Close of Service [Accidental COS]

How I feel trying to find the perfect “farewell” gif: giphy-1

One-sentence summary: Flew from Wyoming to BWI; NIH appointments at six weeks look favorable but recommend more time; officially medically separated and being returned home to my address on record.

Right Now: Stranded in a hotel in Denver, trying to make my geographical and metaphysical way to a new version of home.

Expression of the Week: Chisme. Gossip.

The hottest piece of news, factual or not. Something we all thrill on when there’s not much else exciting to talk about when no hay pasé.

Stairwell Campaign “Take the Stairs” Mural at NIH

Harper’s Index

Number of Months with Peace Corps: 13

Number of Months in Service: 10

Number of Blog Entries: 56

Days since I have seen my Oxapampa family: 94

Days in Lima before medical evacuation: 31

Days of medical separation in the U.S.: 57

Flights: 16

Recent Hotels/Airbnb/guest beds locations: 18

Doctor appointments: 17 (and counting)

Days taking pills: 35

Number of pills: 140

Number of parasites: 1 stinking little two-dotted micro bug misnamed Mike

Assembly Hall at Annapolis Naval Academy

A bittersweet final Week 43 of Peace Corps service and an early COS.

First and foremost, my health is good. I received a very favorable prognosis of my leishmaniasis and I do not need further treatment at this time. It just wasn’t quite enough progress to return to PC service in Peru. Time’s up.

Good news? I am not dying of a jungle disease. I have great lesion margins and blood panel results and just need to weather a couple more weeks of symptoms from the medication residuals. While the side effects are still flaring, the severity of fatigue and nausea is lessening. And the hole in my arm gets smaller and stops less traffic.

Nerd Alert: Speaking of Mike, I acquired histopathology photos from my punch biopsy during week-who-the-hell-cares-anymore. The headline photo atop this week’s blog is an image of my biopsy at 10x where the hot pink ridge is a healthy and normal epidermis. Below is a close-up “Where’s Waldo?” of Mike:

mikezoomarrow60xThis is an image at 60x (600x real life) of a cross-section image of my punch biopsy. The magnified circle shows two tiny faint dots. That is Mike. (Hi, Asshole!)

Outside the White House

Depending on who is still reading this text, you undoubtedly have many questions.

As of this Saturday, April 6, I am officially an RPCV and medically separated from Peace Corps.

This means I am not going back to Peru as a Peace Corps volunteer unless I get run over by a very small and lightweight bus and subsequently lobotomized and then apply (over the course of 1-3 months) for re-instatement.

But hey. Stranger things have happened.

I really do miss “home” and none of this derailment has been at all easy.


The worst part of this week was calling my host family and trying to explain in my deteriorating Spanish (after three months and a three-thousand mile distance) it’s not you, it’s just a “bug bite!” Lo siento. Te extraño.

Surprise, surprise, there is an avalanche of paperwork to close service, at least multiple days of medical and dental exams in Wyoming, eight million forms, and at some point Peace Corps will send someone to go get my stuff in Oxapampa and ship it to me.

Humor is my coping mechanism. So I am not going to write about how hard this is, how deeply sad I am, how I am also relieved to no longer be in limbo, or my toe touching into the rip current of what the hell do I do next.

Instead I will keep it light. I am bummed I am missing out on the volunteer chisme about this week’s news.

Here are the top ten self-manufactured chismes about Jess not returning to Peace Corps:

10) Jess has found her calling living the lifestyle of various interim lodging and will be pursuing a career as a B-list Yelp reviewer for low-grade government hotel stays. (Such an untapped niche market, really.)

9) Newly taken to online dating apps, I heard Jess is financing her disease world tour through multi-monogamous relationships with secretly married and/or non-committal dating website men in more than one hemisphere.

8) In an obscure sociological governmental programming experiment, Jess wanted to see how many people she could also get to leave service — not limited to magnetically unscrewing the ACL of her regional mate Ivy.  (Who is coming back, by the way. Not a real rumor.)

7) Jess has such a fan-girl crush on PC Peru medical officer Dr. Suni (note: PCVs are not allowed to be friends with staff) that she contracted a weird disease as a premise to be star of a future global PCMO medical presentation.

6) Jess wanted to bypass med school for a free year at NIH to feed full-time from a self-serve sushi fridge and lomo saltado. (Yes! NIH had lomo saltado this week in the secret basement cafeteria and it brought me to tears.)IMG_4422

5) Jess is in love with Clint (a fellow Peru 31 PCV) who will never read her blog nor love her back.

4) All Jess really wanted was a “hook” for job application cover letters.

3) Jess really wanted to show up to her 25th high school reunion with a super infection, out of shape, single, no kids and unemployed so she would have something to talk about.

2) CIA.

And the number one reason?

I likely just wanted the attention. I wanted you all to miss me, this blog, and being part of this story.

Because I am surely going to miss the hell out of all of you.

Final words: During service in Peace Corps Peru, I contracted a serious neglected tropical disease (NTD) and I was privileged enough to be in a program to be flown to the U.S. for specialized, subsidized, excellent medical care. And I am going to be okay.

There are thousands of people infected with this disease who do not have access to early assessment, medical care, nor the means to remain viable while receiving treatments.

Maybe there is something more here after all. Maybe I am destined to find another way to be of service.

I hope so.

Vamos a ver.


11 Replies to “Close of Service [Accidental COS]”

  1. OMG are you actually coming to reunion after all? You should. You will be the toast of the gathering.

    More seriously (though the above was also serious): I am so sorry you weren’t able to go back. What a stark reminder that our life plans are more often than not out of our control.


  2. Sorry to hear the bug means you can’t Peace Corp no more. Confident you will find a way. So relieved to hear your health is improving, and that Mike is just a tiny dot or two destined for extinction before you. (watch spanish media to keep your synapses firing). A hug!


  3. Glad you’re on the mend – sad you’re sad though. 😏
    I think you have a future in blogging! 🙌🏻
    Thanks again for all your support and your service too! ❤️🇺🇸🇵🇪

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sending you the biggest love. We can only do the best we can do, and I know you tried your damndest to be in service, and that you were learning so much. I’m sorry you’re facing such confusion and disappointment! May a new road ride to meet you, and try keeping your toes out of that ‘now what’ rip current for a minute….


  5. This is one hell of a story and turn of events. The ending is no doubt not preferred. But as you inferred at the end of your post, maybe there is a silver lining to all of this. I like to think that there is. I enjoyed reading your blog all this time. Thanks for sharing your adventures (and especially your humour). Don’t stop writing! Good luck Stateside.


  6. Our health dictates much of our lives – when something is askew. An extra poignant, in-your-face example is not welcome, but was somehow meant to happen. I wish it hadn’t. But it did. And now, you take what you learned through your time in Peru, and jump start a new something. I miss you. Maybe a jaunt to Wrangell, Alaska is in order. The book that you may write one day could be started bobbing in the harbor in a little float house. 😉 Love and large, sincere, warm hugs to you. C


  7. Sending love (out of the void of my radio silence, which has been rife) from us of the warren. One can’t see the bigger picture, and one wouldn’t understand it if one did. NinJa, you’re doing great. When you have energy to spare, send some life wisdom my way, because I’m lazy. You, friend NinJa, are not lazy. Hey, just for fun, maybe take lazy for a spin. . . ?


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