I’m not sure if many of you know, or if anyone is still reading this, but I have been back from my African adventure for about 2 months now. I thought I’d write one more post on this thing and sort of bring the whole thing to an end.
I get a lot of questions when I see people out and about. The most common one has to be “How was it?” I’m not sure why people ask this and I never know how to answer it. It was great. It was terrible. I made friends. I lost friends. I met people and got to know them over two years and became closer with them than I am with people I’ve known 15 years. I’ve seen people at their absolute best and at their absolute worst. I lived in a place that in no way compares to anything I knew before I left. So it’s kind of hard to sum all this up into a compact 30 second answer. Any longer than that and I see people start to lose interest. It’s frustrating.
Another common one is “Was it hard coming back?” Or “Was it hard to readjust to America?” It was harder leaving Africa than it was coming back to America. I was gone two years, but America hasn’t changed THAT much. Honestly it wasn’t that hard getting back into the swing of things. In fact I could probably jump right back in where I left off if I wanted to. And I kind of notice people expect me to do that on some levels. I had a phone conversation with a friend of mine and she told me that it would’ve been very easy for her to just forget about the two years of her service and pick up life in America, but she didn’t want to do that. And I don’t think any of us really do. So I guess the hard part is finding the balance between your life in America and the life you had in Africa. Those two years happened. But you have to figure out where the balance is between where you are now and where and who you were there. And for me it feels like I have to let go of something in a way. I can tell you that leaving Mali was a lot harder than leaving the U.S. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out why this is. My friend Natalie summed it up well in her blog. I hope she doesn’t mind if I steal a bit from her.
How many times in your life do you leave a place you love behind? I don’t mean places like a beautiful beach you visited on vacation or an overlook that you passed on a trip somewhere that you took out your camera and took lots of pictures of. I don’t even mean a city that you fell in love with on a trip, an exotic place unlike any you’d visited before and became one of your favorite places. I’m talking about the places that have hurt you, where you’ve fallen and almost couldn’t get up, but when you did you came to like yourself and the place that much more for challenging you; or a place where you have memories of joy and sadness, where you’ve cried your eyes out and also laughed with abandon until you almost cried as well.
I guess the thing I miss a lot about Mali is the feeling that your really living life. The highs are super high and the lows are super low. Here in America people get so caught up in mundane things like bills and work and errands and all the things that go into daily life here. It can become mundane if you’re not paying attention. There you work your ass off to make sure your family has enough to eat and if you live through each day and wake up the next morning you chalk that one up in the win column. And that’s about all there is to it. There’s not much worry about clothing for the Fall season, or celebrity gossip, or even the economy, but there is happiness in the village that I have yet to find here. It’s peaceful.
I also miss the volunteers I served with. We were a pretty close group and we made excuses TO see each other. Over here people have excuses NOT to see each other. “I have the kids” or “Got work tomorrow” are my two favorites. Americans get too busy living life that they forget to LIVE life.
So I guess will about wrap it up. I could go on longer, but e-mails and Facebook are probably calling your attention away. If you want to hear more I’m always ready to chat about Mali. It’s been a great two years. I’ve enjoyed reading your comments on this thing and they helped get me through during some bad times.
I still have trouble accepting things with my left hand and for some reason a sense of dread still comes over me when my cell phone dies. I still have to fight back the urge to bargain with cabbies and I’m trying to shower every day. I’ll get there, but I guess some habits stick with you.
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