Sunday, November 18, 2012

On the home stretch

I've been struggling a lot lately trying to pick material to post here for those of you who are following along with my PC service.  When Peace Corps guarantees "the hardest job you'll ever love" they may sound cliche but they've pretty much hit the nail right on the head.

I've been in Ambohimanarina for a year and a half now.  This means a lot of things.  I've watched one neighbor's house disintegrate into a pile of old, grey bamboo and a brand new wooden house spring up across the way.  I've made some great friends; we've laughed together, worked together, eaten together, mourned together.  I can cook bananas and cassava, I can plant rice.  I've finally found environmental work to do.

It's easy to feel like I don't just live on the other side of the world from home but on a different planet.  I'm experiencing all kinds of new things, oblivious to what's happening in the daily lives of my American family and friends.  What better snack is there than a bunch of ripe, juicy litchis?  I feel like I am walking through some sort of litchi wasteland with discarded peels and seeds scattered all along the path as I fetch water.  What can be more devastating than watching a man who welcomed you into his family get sick and die?  I've been thinking a lot about how much of our self-expression and the way we voice (or contain) our emotions is innate and how much of it is influenced by culture.  And I've gained a greater appreciation for friendship and the various places it can be found.

I don't exactly miss the stresses of the modern world with its phones and computers and all, but I am missing things.  No, I haven't seen the new Batman movie or the latest episode of Big Bang Theory (if it's even still running).  I've never seen my sisters' houses.  I've lost count of the weddings, graduations, births, and housewarmings that have passed as I consumed yet another bowl of rice.

The scariest part of it all is that it means I'll only be living here for 6 more months.  Yes, I'm excited to get back to my family, friends, refrigeration, toilets, cell phone reception, and washing machines.  But it also means finding a job, a place to live, and re-adjusting to an American way of life.  Eventually it'll mean leaving my Malagasy friends, family, and home.  How am I supposed to split my time now so I can enjoy my time in Madagascar and prepare for life off the island?  How do I connect my Malagasy and American lives when they seem to be so isolated from one another?

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