Posted by: HelenRortvedt | 22 March 2009

From the homefront

Six months ago today I was driven in a Land Cruiser from the “Huampani Vacation Center” to the Peace Corps office in downtown Lima.  The last official act of the Peace Corps on my behalf after closing my service after evacuation.  From the moment I walked out of the office and into the chaotic Lima streets, I was no longer a PCV.  Just an ordinary American girl navigating the South American continent on her own.  The six months that have passed since then have been a bit of a whirlwind.  Over four of them spent in South America still, and in five different countries (Peru, Bolivia mostly, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay).  I returned home in early February to the calm and comfort of Ivy Street.

I imagine that any of you reading this already know, but I decided around that time that I would withdraw from the training class that departed for Peace Corps/Ecuador on February 24th.  Lots of months of deliberation, long conversations with many friends and family members and long silent discussions with myself later, I decided that I was just not in the right place.  I have come to terms with the fact that Bolivia WAS my Peace Corps service.  It was not 27 months.  Nowhere close.  But it left an indelible mark on me.  And what’s more: I was (am) genuinely excited about other jobs, about grad school, and the thought of starting all over again with training in another country was honestly exhausting.

I am home for now, and it is wonderful.  I am actively seeking employment in Latin America (and elsewhere, but I know where my heart is…)

My heart wrenched a little the other day when I learned of the suspension of the Peace Corps program in Madagascar.  Those were tough days for us Bolivian volunteers last September.  My heart goes out to the Madagascar volunteers who now find themselves in a hotel somewhere in South Africa being asked to decide what’s next while trying to process the goodbyes that were left unsaid, the projects unfinished, the lives flipped upside down…

But, on a lighter note: March definitely came in like a lion with a 6 to 8 inch blizzard, and is now fixing to go out like a lamb with the Cherry Blossoms popping out, grills firing up and lawns played in with bare feet. Spring! Virginia’s second best season.  It’s come.


Shortly after I got home, a bunch of former Bolivia PCVs showed up in Washington under the guise of “attending a job fair”.  Really, it was just a good excuse to catch up, drink beers together and laugh together about how weird we have all become in the context of “home”. Here we are (me, Diana & Russ) on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.


Russ and Ryan in front of the Washington Monument.


Great Falls in all of it’s mid-Winter glory. Brrrr!


Unfortunately, our sled was designed and built for 50 pound children.  It lasted about 4 runs.  But we had a grand old time.


Snow is beautiful.  But cold…


The trusty, hearty harbinger of spring.  A welcome friend.



  1. I love to read about your life…no matter where the living is taking place! Can’t wait to live a little with you in a few days!

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