Being home feels slightly surreal, but mostly normal. I have just a few reflections at this point. I’ll start at a couple weeks ago since it has been a long time since my last update.
I participated in Pre-Service Training for the new group of Peace Corps trainees. Like most of my favorite organizations, PC offers a chance for current volunteers to grandfather information and best practices down to newer people. I found myself reliving my time in Botswana, particularly the earliest moments and adjustments. The questions were endless and seemed almost rote, coming in constant rapid succession. Being some of the first faces that newcomers see was a fun experience, but it also highlighted the fact that every person’s Peace Corps experience is different, even within the same country. My role was to answer those basic questions about life and work, and I hope I helped ease some anxiety along the way.
I made my way home earlier this week, spending a couple days in Atlanta. I’ve been having a great time, with only a few readjustment culture shock moments (particularly in large grocery stores and shopping areas). My sister hosted me, and I was able to meet up with a couple friends; they were sure to tend to my food cravings. I also have begun to think about life after Peace Corps, namely graduate school and my career. My old boss and some Peace Corps connections guided me to a couple of one-on-one meetings at Emory. The interactions I had were really positive, and it started to get me excited about restarting academic life.
Home is where your family is, and that’s where I am now. I think that there is a certain idea Peace Corps volunteers have about traveling home and what it could mean in the context of one’s service. My friend put it best when she described our service as a bubble that we’re afraid to pop; why must we maintain an impenetrable barrier between our lives in the developed world and our lives in rural Africa? After all, this is where our original support systems still reside, and we will return to them when the 27 months is finished. Perhaps the mechanisms we use to cope and adjust to that new lifestyle include embracing the feeling of being marooned and isolated. This is something I’ve struggled with since deciding to take that trip to the US – my volunteer friends and I joke about not returning to Botswana if we go home because everything is just too wonderful. By processing this experience, and recognizing where I am in my service I know I will be able to return to finish my service. The concept is funny, though.
The few days I’ve been in Detroit have been a great reminder of my great friends and family. A lot of them have made time to see and visit with me. I’ve also finally been able to share some images of where I live and work, as well as a lot of people involved in my life in Botswana. Part of PC goals are to share what you’re learning about our respective cultures, and I feel that I’m doing a lot of that this trip. Fast and unlimited internet, food, and hot water have all been comforting – I machine washed my clothes and they are literally a different color (with the removal of the sand and dirt). I’ve only scratched the surface, and there are a lot more people I get to see and talk to in the next week. I better hop to it.