Back in Zambia many months ago, Trevor and I attended a "close of service" conference to talk about post-Peace Corps life. We talked at excruciating length about reverse culture shock-- the notion that the adjustment to home can be much more difficult than going away in the first place. Along with our absolute glee over being home, we have both experienced darker moments of melting down in the grocery store, momentarily forgetting which is the "right" side of the road, and missing our quiet routine, free time, and friends in Zambia. Having adjusted to life in Zambia, we now see America with a much more critical eye. I'm especially having trouble with the way people here fritter away their time (Facebook!) and money, then complain about being broke and overbooked. The upside is using this information to make better decisions about how to craft our own new/old lives. And lots of practice in keeping our big mouths shut!
You've may have noticed that I'm not updating this blog much now that I'm back in Americaland. Even though every day with Trevor is an adventure (and we continue to travel, just much smaller journeys!), I'm not feeling all that inspired to post anymore. I may shift over to my craft blog soon-- when/if I do, I'll put a note here!
While I used my intermittent internet access to stay in touch with America while we were in Zambia, I hadn't counted on technology connecting me back to Africa. I guess I figured I would only keep track of Zambia by way of our remaining Peace Corps friends.
But to my happy surprise, more and more of my Zambian friends are popping up on my Facebook list. This morning I heard from a buddy in Chadiza that a colleague Trevor and I worked with closely died unexpectedly last week. This guy was young, probably in his mid-30s, with small children. His untimely death comes as another grim reminder to me of what Zambia taught me again and again-- life is short (especially for Africans with crap health care and limited public services!).
I don't know the circumstances of our friend's death, but coincidentally another friend in Zambia posted on Facebook that she saw three dead bodies on the road yesterday, reminding me to be grateful for ambulances. Amen to that.
Over the past two years, Trevor and I spent a lot of time scheming ways to fix up our home in America. Trevor mostly wanted to dig his hands in the garden. Me, I'm more interested in the interiors.
We spent one year in a mud hut with dirt-colored walls and another year in a tiny house where the landlord didn't even want us putting pictures on the wall. Upon taking possession of our own home again, I made a visit to the hardware store for gallons of paint-- mango, yellow, robin's egg blue, minty green. Our rooms look like an Easter basket.
A new couch is on its way to replace the dirt-colored one passed down from my grandma. Also, we replaced our fridge. The new one has an ice maker.
Trevor and I loved the street life in Zambia-- countless people cruising the roads by foot and bike at all times of day, in town and way out in the bush.
Still, we yearned for our friendly and safe neighborhood back home, both when we lived on a walled compound (locked in with our argumentative and often drunk landlords) and when we lived on a family compound in the village, where we could only escape constant scrutiny by hiding in our dark little hut.
In America, we live in a funky old house with a huge yard, around the corner from my parents and a mile from a flourishing downtown with an impressive public library. Now that we're home, I walk the dogs around the block and chat with the friendly neighbors, feeling very Mr. Rogers. We eat dinner at the picnic table in the front porch and greet the strolling passersby. All last week, folks stopped by in to welcome us back to the neighborhood, bringing fresh strawberries, lettuce, and flowers from their gardens.
Even though I am surrounded by drip-covered cans of paint, half emptied boxes, lamps with no bulbs, and complicated to-do lists, I am so incredibly happy to be home in my home that is filled with luxuries large and small.
I've got a contented little dog sighing on the couch next to me, a laptop that's repaired after contracting nearly deadly viruses in Africa, a very secure wireless high-speed internet connection, and ice clunking out of the ice maker I insisted on installing in my new refrigerator.
Best of all, I have upcoming dates with friends and family AND a husband on his way home from day three of his perfect new job and leaving Sunday for a conference while I audition a potential second dog.
On our drive up to Fargo last weekend for the marathon we had many hours to admire the stark but bewitching Midwestern landscape. Barns, fields, cows, etc. We also had the opportunity to indulge our love of road food (Fritos, giant fountain sodas, a cooler full of sandwiches), rest areas (especially the info centers staffed by friendly, helpful senior citizens; the ones in South Dakota even gave out commemorative pins and called the Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead for opening hours!), and radio (the highlight: hearing the tie-breaking extra inning of Sunday's Cardinals game).
I love how the highway also incubates great conversations. We talked about how we might use what we learned in the past two years to shape our future.
And the future is already underway-- we've swung right back into painting our house in preparation for moving in over the weekend (we hope) before Trevor starts his new job Tuesday!!
In the week since we've been home, I've remembered how frantic and busy life in America can be. Catching up with friends and family, making way too many trips to Target, fixing up our house to move back in, job interviews (Trevor, not me), eating our weight in tortilla chips (me, not Trevor) ...
All this, and we're headed to Fargo this weekend for a marathon that we signed up for back in January. Those initial slogs through Zambia's rainy season seem far away now. Trevor has kept up with his training schedule through all the travel and time changes, but I've struggled with motivation and now a cold and a weird pain in my knee. Luckily I'm only doing the half marathon. If I have to, I'll walk. Or crawl.
I have debated whether to continue writing the blog now that Trevor and I are back home, and I've decided I will for now. After all, life with Trevor is always a journey!
And we're still traveling! We spent part of this week on the road, visiting family in St. Louis. We observed that culture shock hits much worse in the city than our relatively sleepy little town. St. Louis takes America to the extreme, with its sprawling strip malls and multi-lane highways full of Hummers (seriously!??!) and angry, honking drivers. Although I love having the opportunity to buy a 32 oz. Diet Dr. Pepper for 59 cents, I didn't miss family drama or traffic.
Well, the journey is now complete-- we're home, at least in our hometown, if not in our own actual house (that will be another week or two). We managed to dodge the cloud of volcanic ash and arrive just a few hours late instead of days late as I had feared.
It's fabulous to be home! Although we're still a little jetlaggy, we're soaking in what's left of the spring flowers, catching up with family and friends, eating way too much of everything, and plotting our next steps. Trevor already has a job interview.
Maybe we'll get slammed by the reverse culture shock that everybody has warned us about, but for now I'm loving the grocery store full of a zillion choices, listening to NPR while I go for a run wearing whatever I want and not getting stared at or commented upon, and letting the dog sleep on my pillow. (Although she snores.)