Posted by: HelenRortvedt | 27 September 2008

Private Citizenship

     I am writing now as an RPCV. After lengthy conversations with many trusted friends and mentors, and many hours of sleep lost debating with myself about what to do, I decided to close my service with the Peace Corps.  I am, despite having only served for 5 months, in the eyes of the organization a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.  That is government agency talk for having successfully completed my assignment. 


         I had seriously considered a direct transfer to Ecuador into their environmental education program, but withdrew my name from consideration last Sunday afternoon.  I have realized that I am in no emotional state to start over so quickly.  I need to make peace with Bolivia.  I need to go back there and say real farewells.  I need to mourn this loss.  If I were to have transferred directly, I would not be allowed to go to Bolivia.  Both my heart and my mind are there, and I would be doing a disservice to my new country and to my new community by diving straight in.


         So, what’s next? Where does that leave me? The truthful answer is that I’m not really sure.  I am taking each day as it comes.  I have decided to travel through southern Peru with a bunch of friends, and we are headed towards home, towards Bolivia together.  Right now, I am in Arequipa, near the famed Colca Canyon.  We plan to stay around here for a while, and then cross back into Bolivia sometime next week.  We have met some of the PC/Peru volunteers and they have been good to offer us travel advice, even places to stay, so we are taking advantage of the Andean Peace Corps connection.  I only wish we would be able to return the favor on our side of Lake Titicaca someday…


         I have agreed to pack up my things in my site myself, and will deliver them to the Peace Corps office in Sucre to be shipped home by October 10th.  I am then hoping to go to Argentina for a while to meet up with other friends and drink some good wine.  From there, I plan to head back to Bolivia for a while and make a home base in Sucre to explore more of my beloved Chuquisaca, to decompress, to try to pick up the pieces we left scattered all over.


         I have some friends from PC/Bolivia that have transferred directly into the programs in Peru and Ecuador and I hope to visit many of them in their new sites as well.  I will travel for as long as my wallet holds out.  I need to stay in the Andes right now. 


         I have also talked with Peace Corps about the possibility of re-enrolling in another country for a full 27-month assignment later on.  As evacuees, we have preference for up to 2 years.  That basically means we don’t have to go through the whole lengthy application process (which, in my case took 365 days from submission of application to touch down in Bolivia).  I am hoping to start that process to hopefully begin a new assignment (hopefully in the Andean region still if possible) as early as the New Year.


         My time in Bolivia has left an incredible impression on me.  There are many things that challenged or frustrated me, but all I can think about as I fall asleep each night is how I would take all the frustrations and the challenges back in a second if it meant I could go back to that life I was just beginning to live… just beginning to love.


         Bolivia is a troubled place.  It is deeply divided.  But it will overcome this period of uncertainty and turmoil.  Its culture is too rich, its people too welcoming, its terrain too rugged and beautiful, its collective soul too inspiring not to.  I believe in Bolivia.  I love Bolivia.  And I will miss calling it “home”.


This is the military C-130 cargo plane that flew us from Coch to Lima. It was built in 1959 and donated to the Bolivian Air Force by the US Government.

This is the inside… No complimentary beverage service on this flight… Emotionally the longest of my life…

Bolivian Air Force pilots doing their job.

All of the Chuquisaca (Sucre regional office) volunteers, minutes before leaving Bolivia.

Outside of the gate of our conference center in Lima, the first group of Bolivia PC Refugees staged a “bloqueo” to greet the other half who arrived a day later in typical Bolivian style.

Peace Corps Bolivia. An exceptional group of volunteers. That just happened.



  1. Miss you terribly, thanks for the birthday wishes, I hope you are having a blast being back in Bolivia (or whenever you get there…)

    Love You

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