There are only 9 days left before I return to the land of SUV’s, drive through restaurants, and prime time television and leave behind dirt roads, beans and rice, and nights without electricity. That's 216 hours until I see my family in the US, say goodbye to my new family in Tanzania. And 12,960 minutes until I go through the crazy reverse culture shock that everyone experiences when they have been somewhere really different for a while. And 777,600 seconds until the part of my heart that loves Africa breaks and the family at home that loves me immensely tries to put it back together again.
People both in the US and in TZ keep asking me how I am doing as the day gets closer and closer. And honestly every time they ask I get a bit more unsure of how I am doing. This week I was presenting about Edpowerment to the Moshi Town Rotary Club and after my presentation someone asked when I was leaving. I told them the date and they told me I only had one full week left. That was the day it for the first time set in my head that I only have one full week left. I had a bit of a panic attack and thought- wow! How did this happen so fast? How am I going to say goodbye to all the amazing people I have met this year? How am I going to leave the Kilimahewa kids and say goodbye to the Gabriella children? How am I going to leave the amazing groundbreaking work we do here? All of these questions came flooding at me and as excited as I am to see everyone in the US and have some of the things I missed while I was here, I was freaking out a bit. When talking to one of the Kilimahewa students about leaving he said we need to spend a day in one room and just cry together and that pretty much summed up how I was feeling.
To be honest, and everyone that knows me well would tell you, I don’t freak out a bit- I freak out a lot. So there was some stupid arguing that happened with people for no reason, I came down with malaria which lead to me feeling sorry for myself, I slept for 3 days, I tried to pack then got upset and unpacked, I lied to my parents telling them I was so excited to come home skype after skype conversation, and pretty much started to panic.
Then last night I thought to myself- why would I spend my last week of this amazing adventure panicking. Why would I fight with the people I love to push them away? Why would I not be super excited about going home? And I started to look at my return to the US as a next step in a much larger adventure I am having.
I will have been gone for exactly 13 months when I finally arrive on US soil. I have spent 390 days in 13 different countries. I tried for 9,360 hours to communicate in different languages. I enjoyed 561,600 minutes meeting different amazing people. And was educated for 33,696,000 seconds in different perspectives on life and learned more about myself than I ever have.
Now I am coming home to an amazingly fun family, some great wonderful friends, some already scheduled trips to visit people around the US, and a job I love. Yes- I am totally going to miss every single person I know in TZ and I am going to miss everything I do here, but I miss that about America too. So instead of panicking and stressing I am making a conscience decision to tell myself what I tell my parents over and over.
I am excited about coming home.
I am excited about coming home.
I am excited about coming home.
And not only am I telling myself that but I actually believe it also. I am excited to see everyone, to laugh with my amazing family, to drive my car, to drink a starbucks coffee, to watch the Dirty Birds play hockey, to eat Mexican food, to go to a movie and to just live in America for a while.
I have no idea what life might bring me in the next months so instead of stressing over the change I am choosing to embrace it. I promised my mom a shopping trip. I promised my dad to spend a weekend with him at our family summer home. I promised my best friend Krista a movie night and Jonte a visit to New York. All of these things I am so excited about.
So I decided to take this opportunity to make a plan for my next adventure. My goals in the upcoming year…..
1) Get to know my family and friends again. Participate in as many BBQ’s, movie nights, happy hours, and fun events as I possibly can. I have missed a lot and am anxious to get to know my godchildren, close friends, and meet my new family members that were born while I was away.
2) Become financially secure again so I can take as many trips around the world in life as I can afford. Sorry mom but once you travel like I have you don’t really want to stop.
3) Fundraise as much as possible to fund Kilimahewa and the Gabriella Center and search for grants for Edpowerment programs. Anyone looking to help with this please email me. I NEED a small army of people to help me.
4) Meet as many new people as possible and have fun and laugh a lot. People are funny and when I don’t have to fight with a cultural barrier that makes sarcasm look like you are just being mean this should be easy to do.
5) Every week do one thing that is different, fun, and exciting and completely out of my normal schedule. Any ideas?
6) Practice Swahili- possibly teach it - Anyone interested?
7) Remember the things I love about America and try really not to be cynical, angry, or depressed about the differences between America and 3rd world countries. This is always the hardest part for me- especially in an election year. But US family and friends- I promise to try. (:
8) Try to Love every minute of the time I will be there because it is just another part of a larger adventure.
So am I panicked- of course I am, but am I ready- most definitely. America here I come!
And everyone I have spent time with in the last 13 months, 390 days, 9,360 hours, 561,600 minutes, and 33,696,000, I could not have asked for a better experience, closer friends, more wonderful students, or another minute of happiness. It was amazing and although it flew "in a blink of a hat" (as my friend Katie would say) I have loved every single month, day, hour, minute, and second I was blessed to be able to do it.
And Mom- how about tacos for dinner and a starbucks ice coffee with a little bit of cream when you pick me up at the airport. Love you!
See everyone soon!