Written November 13th
I began this blog in May of 2010, a few days after leaving Ghana. I was struggling with readjusting back into a fast-paced world, one that seemed to be too full of choices and conveniences, one that had always felt like home to me but now felt overwhelming and foreign. I started this blog because I had really enjoyed maintaining one while in Ghana – I craved the creative outlet, and people seemed to like reading about my semester abroad and adventures in western Africa. But I remember thinking in those first few post-Ghana weeks that I had really started this blog because I needed to write about my transition back, to record my struggles and joys and try to sort out with words the ways in which I had been changed after those four months. This was necessary; this needed to not be kept within. This mattered, even in the smallest of ways.
I think our transitions are important. They’re important to recognize and important to share, because experiences change us – that’s the whole point. For better or worse, we are molded along the way, and too often, we don’t take the time to contemplate what has been stirred within after we are done moving, leaving, and experiencing. As I type this from somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, I’m taking a moment to sit with my two and a half months just spent in Sri Lanka, and I feel only partially here. I once again left parts of myself behind in a place that I’ve come to love. I left pieces in a special house in Homagama and in the hills of Horton Plains, in tea pockets of Nuwara Eliya and on the grassy Galle Face Green. Parts of me are still on that island with the people that have come to make up Jesse’s and my unique and wide-spread Sri Lankan family: Aya Chamindhaaaa, Neshan & our WICPER friends, the one and only Loli, crazy awesome Malinda, our self-appointed Sri Lankan mom Ajantha, our dear adopted Sri Lankan mom Amma, and many more. I’m still there. We both are.
But here’s the thing: in a matter of hours I will be surrounded by my immediate family. (I know I’m a lucky girl, going from family to family like this – I know.) My parents (and our pups) arrive back in the States tomorrow – the day after Jesse and I arrive – after eight vibrant years in Germany. And so they, too, are on the cusp of a huge transition. I know they’ve left parts of themselves in Germany (it IS where they first met over thirty years ago, after all). But that’s how it goes with all this loving and leaving. Katie Peterson wrote, “Leaving doesn’t mean much, arriving means everything…how you came to be where you were.” And she’s right – it’s the digging our heels in that matters and makes it all worthwhile.
So, yeah, this transition back to a brand new chapter in the U.S. will be hard. It will hit me sooner rather than later that I’m not waking up in Sri Lanka under a mosquito net every morning, traveling on bumpy roads, or eating rice and curry every day. It will probably hit me when I’m sleeping under a cozy comforter in a very clean room or when I’m in a vehicle that actually minds the traffic lanes or when my speech patterns go back to normal. But after all my travels and transitions, I have learned that when I’m missing so many things about another place, it’s not that I’ve lost them – it’s just that I have to go without them for a little while. There is always going back, there is always returning to the people and places that make you come alive. I’m now thinking about Maggie, who just landed back in Ghana for a few months and who is, I know, brimming with all that comes with being reunited with something so close to the heart. Here’s to you, my girl, for living what I’m trying to explain in words right now.
The Next Morning
I wake up and walk a home – the home of a family I’m very close with. I see new pictures of the girls on the family room mantel and in the living room. I notice a matted and framed article I had never noticed before – Dave Barry’s last column in the Miami Herald. (Maybe because I care about newspapers now? Maybe because one of my dreams is to have my own column one day?) I lay back down in bed and listen to the ticking grandfather clock. How different morning sounds are in a home in America. Where are the noisy preschoolers, the dogs, the traffic of Homagama? I can’t hear the breeze here – it’s cold, and the closed windows keep it from sneaking in – there are no cracks in these walls. One of the first things I did every morning in Sri Lanka was open the windows or doors wherever we were staying to let the warm breeze in. I think that ritual is one I would like to do wherever I go.
But as I walk through this northern Virginia house, I am reminded that this place that is truly one of my many second homes – and has been since I was eight years old. I am wistful. My parents arrive back in the U.S. today, and the suburbs of D.C. become their home once again. I’ll be living with them in Arlington (Clarendon) for a little while – first in a hotel, then in an apartment – but I can’t help but already be sad that those places won’t have pictures on the mantel or old, important newspaper columns framed on the wall. And now I’m pining for my Elon room, because it’s not so bad if my parents don’t have decorated walls as long as I do, somewhere in the world.
Enough wistfulness – it’s my first day back, and time to continue with the morning! I’m in search of warm clothes (oh-so-many plastic bins to go through). And I’m thinking oatmeal with strawberries with breakfast, hot coffee in the North Carolina mug, and a play session with the family dog. Today is all about family.
And, finally, a day later, and my parents and pups have arrived safely. The four of them landed on an unseasonably warm night and they pulled up to the downtown hotel curb in an extra-large taxi. Doors opened and I, once again, felt home. Once unloaded and upstairs, Dad and I wasted no time before watching the news together and discussing Occupy. Mom began putting things in the fridge, and Saavik and Kobe sniffed around and settled in. This, to me, is nesting – and, at least for now, it feels good to be in one place for a little while.