Monday, December 13, 2010

Jet Plane

Leaving the house this morning at 6:28 a.m.
to start the trip back to America!
The journey home to Michigan has begun! I left my house this morning at 6:28 a.m. to come into town on the bus. I’m in Apia today, until tonight when I leave Samoa for the first time in 14 months. I’m boarding an airplane and jetting across the largest ocean in the world on a 10 hour flight to Los Angeles, California. Then it’s another four hour flight to Chicago. Then it’s a two hour drive from there, before I get to sleep at home for the first time since October 4, 2009.

Last night I took one final walk through my village for 2010. I went to a few houses to wish people a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. A bunch of kids came out and followed me down the street and asked when I was leaving for America. I ate at my neighbor’s house yesterday for a going away dinner and they had invited the mayor of the village, and his wife over for the occasion.

After saying my goodbyes I went back to my house to finish the last of the packing. I kept thinking to myself how much easier it is to pack for a month visit to Michigan, than a two year stay in Samoa. My stress level was very low as I went about the packing, but perhaps some of the “care free ways” of this island life have rubbed off on me the past year. I think that’s a good thing.

But just as I have come to live a relaxed life, I’m about to be thrust back into the rollercoaster life in America. For example, my flight arrives in Los Angeles at 11:40 a.m. on Tuesday but I have to make my connecting flight before it leaves at 1:55 p.m. That may seem like a good chunk of time, but here’s what I’m up against: I have to wait for the plane to taxi to the gate, deplane, go claim my luggage, go through customs, travel from the international terminal to the domestic terminal, recheck my bags on my next flight, go through security and then make it to my gate before they close the door to the plane! That’s a lot for someone who’s been living the slow life for 14 months. I’m keeping my fingers crossed though.

Once I make it to my final destination, I’m entering a whole new climate. The temperature in Samoa right now is 82. The temperature in Michigan: 15. The heat index in Samoa: 90. The wind chill in Michigan: 3. That’s an 87 degree temperature difference based on how the weather feels to the skin. My body has certainly grown use to the heat and humidity, considering I get chilled when the mercury dips to 80 degrees! 76 degrees in Samoa feels like a late October day in Michigan where I’m ready to bundle up. I haven’t seen snow since April of 2009, that’s 20 months without the slushy, slippery mess. At this moment, I hear reports about a large snow storm that has just passed through the Midwest. As much as I have missed the change of seasons, I haven’t missed the snow. But at the same time, I’m looking forward to a White Christmas, and think the snow will be exciting (at least for a month).

But among all the things I’m looking forward to, nothing compares to seeing my family. I was fortunate to have my sister visit me this past July and share that time with her, and my life here in Samoa. But other than her, I haven’t seen any family, the very people who raised me and supported me for 25 years! I wrote about what it would be like to be with them, back during my hardest days of homesickness. They have continued on with their lives, but they’ve continued to support me through phone calls, letters, packages, and most importantly, their prayers. This week we are reunited in what will be one unforgettable moment after another.

As much as I enjoy looking forward, I thought today might be an appropriate day to look back, and see what life was like one year ago today: December 13, 2009. Following are a few excerpts from my journal entry on that day.

“It’s 12:24 in the afternoon and I’m still homesick like you won’t believe.”

“I wrote a letter to Mom last night. I cried during most of it.”

“I’m trying to adjust, pray, and stay active, but whatever I do, I can’t feel that groove.”

“I feel so separated from my family, friends and traditions. I know it’s all just a 14 hour flight away, but I feel so trapped here.”

“I can’t forget I’m not in this battle alone. There are volunteers in this country and around the world dealing with similar situations.”

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and if I back out now, there will be huge consequences for the rest of my life, and that is a scary thought, perhaps enough to keep me grounded where I am.”

And I’m happy I stayed grounded, right where I am. Looking back 365 days is amazing, as I see how much has changed and how much I’ve come to love where I am. Last night as I was lying in bed, I just thought how grateful I am to God for leading me through those tough days, to the place I am today. Right now I’m thinking about my journey home, excited to see family and friends, but at the same time, I’ll be looking forward to returning to Samoa in 2011. Goodbye from Samoa. See you in America!

With 10 Peace Corps leaving on the flight tonight to L.A., this is what the Peace Corps office looked like this afternoon!

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