Surprise! (or not surprise). I’m coming back to the states for the holidays. I’m coming back to cuddle my little sister, drive on the right side of the road and visit meijer at 1 am. I’m coming to buy a new pair of nikes, drink slushies and make snow angels. I’ve got my little list of to dos and most of them are financially cheap and include touching the people I love.
I’m writing (for the first time in a long time I know, I know) to talk about what it feels like to come home. I’m grateful that I was able to come home about a year and a half ago to celebrate my baby bro and his super cool wife on their wedding day (I was the best woman, cool right?). During that visit, I experienced a phenomenon that I’ve heard other volunteers describe. The phenomenon that when we come home, sometimes it’s hard for people to know… what to… do with us I guess. How to ask us questions, what to ask, how to talk about issues, how to ask if the thousands of dollars of fireworks affect our hearts after our experiences in Zambia, how to interact with us, how to talk with us about Trump, how to bring up family events that happened while we are away, just what to do with us in general. Our presence might make some uncomfortable, understandably. We’re going through some big life changes and we make ourselves uncomfortable sometimes too. Perhaps a more evident and uncomfortable feeling many of us experience, is the feeling that we have when we want to share about our new lives but are nervous, don’t know how or don’t feel like the interest of hearing about it is there. So here are a few of my pointers on how to make my trip back home a little more comfortable for me (and hopefully for you!) and how to make me feel even more love during my trip home.
- Tell me that you don’t know what to ask (and I will figure something out)
- Ask me about the kids that I love
- Ask me about the differences between my life in the village and in the big city (where I now live)
- Ask me about what it’s like to miss out big events like weddings, funerals and sports games
- Hug me
- Ask me about my Zambian friends, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, mentors, supervisors, grandma’s and grandpa’s and how they’ve facilitated my growth, comforted me and gave Zambia meaning to me.
- Ask me about my volunteer family
- Ask me about my new job as the Peace Corps Volunteer Leader
- Ask me about Zambian hospitality
- Ask me about my Zambian family
- Ask me about my pupils
- Touch my face
- Ask me what it’s like living abroad with Trump as president
- Ask me what it was like living abroad with Obama as president
- Ask me to see some pictures
- Ask me to watch some videos
- Ask me to teach you some Bemba (the local language I used and one of the 72 Zambian languages)
- Ask me about any strange phrase I’m using (it might be a new habit. Would love to explain how English is often used differently
- Ask me about my pets
- Ask me about my house
- Tell me you don’t understand something that I’m saying
- Ask me about Oscar
- Ask me how many Mangos I’ve eaten (but don’t expect a real answer)
- Kiss my cheeks
- Ask my about my crew(s)
- Ask me about my daily life
- Ask me about the difference between my daily life in the village and my daily life in the city (things like cooking, bathing, using the bathroom, etc.)
- Ask me how my body is adjusting to the Michigan cold (and I will answer how it is not)
- Ask me about swimming in the lake with my babies
- Ask me about my newly found love for African music and dancing to it
- Ask me to dance for you (play a little music and I would love to)
- Talk about your experiences in travel as your personal experiences separate and different than mine
Please try not to:
- Ask me “how is Africa?”
- Ask me about seeing lions, tigers and elephants in my backyard
- Ask me a question if you aren’t interested in hearing my answer
- Ignore the fact that I’ve been away for the past two plus years
- Compare my experience to your trip abroad (or to anything really, and I promise to try not to compare mine to yours either)
I’m going to be vulnerable and explain that my life here is well… my life here. That to me means that I hold my experiences here deep, deep inside my heart. They are difficult to explain and sharing opens up that space for either validation in them or disappointment if I’m sharing with someone who seemingly doesn’t care. That sharing my life here feels risky sometimes because of that. So I am asking for your patience and grace while I learn how to share my life here and yet still protect it deep inside my heart, which feels like the safest and most appropriate place for it sometimes. Because it is so difficult to explain the value that I’ve found in my experiences here. I think that all of this is okay and I hope my loved ones and I are open to the journey of growing together in sharing our experiences.
I hope that me sharing these feelings hasn’t intimidated you into interacting or not with me during my visit home. I hope you will still feel open to me and share your love with me as you know I want to share my love with you. Even with the dos and don’ts that I’ve shared, I can feel y’alls hearts and will always follow that instinct. The instinct that tells me that your love will be enough for me. I hope that we can all be brave enough to be vulnerable in sharing our lives no matter how deep they might be being held at the moment. Thank you for your patience and grace as I step into my new unknown that I still call a home. See y’all on December 8th. Enjoy the front row seat to my reverse culture shock show…
Much love always.
Whaaaaat upppppp! Long time no wifi (on my part at least). It’s been relaxing but I’ve been excited to update yall on my experience so far.
