Sep 8, 2016

On Returning.

It's been 7 weeks since Mushu the Chinese kitty and I stepped off a plane into the relentless Florida summer heat. It's hard to believe - these weeks fly by.

I guess returning has been everything I expected. When you really want something - like I really want a life closer to my family and to settle down, you just push through and do what you have to do. In order to be near my family it means not being the girl on perpetual adventure. Now I dream of perpetual togetherness. Of a peaceful life.

I don't burst out into spontaneous tears anymore. So, that's good. During my first few weeks home, the smallest, most random things would trigger uncontrollable sobs. Usually the triggers were food related, which is weird. A large ice cream at Marble Slab left me sobbing snotty boogers into my sleeve, a lobster roll in Maine made me cry elephant tears for 3 solid minutes. I think it's the abundance. The ease. How no one around me seems to be worried about...survival. And also, that ice cream is just so darn good. And lobster is such a treat. To have those things, to really enjoy them and be thankful, is a gift.

I miss black people. I miss ... interesting. In my suburban Florida oasis everyone and everything seems so monochrome. It's beige. Everything is beige.

But I'm hot pink. I'm filled with dumplings and pagodas. Burmese temples and the Taj Mahal. Korean soju and Thai massages. Ethiopian coffee and Rwandan gorillas. Victoria Falls and Zanzibar sand. All a part of me. Walking the aisles of Walmart, looking at 800 variations of plastic baggies and wondering how the world got this way. Pondering disparity but not-so-secretly thankful I am on this end of the bargain. Holding these worldly experiences close to my heart with thankfulness amidst everyday American errands.

Americans are so funny. They chat about the most mundane things. Everyone being given a chance to share their opinion in conversations even as dull as the weekend weather report. Customer service is amazing, having personal space again in places like grocery store lines is such a breath of fresh air. There's constant space. It's nice. I feel as if I am in a constant sociological observation. Not fully a part of what is going on around me, but rather an observer of 'the Americans.'

I've gotten decent at deflecting most questions like, "How was AFRICA??" Or my favorite, for those one year behind on keeping tabs on me... "You just got back from China!" It takes too much heart to give an honest answer. Too much time is needed to explain what Rwanda and China mean to me. What traveling the world the last 8 years meant to me. What the thousands of students and hundreds of train/bus/plane rides, and hundreds of times I packed my backpack and headed out. Out onto the road. To the next unknown destination that will be known in due time. I appreciate that my friends have mostly been fabulous about giving me space when needed, asking pertinent and thoughtful questions, reaching out via phone and social media, and being generally interested in what life in Rwanda is like. For them I am thankful. Coming home and reconnecting with friends has been seamless and wonderful. I truly didn't realize how many people I have in my American tribe.

What I am still overcoming are the international, developing world quirks. For weeks, I kept reaching to turn off the hot water heater after I got out of the shower. But - that is not necessary - our water heaters are located in the garage and are ALWAYS ON. (Blows my mind). I wondered out loud to my family while driving under our Parkways automated, electronic toll booths, "Wow, so when the electricity is out, we all can drive for free!" They kindly reminded me that the electricity is never out. I hate plastic bags. (Illegal in Rwanda). I always scoff when the cashier puts ONLY ONE ITEM in a plastic bag, and help them fill it up more, or ask for larger items not to have a bag. WHAT IS WITH YOU PEOPLE AND YOUR PLASTIC BAGS. We are decades behind the rest of the world in this arena. I always feel like I have to hide my electronics when we go outside. I have stopped hiding my computer under my bed blanket, like I did every day in Rwanda when I left my house, but I am still stunned when my parents leave their iPhones IN FRONT OF WINDOWS and leave the house. You can't do that in Africa.

In the first month I was home, I slept like a rock. Like I hadn't slept in a year. Mostly because I hadn't. I just felt so....relieved. I am home. Home with my family, where I come from. Where things haven't changed much in 8 years that I've been gone, but maybe that's not a bad thing at all. Without the known we wouldn't have the unknown. Without the predictable, we wouldn't have strength to face the unpredictable. Without seasons of peace, we wouldn't be able to face seasons of obstacles. They all go hand in hand.

It's a good, new season. Adventure, in a new form.

walk slow. xoxo.