Tupo (We’re here). We have tasted the sweet love of family (and lettuce and lattes and hormone injected chicken). But jet lag is no joke folks. Especially when our 2 year old pole vaults out of her pack and play and wonders around at 4am. But alas, we are readjusting or at least I think we are…whatever that means. I know I am wearing pants and using fast internet and loving it and I know I have already been to target like 3 times. I also know I already am missing our neighbors and friends and feeling a longing for the place I have called home for four years. A place dear to me. A place that’s cartographic existence is unknown to most people here. These last years have so altered my life that I struggle to adequately explain just how much I have changed. So if you ask and I just stare blankly or say nothing it is because my take aways are so vast I find it challenging to try to encapsulate them in a 2 minute tidbit. Or it could be because I still have not slept a full night. Ok, so either one but I am working on it and it helps we have so many amazing friends and family here willing to listen.
We left our island on Monday and until the minute we left we had folks at our home, crowded in the doorway watching us pack up, drinking coffee, eating oranges and rice, and sharing time together. We celebrated a birthday I would miss, we got an early morning call to tell us a friend’s wife had her baby and ran to the hospital to visit them after we had prayed she would have the baby before we left: awesome! Anni said goodbye to her friends and cried so much she had to go inside and catch her breath. She is my daughter. Anni and I got got a goodbye present of henna and we packed and loaded our stuff into a van borrowed from Pamoja. A few of our friends went all the way to the airport to say goodbye and we cried (yeah, again) saying goodbye to our team leaders who are more like family after everything we have gone through together. It was a full day. In every sense of that word.
Once we finally checked our luggage and entered through security (I use this term loosely in Africa) we were ‘on our way home.’ Only we were distinctly aware that ‘home’ holds different meaning to us now. It was weird. It was all at once a sense of deep relief and profound loss and eager excitement. As our little plane lifted off I looked out the small, dirty windows on the plane and saw many coming days and many past days. I watched Africa leaving me below; rusted tin roofs, cows and goats wandering, girls with broken zippers on their dresses running down windy dirt roads, people hauling their catch or produce to market, and palm trees stretching out of the vast green landscape. There is no going back. At least for a time and tears began to fall. It was ok though when I looked over at Jason and realized as in many things we were together on this. Anni and Evy yelled over and over again in Kiswahili ‘goodbye Africa’ unaware of just how different their lives would be now and I said a quiet prayer they would always carry this place with them.
It is ironic that in our first year there when I could not communicate, cook, when my husband and daughter were so sick, and when I desperately wanted any excuse to get up outta there, to run, to vacate, we clearly heard God say “Stay” for our sanctification, for our good. He was right and I am so grateful we have been able to experience everything over the last 4 years. Over the past weeks of saying goodbye to folks here we really felt God confirm over and over that our time here was rich and special and not wasted. Any of it. And now when we feel more comfortable living there, when we can see ourselves staying we feel His hands gently but firmly pushing us into something new. Where we lived we were always out of place. Our white skin and strange ways always marked us as different. Now we are similar to many in the crowd but we are clearly different and it is hard to fit in but not really. It is hard to question everything I once accepted as just normal. I think this is what you call re-entry shock. I already have been overwhelmed trying to buy deodorant because really how can there be an entire aisle of choices? Anni already asked me why it is so freezing cold here and after seeing some girls in short shorts she asked why people wear their chupis (underwear) to the store in America. Try explaining that one to a girl who has only seen ankles and hands for years. As a girlfriend and soul sister pointed out it is indeed the “land of ginormous beverages and ridiculous overkill convenience products.” Really, how did we survive without all this crap? Oh yeah, pretty much just fine (but I do love me some custom made overpriced coffee drinks…ahhh the bipolarness of these feelings).
We survived the flights and besides one piece of luggage going missing only to show up a few days later it was uneventful. Mostly because we strictly adhere to the belief that any and all brands of parenting are permissible on continent traversing jaunts. Jason was once overheard asking me “where is the tranquilizer gun?” but all in all we held it together pretty well and the girls enjoy traveling even if we are exhausted at the other end. My family came to the airport and gathered us and we are now at my parent’s lake house and soaking it in. We also took Miss Evy to the doctor yesterday and I will update about her foot soon.
Yep, we are readjusting but also knowing we want to live differently than we did 4 years ago because when you see and experience what we have seen and lived the only acceptable response is a changed heart and a desire to see God’s glory manifested above comfort, above convenience, and above any cultural norm. But living that is the challenge. One I am keenly aware can only be done resting in the Holy Spirit. I am not sure what this all means but we know we need to rely on Him to show us what is next. It is going to be a bumpy journey as we ask and seek because I have more questions than answers. So yeah, for other culture re-shock issues check back here in the weeks to come…..for now we love you all and are pumped to see you and hug you and be in the same-ish time zone as many of you. So ‘holla because tupo!