Morning bike ride sunrise
It would be foolish of me to pretend that I am ALL excitement, happiness and pure joy for every new chapter that I start. Truth is, yeah! I get nervous. Goodbyes are hard no matter how many times I convince myself that it is just a “see you later” and the unknown can be intimidating. That being said, peace trumps all other emotions when I know I’m making the right decision and right now, my peaceful emotions are BA and are dominating all others. alhumdulilah thank God.
My next chapter? It’s a big one folks (to me that is). I might even have to call it a brand new novel. A sequel to the book series I call my life. The news is… I joined the Peace Corps! In less than 2 months (June 8) I will leave for two years to volunteer in Zambia with the RED program (Rural Education Development). I’ll be teaching English. Those are the knowns as of now. There are plenty (and I mean plenty) of unknowns. I have been doing as much as I can to prepare myself (online research *mostly youtube videos that is*, meeting with RPCVs (returned Peace Corps volunteers), dating my people A LOT, etc.)
Here are some questions that people have asked:
- A) Ecuador unleashed a wanderlust that I cannot contain. I am excited about the unknowns of any trip that I take. About the people that I will meet, what they will teach me about life, myself, the universe, culture, nature, etc. “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.” I have found that to be so true. And there are people out there that know so much that I have no idea about. Topics I don’t even know exist. Holla to my peeps who understand that excitement! I’m thankful that Peace Corps is introducing me to my new community and can only imagine what I will learn from these new people. It’s like my next test in this journey called life. It feels so right.
Q) So you can’t find work in the United States?
- A) Maybe! But again with the peace that I felt in my heart after making this decision, I can’t help but follow it. Wouldn’t I be foolish to ignore that feeling? Or am I foolish for not following the traditional “get college degree, get married, buy house, settle down, have kids…. etc.” narrative that we are told? I guess we’ll find out after a few years *wink wink*
Q) How are you gonna handle the conditions you’ll be living in?
- A) Another unknown of the whole thing.. I’m not sure what exactly the conditions will be in my village. But likely (95% likely), I will have no running water or electricity. And yes, this will be a huge test for me! Even bigger than that one stats exam back in the day. A life test. How adaptable have I become and can I become through this? How savvy (as my Dad says) have I grown to be? Stay tuned… Anyway, yes. Like I said. I am nervous. But I can feel how right this is because even these challenges that I know I will face, feel peaceful.
Q) What are your biggest fears?
- I’m worried that a lack of presence will make it easy for people to forget about me. (I know sad but a real fear). I fear that I will miss my people so much that it will hurt everyday. I’m nervous that I’m not as strong as I think that I am and that I will fail (isn’t it like that with all dream chasers though?) I’m afraid that I’ll get painfully sick (yeah, diarrhea is inevitable I know) and will miss the comfort of home. I’m worried that a student will ask me a question and I won’t have the answer. I’m afraid of loneliness, mosquito bites, insomnia, macaroni and cheese cravings, internet withdrawal, that people won’t accept me, that I’m not healthy/strong/smart/brave/communicative/adaptable enough,… Yeah, I have a lot of narcissistic fears. They’re a real part of this process and I’m choosing to recognize them (even in the public eye of my blog hehe)
What questions do y’all have for me?
I’m thankful right now to my people for being extra sensitive with me. I’m emotional! (even more than normal… I know you didn’t think that was possible.) I feel like is a big step and I’m appreciative for everyone who has my back throughout it all. Much love ❤
Check out this link for my timeline of Peace Corps journey. Oooo la la 😉
Something that I don’t think about often in my comfortable community of English speakers and something that I will never truly understand as an native English speaker. I’m going to try hard to articulate my feelings from my first days in Egypt and the concept of the privilege of communication that I thought about. Be gracious! It’s difficult to express (I know right, the irony!)
El privilegio de Comunicación. Algo en que no pienso mucho a causa en mi comunidad con gente que habla ingles y algo que nunca voy a entender full a causa de ser una hablante nativo de ingles. Voy a tratar de articular mis sentimientos de mi primeros días en Egipto y el concepto del privilegio de comunicación en que pensé mucho. Se gracioso! Es difícil expresar y también es mucho mas expresarme en español. (Ya se, la ironía)
I have spent a mere 48 hours in a country where I don’t speak the language. Yet, I stood in lines that I wasn’t supposed to be in, walked too far to find something that I would normally ask for but didn’t out of fear of embarrassment and waited too long because I didn’t know how to say, “telephone? (I found out later it was telefon or mobile -_-)” I smiled and lifted my hands in the air like, “I don’t get it” and other times nodded to pretend like I understood what was being said. I said shukran (thank you) about a thousand times because I don’t know how to say much anything else and once said “mande?” by accident because my mind automatically goes to Spanish when I can’t speak English. It’s been an adventure and it’s only day three! I know that the adventure and learning continue. Through this very short time, I thought a lot about a few of things –
- I thought SO much about my non-native English speakers in the states. To all my native Arabic/ Spanish/ Kurdish/ Portuguese/ Persian/ etc. speakin people who are learning English/ living in the States, MAD LOVE TO Y’ALL! I feel a connection already with you all and the struggle!
