Sunday, November 10, 2013

Two Years in Two Lines

I've been warned about this.

I knew it was coming, but I guess I just never thought it would be as bad as they say it is.

I guess I figured I would pull out of this feeling differently - - because, I just wanted it to be that way.

I saw a glimpse of all of this when I was home in the states.
People wanted to come visit me, they wanted to say hello. They wanted to see their shiny, fancy friend back from the Peace Corps.

"How's Africa?"
"I don't know how you do it. Isn't it so sad?"
"Do people die all the time?"
"Are you living in a hut? … what? They have electricity?"

 Let's start off with the fact that Africa is a CONTINENT. How's Africa? I don't know. But I could tell you about Botswana. And yes it's sad, but it's filled with so many success stories. And…. Oh. Ok. Right.

End of attention span.

People think that they want to hear about what I'm doing. Of course they ask questions, but most of them are so superficial there's no way it paints a clear picture of my service. And usually, after a few cut & dry questions, the conversation fizzles out.

What I do isn't always pretty.  It's emotionally exhausting, physically challenging, and mentally demanding. The decision to be here is one that I make every day.  I've mentioned that I love it here and that's no lie. I love that I have the opportunity to try to make a difference. I love that I'm welcomed into a culture that was foreign to me just last year. I love the life-long relationships I've built with some very special people here.

But my blog is only a small taste, a small glimpse of what's going on with me. Unless you've taken the time to email me, pick up the phone, or write a letter, you most likely don't know me anymore. You know the old me that is a part of who I am today, but you aren't seeing what I see when I look in the mirror these days.

I've changed. A lot. My perspectives, my values, my dreams, my fears… they've changed. In 19 months, I've changed for the better. I've become broken. I've been put back together. I've felt alone. I've rejoiced in unity.

So why am I saying this all now?

I'm starting to think seriously about my future after my Peace Corps service ends, which means updating resumes.  It means job searches. It means putting a lot of puzzle pieces together.

It means that not only did I have to figure out how to put together sound bites of my service for friends and family at home, now I have to turn two years into two lines on a resume.

How can I describe all the children I play with at the OVC (Orphans & Vulnerable Children) Center? How can I explain the stories of heartache the youth experience in child-headed households? How can I write about the patients we have lost at the clinic? How can I communicate my own personal growth?

It's frustrating. And heartbreaking.
When I go home, this is all going to be the past. Memories. No one else will fully understand.

So as I'm trying to turn my service into a few keywords, I will also be writing furiously in my journal, compiling video clips into a montage, and documenting all my favorite photos. I will be trying to find ways to keep my service alive so that when I return to the hustle and bustle in America, I won't forget.

This time is too precious to me to forget. And please, when I'm with you, ASK. Ask me - - anything. Each of you have moved on with your lives and things have changed. Believe me, I have a LOT of catching up to do with a LOT of people when I come back. But I'm just one person for you.

Let's share our experiences together to keep them alive.

Love & Light,

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Forever Homesick

Oh hey. It's me. I promise I didn't forget about you… I just got busy. And lost in thought. Truly, lost in those swirling, twirling clouds of hopes, dreams, fears, ideas.

But I'm back. I feel like I can breathe again. It has been a whirlwind, to say the least.

A quick rundown for you:
· August 5-20: Visiting the good ole' US of A

· August 20-22: Traveling to Botswana

· August 22-September 16: An epic visit from Michael, traveling through Lesotho, South Africa, and Botswana

· September 16-September 26: Wipe my tears, pick myself back up

· September 27- October 1: GLOW Camp at Good Hope Senior Secondary School

· October 2-11: Recuperate. Or try to.

· October 12-16: Help my site-mate pack up & close her two year service as a Peace Corps Volunteer

· October 17-24: Girls weekend in Maun area, fix hard drive on old computer, see other volunteers

· October 26-7: Weekend visit from Ashley to check in

· November 1-3: Host small fellowship gathering at my house

· November 4: BREATHE.

· November 5: BREATHE. Repeat. Try to catch up on life.

