Thursday, August 9, 2012

I Am Here and It Is Now

 Since I got on that first sixteen hour flight to South Africa, time has not been pulsing at its normal rhythms for me and, on occasion, has disappeared from my consciousness all together. I didn't wear a watch in Swaziland, my cell phone remained off, I didn't check Facebook, and only checked my email twice for the sole purpose of assuring my parents that I was alive and wishing my grandma a happy eighty-sixth birthday. Occasionally I would ask a teammate what time it was, perhaps out of habit, but I don't remember ever really listening to the answer. So, as you can imagine, it came as a shock to me to today to check my calendar and suddenly realize that as of tomorrow, it will be a week since our last day at the carepoint.

Nearly a week has past since we said our goodbyes and my heart broke and grew and transformed all at once. I can keep saying that over and over in my head but it still doesn't seem real. I haven't quite come to terms with the fact that I am in America, that I have, as people keep telling me, "re-entered." Every once in a while I feel like a map with a big red X and the words, "You are here" is being shoved under my face as my mind tries to convince me that I should accept my surroundings. But, my heart insists, "You are there. You are there." and I don't have the strength to argue because I want so badly for that to be true.

It's hard to be back on a schedule, to have to adhere to the rigid command of time. I have to wake up at seven, shower at eight, eat breakfast at nine, go to training at ten, break for lunch at noon, return at one, train some more until four, work on projects in the dorm until seven, eat dinner, work some more, go to sleep and repeat it all again the next day. I am virtually always aware of what time it is down to the minute and as much as I love my job and my friends and my school, I find myself missing my life in Swaziland where time wasn't a constant grip on my neck, but a soft hand on my back, pushing me ever so gently throughout my day.

Time isn't just holding me, it's holding our entire culture. I've been asked what time it is by a friend at least ten times in the past two days. Every time this happens I get a surge of distress. I want to scream at them, "You are here and it is now! That's all that matters!" But, instead, I slip back into the cultural norm, pull out my cell phone and inform my friend that it is one o'clock and that we need to get back to training.

I feel like I am starting this life all over again. The twelve days I was gone feels more like twelve years. Everything I once called normal seems completely unfamiliar. This world feels like a museum instead of a home. Things are too clean. I am too clean. I miss blowing dirt out of my nose at the end of the day and shaking rocks and dust out of my shoes. I miss really having a reason to shower. The roads in this world feel too smooth, the lights feel too bright, the cows are far too fat and the dogs are ostentatiously well-groomed.

There is time here. There is so much time. And it has so much power. I want to love it. I want to say I feel so blessed to be back in America. I want to say I am so glad for all of the freedom we have. I want to be proud to call this place my home but I'm just not there yet. I'm not sure I can ever fully be there again.

It's 10:35 pm in Iowa and I don't know what that really means. I am here and it is now and I'm still living and breathing and ready to be in reality again serving my brothers and sisters.

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