- My host took me to a lunch with her two friends. They made an effort (and succeeded) in speaking to me in English to make me feel comfortable and part of the conversation. Also, the Egyptian man next to me in the airplane spoke full English with me. This had me thinking, when’s the last time any of my non-native English-speaking friends was given this privilege in the U.S? I don’t see many people in the States going out of their way to speak in another language to make a guest feel comfortable. I realized through this that speaking English is a huge privilege because likely there will be someone who knows at least some English. Also, why don’t we make more of an effort to learn other languages/ cultures to have a more welcoming country? Finally, although I am in THEIR country, people are still so kind about speaking the language that I speak. The heart of life is good ❤ I hope to be this to others in my community when I return.
- Just because I can’t speak Arabic, doesn’t mean I’m stupid and I know that. More importantly, just because people don’t speak English, doesn’t mean they’re stupid. I think this is far too often the perception in the States of people who don’t speak English and it’s just wrong. This limitation of communication is extremely humbling.
- I can always learn their language (and should!) and now have an even bigger desire to do so.
- Non-verbal communications exists J Here are some examples of the art of facial communication (that I just made up). I am learning this art and am I’m sure I will advance in it during my time in Egypt… It’s a serious study ya know. 😉
Pase poco tiempo (solo 48 horas) en un país donde no hablo su idioma. Pero, pase tiempo en filas de que no debía, camine tanto para encontrar algo de que normalmente pediría pero no lo hice a causa del temor de vergüenza y espere tanto tiempo porque no sabia la palabra teléfono (luego aprendí es telefon o mobile -_-) Y sonreí así como “no se!” y otro tiempo pretendí que entendí aunque no entendí nada. Yo dije shukran (gracias) mil veces porque no puedo decir mucho mas y una vez dije “mande?” porque mi mente automáticamente va a español cuando no puedo hablar en ingles. Durante este tiempo pequeño, pensaba mucho en algunas cosas –
- Pensaba mucho en mis amigos que son hablantes non-nativos de ingles pero están el los estados unidos o aprendiendo ingles. MUCHO AMOR! Ya me siento una conexión con uds y el aguante.
- Mi anfitrión me llevo a almorzar con sus amigos. Ellos trataron (y tuvieron éxito) en hablar conmigo en ingles para que me sintiera mas cómoda y parte de la conversación. También, el hombre en el avión me hablo totalmente en español. Eso me hizo pensar… cuando eso paso con uno de mis amigos que no son hablantes nativos de ingles? No veo mucha gente en los estados unidos que tratan bien duro hablar en otro idioma para que una persona se sienta mas cómodo. Me di cuenta que la habilidad de hablar ingles es un privilegio porque es popular y probablemente habrá una persona que puede hablar ingles (por lo menos un poco) . También, por que no tratamos mas de aprender otros idiomas o culturas para tener un país mas amable? Finalmente, aunque estoy en su país, ellos estaban bien amable hablar en el idioma de que yo hablo. El corazón de la vida es puro. ❤ espero ser así en mi comunidad cuando regrese.
- Aunque no puedo hablar en árabe, no soy estúpida y ya se eso. Mas importante, aunque una persona no habla ingles, no es estúpida tampoco. Pienso que este pensamiento es tan popular en los estados unidos y solamente es incorrecto. Es humillante tener una limitación de comunicación.
- Siempre puedo aprender su idioma (y debo!) y ahora tengo muchos ganas hacerlo.
- La comunicación non verbal existe. J Acá son algunos ejemplos del arte de comunicación de la cara (acabo de hacerlo). Estoy aprendiendo este arte y espero mejorar durante mi tiempo en Egipto… Es un estúpido serio pa q tu sepa 😉
Here are a couple more cool things that happened…
Aquí son algunas mas cositas chéveres que pasaron hoy…
I watched the sunset over cats and kids playing soccer, I watched The Square, a movie about the Egyptian revolution with two Egyptians (one who was on the streets during one of the protests!) and received a new perspective on the issue and I communicated very little in Arabic. Little progress is still progress!
Mire la salida del sol con gatos y niños jugando fútbol, Mire “The Square”, una película de la revolución egipcio con dos egipcios reales (una que estuvo en las calles durante una de las protestas) y recibí una perspectiva nueva con la situación y Hable poquito en árabe con la gente. Poco progreso todavía es progreso!
Public arabic practice. I’m going to try and use all my new vocab words from the day so bare with me 🙂
Thanks everyone for listening/ reading/ giving feedback/ thoughts. Much love to y’all from Egypt!
Gracias todos por escuchar/ leer/ dar ideas. Mucho amor a todos de Egipto!