job lined up despite the shitty US economy. I'm not pissed or resentful towards the PC even though a few folks in DC need to get their shit together. And I'm getting to say goodbye to the very special people in my life the last two years here in Peru.

And don’t worry, I've got a few more hilarious, entertaining and informative blog postings left in me so stay tuned the next couple of weeks.

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