That's a lot (in case you were wondering).  A lot for a Peace Corps Volunteer who is used to a slower pace of life. A lot for a woman who has been through every emotion in the books while bouncing back and forth between homes. A lot for any human who has any desire for self reflection and growth.

With that being said, I'm tired. Tired, and oh-so-very happy.

For today, I'll update you about America. Stay tuned for the rest…

* * * * * * * * *

It was a longgggggg trip. With every bus, taxi, and plane I stepped onto, I realized just how far I am away from home. I realized how much land and ocean are between me and the ones I love. I was tired when I arrived in Denver late at night, but the urge to pass out quickly diminished when I found my best friend waiting for me.

Lizzy and Michael both came to meet me at the airport - - and Michael graciously told Liz she could have the first hug since he had seen me over the holidays. My sweet best friend who never cries flooded me with tears within minutes of my arrival. Words just don't describe how precious that moment was to me. And to be back in Michael's arms… ! My world just felt right with the two of them there with me.

I spent the next few days settling in, remembering how to drive again, and hugging and kissing my family. My mom constantly worried about me and how I was adapting to the culture shock… but truly, besides the strange robot humans who sat in front of mounted i-Pads at the JFK airport, I was doing really well. Home just felt like home. It felt so normal.

My mom offered to host an open house for friends are family to come say hello. It was a beautiful day, full of good food and company. Thank you to everyone who came, it was such a blessing to catch up with each and every one of you!

I had the chance to visit with family who came in from out of state - my dad's family came from all over to say hello and gather for a few days. It was a great chance to say hi to everyone and spend some quality time with my niece and nephew who are growing up so fast. And of course, I'm thankful for all the conversations I had with everyone who came to say hello.

And for the first time in quite a while, I got to feel like me.  I got to feel like Liz's best friend. I got to feel like Michael's girlfriend. I got to feel like who I was before this crazy Peace Corps ride. But I got to feel it in a whole new way… and this time, I liked it all even more. I live for all the little things.  Like giggling with my best friend and helping her give her kitten a bath. Like pouting with Michael and watching him sleep on my bed while I pack my bags again. Like playing with Kai and Quinn, and catching up with their beautiful parents. Like baby puke on my arm and cocktails just because I want to (and because I can).

I got to see my mom's side of the family. I sat and chatted about the big, life-changing things… as well as the itty-bitty details. I got to meet my cousin's sweet baby girl.  I played with my parents goats and tasted their goat cheese they made. I wished my cousin well as she headed off for her first year of college. I hugged and kissed my grandparents, thanking God for their good health and spirits.  I cuddled with my momma and my brother on our living room floor.

I felt loved. I saw friends who came from all around the states to give me hugs. I soaked up every little bit of love and happiness I possibly could. I made memories and listened to the stories of how their lives were unfolding. I laughed, I cried, I smiled. I just felt so damn lucky. My life is full of truly remarkable people.

My heart was just exploding with joy. It was like all these joy bombs were set off sequentially. I was ecstatic to be home and see everyone.

But then, there was that one thing. That one thought that kept coming back to my mind… I miss Botswana.

I had feared that happening, but I never prepared myself for what that would mean. I was home, back in the states, full of love and sheer joy, but I was still homesick. I missed my little home in Kang. I missed my family. I missed the sweet children running barefoot in the sand to give me hugs as I come home from the clinic. I missed the quiet lifestyle.

And then it hit me: I'm going to be homesick...forever. I have two insanely beautiful homes, full of people whom I love and admire. I can't complain - - I have the best of both worlds, it just so happens that they are half a world apart.

My heart is always going to have two homes.

And so with half my heart, I boarded the plane after another round of tearful goodbyes. I boarded the plane to go back to my new home, knowing that the game has just begun. I'll always be somewhere in between everything I love. And for that, I'd say I'm lucky.

I love my life. I love you all. I love it in Botswana.

Peace Corps Win.

And to add to the joy, I got to see my sweet friend Kaile in New York and Michael's mom in Frankfurt on my way back to Botswana.
It was a full trip. Full of love, faith, healing, and clarity.

Forever homesick isn't the worst thing to be…

Love & Light,