A Slow Goodbye

A silhouette of buildings in the Habitat neighborhood with a sky of dusk above.

The sun sets on me for the last time. I spot the panadería on the narrow street, the tienda on the highway with its typical two customers drinking beer at the table outside. I sit in the back of the bus, the window blessedly open. It’s the best place to be so that I can watch both the passing scenery and the other passengers. 

A phrase  my mother said to me comes like a lighting strike: “You don’t know if you’ll ever go back.” These words might seem sad or pessimistic, but it’s true — she has lived this reality as have so many other migrants of this world. 

I find myself thinking of all the things I have done and worse, all the things I promised myself I would do: a sunrise hike on the dunes, a basketball game in the neighborhood next to ours, saying goodbye to my nine-year-old neighbors. My list goes on and on and as the bus jostles its way to my house one last time and I am overwhelmed by the reality of endings. Who was the Camila of two years ago? What is there left of me as I make my way back to a place I once called home? I should have enjoyed each moment more, should have lost my patience less, should have put more energy into my projects. My thoughts whirl and bounce along with the bus as it scrambles over dirt and rocks. My life is not over, but I must admit that the abyss of change leaves me nervous and unsettled and quite lost. 

At a certain point I find myself jammed between two small children and an older man and the physical discomfort breaks me out of my internal tantrum. I look around and see my fellow passengers as if for the first time. 

I have lived







I gave all I had to give each and every day and in turn was gifted the entire world. I arrived as a foreign volunteer but I would like to think that as I leave, there is a tiny part of me that is a bit more peruana. These strangers who sit around me on the bus are the reason I have become the Camila who dances without fear, who thirsts for adventure, who is learning to be vulnerable.

A photo of the Jesuit Volunteer house in the Tacna neighborhood.

I am sitting now at the kitchen table where I have shared meals for the last two years. I am drinking my last cup of coffee in my typical over-sized mug. A little breeze blows in through the window, giving me respite from my self-induced torture of drinking a hot beverage during a Peruvian summer. Prayer flags mix with Peruvian tapestries, each item in this house passed down from various volunteers. “Welcome Home”, says the whiteboard, but it is not for me, not anymore. A photo of Faith and I sits on the bookshelf, a shrine to JVs that once were. I take the house keys off the ring and place them gently on the table. The door closes behind me and I walk down the street to catch my bus. I suddenly hear my name “Miss Camila! Miss Camila!” I turn to see my four-year-old neighbor, Midori. She has clambered up to her window and leans out precariously. She waves and I wave back. Her voice follows me to the corner and as I round the bend her calls fade into the quiet dusk. 

Originally published at www.jvcwithcamila.blogspot.com


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