A month from now, I will be heading back to Canada.

It’s a bittersweet feeling to be counting the days. I am excited to go home, see my loved ones, get a hair cut, and slip back into regular life. But I am also sad to leave my Cuso life, the ever-glorious weather, the freshest tropical fruit, and the best sunsets. Jamaica has been good to me and I am going to miss it.

My time in Panama surprised me with a small bout of culture shock, a foretaste of what is to come. The smoothness of the roads was a constant marvel, and the feeling of freedom I got from walking freely around the city had a physical impact on me – I literally felt the anxiety of life in Kingston begin to leave my body. Returning to Kingston, I felt disoriented after only a few weeks away. Given that it was a vacation, I hadn’t anticipated that the differences would have such an impact. I expect that the feeling will be even greater when I go back to Canada.

There are a few things to take care of before I go, and I am relieved that Cuso is so organized and skilled at volunteer management. In addition to their list of things to do, I was also gifted with a 2 page questionnaire for me alone to use, which asks me to reflect on the past year and how it has affected me. What might seem like an extra bit of bureaucracy or busy-work is actually an incredibly helpful exercise in mindfulness and mental preparation for the reverse-cultureshock that is ahead. I jotted down answers already but will be reflecting on the questions more as the calendar counts down.

I haven’t completely checked out of work yet (my last day will be February 3), and I know it will be desperately hard to say good bye to the students in the Youth Development Program when the time comes. Like most teenagers, they won’t likely pay much mind to my departure (just another adult who came and went from their lives), but for me they have been the greatest joy of my time with the YMCA. I will worry about them and dream for them always.

As I plot out the list of things to do before I leave, I am especially thankful that the BC Public Service, and my Corporate Sustainability team especially, allowed me to take this leave of absence and follow this dream. To have a job to return to after this time away is such a relief. To have one I enjoy, working with people whom I adore, is an incredible blessing. I owe them so much more than the year of service I am required to fulfill.

The weeks ahead are segmented and parcelled off with milestones coming in quick succession: 3 more weeks of work, important meetings and conferences to attend, dates scheduled to close accounts, do an apartment inspection, get a criminal record check, and purchase last-minute provisions for a future without mangos fresh from the tree. I am excited that my last 10 or so days will be spent showing my sister Catherine around Kingston and the island. I can think of no better way to wrap up my time than by sipping pina coladas by the beach with her.