Yesterday, one of the vols with whom I've become quite good friends - and one of the girls who endured the events of the Full Moon party with me - asked me how I managed to readjust to life back in the Western world after all of my previous time in Africa. It was such a good question, which furthered into a really good, thought-provoking discussion. It was really quite difficult for me; I don't know if any of you remember how I was last August, but it was far from an easy task. Especially with all of the bullshit that surrounds life in retail during the Holiday Shopping Season (The House of Mouse will forever be tainted to me because of my life in Zanzibar).
Basically, I told her that it's not going to be a quick fix; you're not going to be able to shut off and ignore all of the things you've done, places you've gone, people you've met, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences you've had. It's just impossible. In fact, if you were able to do so, I would personally think that there's something wrong with you. To have gone through that much only to throw it away instantaneously in exchange for a swanky new phone or the hottest fashion items of the season. I believe it all comes down to not being incredibly hard on yourself as well as not jumping down other peoples' throats and blaming them for being 'insensitive, materialistic, etc.' It's not their fault that they weren't with you in the sweltering heat, in a small classroom - devoid of desks, chairs, and school supplies - with a bunch of rambunctious 6 year olds shouting at you in Swahili. You can't recreate that for someone who is living in the middle of London or Chicago or wherever, no matter how vividly you may or may not be able to describe it.
In my case, last summer, it took me a month and a half to two months to really 'get over' my reverse culture shock. And that was with insane amounts of journaling and numerous tearful conversations with my mom and best friends. I can only imagine how difficult it's going to be for me this time around, having been gone for twice as long and only having about four weeks in the States before heading off to Kyrgyzstan for twenty-seven months. I feel that it could be that case that I'll get home (to where in the States I have no fucking clue) in the middle of February and be hit with all of the American-ness, retell my stories to all of my friends and family - already I'm dreading that; can't they all just read my blog and look at my (at the moment nonexistent) pictures on FB and connect the dots instead of me rehashing the same story 30+ times? I know I've said before that reading the blog is NOT the same as me spinning my tale with my own goofiness, but a girl can only recount her random nights dancing with rastas in rasta bars so many times - and then a few weeks later be forced into an emotional goodbye with my mom and brother only to be shipped off to the other side of the world.
With that conversation this morning, my brain hasn't really been able to let it go. I'm definitely going through a stage where I am starting to freak out about my decision for March. I haven't been able to go to the American embassy in Dar yet in order to get my visa and PC passport figured out. [And for those very few of you who know that I was in Dar for three days this week, don't assume that I got to do anything useful while I was there. I was there because one of our vols had to go to the hospital for a really terrible corneal ulcer. Never a full moment in my life, eh? There were some good things to come from that trip though. Hello, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One and then BACON; real bacon.] And it's not as if they're very helpful in being open and accessible when you need them. Closing on Tanzanian/Islamic holidays, in addition to American ones, AND only being open insanely obscure hours (weekends not included) is not very conducive to young volunteers who can only leave project over the weekend. Thank you, America.
I'm also quite worried that I haven't given myself enough time to breathe. Ending one large chunk of project/life and then jumping right into something that will be harder and longer than the previous. Will that be enough for me to take a fucking breath; to catch up on sleep and jetlage before acquiring copious amounts more? Will it be enough time for me to talk with all of my friends and catch up on the past four months of their lives before scuttling off and not seeing any of them for two more years? Will I have enough time to get my 'family fix'? I won't even dwell on the tangent regarding my grandparents, because it's depressing and will definitely make me start sobbing, even though it honestly never leaves my thoughts. Will that four weeks be enough time for me to sift through all of my experiences and mentally prepare myself for learning another language, being on my own - in a former Soviet country, no less! - and take on this huge task of teaching and molding young Kyrgyzi (is that how they're described?) minds? Talk about daunting... Am I really cut out for this?
Side note: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. YES. This is the kind of book that makes me love the fact that I have a history degree. And makes me desperately want to go back to school for another degree so I can delve that deeply into research and learning and experiencing. If you've not read it yet, it's a fabulous book. Not quite sure how I feel about the ending, but that's beside the point. READ IT.
Know that I'm seriously missing each and every one of you. Enjoy the snow and cold for me - I seriously wouldn't mind jumping in a giant snowdrift right now to cool off! You're all in my thoughts every day and can't wait to hear everything about your individual hijinx. :) I hope you all have a bloody amazing holiday season; wish I could spend it with you.
All my love from that tiny island of Zanzi.