Thursday, August 30, 2007

What It's Like To Be Home

The other day a friend relayed a story to me that got me thinking about what my two weeks back in the United States has meant. He shared the story of a priest who went on a house building trip and after a weekend of silence his much anticipated comments at last came out as they neared the border. “You know what I like about the people here” he said. “They treat their dogs like dogs.”

Perhaps it was meant to be comical but it struck me the other day, with a twinge of deep sadness that I have indeed come across pet dogs that are treated better than so many of the people that live in poverty.

And so, this is what might be chalked up as my failed attempt to articulate what it feels like to return to the United States after a year of service abroad in a developing nation.

In many ways, it’s the dream two weeks. I’ve eaten a great steak or two. I went back to “my service roots” with a visit to the community it Tijuana I always went to never being able to say more than hello, and this time I could communicate. I can’t begin to express how amazing that was. I have been to three baseball games, two of the them Cubs games, one in which I got a tour of the organization from a friend who works with the org and another one of them came with the all too incredible opportunity to go hang out in the club house area and be surrounded by my favorite ballplayers while I pitifully attempted to play it cool. I discovered Pink Berry, which can only be described as the ultimate frozen yogurt experience.

Of course, there is another side to the story. While it has been a dream vacation it has been a rude awakening. People ask me if I am ready for Ecuador and I must confess I am so gripped with an uncontrollable (and irrational) of what I will do after Ecuador that I have barely thought about the next year I still have in South America.

Perhaps worst of all is the most common formality I undergo daily. People are fond of asking, ever so casually, “so how was it?” like the sum experience of your last year can be broken down and analyzed as easily as you might evaluate going to see a movie. And it’s like, I look in their eyes, and just know, through no fault of their own, they really don’t want the real answer I am somewhat dying to give. I can’t describe to them the inexplicable liberation that sought to thrive amongst a month or two of deep sadness. When people invite you out for a beer, it’s hard not to ask “how is it you can get a beer with me but you couldn’t send a two line email every once in a while when I was out there?” For all the blessings, there has been, as people said there would be, incredible culture shock, confusion, and just general, inexplicable anxiety.

And yet, all my reflections go back to a most pleasant surprise: love endures through all. The last few years I was so into building an adventure resume if you will. I somehow equated my happiness with my travel agenda. And while I will continue to travel and appreciate the many values it brings to my lifestyle, I feel like I kind of missed the point of the grand adventure. I was so afraid to come home. Questions flooded my senses: who are my real friends? How have they changed? Who am I and how have I changed? And you know, I felt at peace, I felt at home, in the midst of everything, I feel at peace among the people I love. And so getting back to missing the point, I’m coming to see it is not about saying I have lived here and there and done this and that but more about making decisions that enhance my ability to both give and receive love in a more open and vulnerable way.

Am I ready for Ecuador? Yeah, but I’m also, in ways I never imagined possible, ready for life after Ecuador. And how was Bolivia and Chile you ask? Serendipity. Look for an update on Ecuador soon as I fly there September 1st.

Again, in my final push for Ecuador- any amount of help helps me to help others. Thanks for your time and support!

1 comment:

Michelle Fitzgerald said...


Eliquent and insightful as always.

You know me, I will continue to stalk you, I your blog... and look forward to following you throughout your new South American adventure.

You are missed - hope your few first days in Ecuador have been great, say hello to Em.