When you walk into my cozy DC apartment, full of knickknacks, the first thing you will see is a coat rack with two hooks. On the left hangs a black women’s trench coat with camel piping, the highest of Target fashions. On the right is a charcoal grey Columbia jacket that looks like it’s been through a war.

That isn’t terribly far off the mark, when you consider all the places it’s been since I bought it in 2009.

I was wearing this jacket the other day when I went to the grocery store – the most banal American task imaginable, yet still one that throws a little skip-skip into my heart rhythm on occasion, even if I’m not always cognizant of why. In a crowded aisle, I leaned back against a towering shelf pasta to let a triple-wide stroller pass, and then I felt it. Prick. The faintest suggestion of a sharp point. And it all came flooding back.

More than two years ago, in June of 2010, nestled amongst the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, I was in the laborious process of making a new best friend. We met up one weekend to go to the market, and upon our return, my friend’s host mother was thrilled to see another Peace Corps Trainee and offered to show us something she thought we would find interesting: a water tower, built by European college students in the 80s. That’s genuinely all I can say about it, because in reality it WASN’T especially interesting. But we went along happily enough, following the host mother over the river and through the woods, hopping a couple fences, taking shortcuts through cornfields, winding down cattle watering paths – I swear to God, we were probably in Tanzania at some point – before reaching the anticlimactic structure maybe an hour after our little outing began. It was a water tower. Thrilling. Then, after a few awkwardly posed photographs, since lost to a stolen camera, we made a near-identical hour-long trek in reverse.

We spent at LEAST that much time afterwards sitting on the steps of the family homestead, picking burrs off each other and laughing about our experiences up to that point. We both looked like we’d been dragged backwards through a thorn grove after losing a dance-battle with an aggressive gang of corn stalks. We never DID get all the burrs, despite repeated close inspections, so over the next two years, we’d periodically be wearing whatever we’d worn that day and, prick. There’s one we missed.

My life now is so drastically, incredibly different today, that sometimes it takes the physical pinch of a thorn to remind me: Oh, right. All that didn’t happen to someone else. Today is my two-month-iversary of landing on American soil. Even surrounded by photographs and clutter from 35 foreign countries, my students’ portraits in frames in my living room, a Kenyan flag tacked up over my bookshelf and lesos draped across most pieces of furniture … even though some of my closest friends to this day are people I met in the Peace Corps … even though I still dream in Swahili more often than English … it feels as though it all happened a lifetime ago. If it happened at all.

It’s a very curious feeling.

I’m back now, I suppose. How long was I gone?

—-

I’ve wrestled mentally about what to do with this blog. Part of me thinks it would be a hoot to continue to write about the ecstasy and agony of re-acculturation, while part of me thinks it stands best on its own as a contained experience. I’ve decided on the latter, but first I’ll offer a few more posts about what I’m up to now, how you can get in touch with me, and some recommendations for travel. I will spare you my experiences at places like the World’s Worst Hotel (in a review for a travel website, I literally included the line “I wish I had a time machine so I could un-stay here”) but instead offer my Best Of list, so you can set yourself up for your own adventures.

It’s been a wild ride, folks. Remember to please keep your hands and feet inside until the vehicle comes to a complete stop.

Almost, but not yet.

Advertisements