It’s been a while, I know.
Since I last sat down to write something for this blog, life has changed, just a bit. I left Ha Matela without real fanfare and it took me two extra hours to get to Maseru due to typical African delays that would have normally frustrated me but instead left me with nostalgia for a place I hadn’t truly left yet. The few days in Maseru to complete necessary paperwork and health screenings were a blur and exciting. It didn’t feel like the end but I still ended up crying in front of the country director as realization slowly trickled down that I would no longer be a Peace Corps Volunteer.
Then we went to South Africa for a few days and immediately indulged in the First World – movies, pizza, beer, froyo – as if it was a normal vacation and what laid at the end of it was not a return to our homes but village life and we explored the Apartheid Museum hours before news broke of Mandela’s passing. Then, for 10 days, we stepped away from computers and phones to explore the island of Madagascar. We allowed lemurs to frolic on our heads and shoulders, escaped the plague, had a group puking session on the side of the road, found a beach paradise beside a cemetery, stuffed down steaming bowls of rice and soup in the daunting summer heat, sat under the stars and awed at Mother Nature’s firework over the main island from a smaller chunk of Earth, sang each other pieces of songs in the quiet morning before our departure and occasionally turned to each and said, “We did it.”
After roughly four days of travel, my eyes welled with tears when I saw the curves of the Missouri River from a 20-seat airplane. It landed and I couldn’t control my sobs as I walked to the brick building and saw my family waving from the glass windows. I had dreamt, in my sleep and wide awake, about that day and nothing my imagination could conjure was as joyful as feeling them against my arms. They were real. The moment was real.
The holidays rolled through, along with of happy moments that now require documentation on my highly advanced, highly expensive phone. Friends from both sides of the state have ventured to Pierre, which is probably the least accessible major town in South Dakota, for the sole purpose of seeing me. It is a great reassurance to see these faces again and to know that these connections are much greater than hours in a car and gas money.
Although it can’t be done, I am also trying to make up for two years of loss time with my family and I enjoy the little things the most: grocery shopping with mom, dinner with my brother and sister in law, showing my dad a funny video. Waking up and hearing the family stumble around downstairs is what I’ve missed the most – just knowing they are nearby. It’s a good and momentous month for my family: Jason proposed to his girlfriend, Chris and Tara will welcome their first child any day now and, of course, I returned. It was one of the best Christmases.
With the holiday season ending, the newness of my return is fading. It’s been nearly two weeks since I came home and I am still not sure what to think. It is overwhelming, but not nearly as much as I expected it to be. That first WalMart trip, and the subsequent ones, didn’t morally bother me and I’ve managed to fine a health insurance plan on the first day I set out to do so. It’s hard to answer general open ended questions, such as “How was it?” but I smile and offer a one-sentence reply and I notice the slight glazing of eyes if I go beyond that.
The most surprising thing is how normal it all feels and I can easily slip back into a self I assumed was gone. I shelled out a ridiculous amount of money for a phone and don’t think twice in purchasing a sweater that I like. I am already accustomed to daily showers and it doesn’t faze me that I can have any meal I want to at any given time. It’s nice to curl up on the couch and enjoy a movie with mom and be able to eat a cheese sandwich with pickles.
However, I assume all this comes as a tradeoff. I wake up at night sad that I lost something meaningful and that I won’t get it back. It seems like all the hard work internal work I’ve done over the last two years has unraveled and I am no more self-aware than I was two years ago. I keep telling myself this is still new and I’ll find myself again, that better version I built in Lesotho, once I am truly settled and have some kind of routine.
Simultaneously, I am terrified that this is only the beginning of the tough feelings, that when my mom goes back to work later this week and I have to start making a hard plan I will lose it. I want to embrace this transition time and give myself time to process all that has happened in the last two weeks – and two years – but it is scary as hell to not have control over the transition’s end date. What if I run out of money? What if I have to move somewhere I don’t want to be? What if I don’t get that a great job or any job?
But, if I have learned anything in the last two years it is that I can handle whatever is put forth. Right now, I am still being reintroduced to old friends and familiar comforts and I should enjoy that without any lingering fears of potential worries.
I am home after two years of dream chasing. I am in a good place.