I can’t believe it’s already Christmas Eve! Before we get into Christmas festivities I want to update you about all of the exciting travels we’ve had since November 22nd.
Tuesday November 22nd we left Santa Cruz and 18 hours later arrived in Minneapolis, Minnesota! It was the first time home to the U.S. for Tom in 14 months!! (I snuck in a short trip home in September as you may recall so I wasn’t as homesick.) Some of the reverse culture shock experiences we had were:
- I noticed in the airport no one was staring at me….It felt weird
- Tom said “Oh man, now other people can understand us when we talk to each other.” In Bolivia we take advantage of being able to have personal conversations in public as no one knows English.
- being shocked seeing someone talking to themselves before remembering what a bluetooth was!
- flushing toilet paper, just feels so wrong!
- I kept trying to convert the prices of everything into another currency but I couldn’t figure out what currency to put them in, it’s kind of ridiculous to put them back into bolivianos!
We got some Pizza Hut in the Miami airport while we were waiting for our connection and marveled at the diversity of people you see moving through that airport. Tom was so excited about Pizza Hut that we had it AGAIN for lunch the next day, but after that my stomach got fed up (haha, pun) with the hemisphere change and I spent the next few days eating white bread and 7up. We were very happy to back in the U.S. though and jumped right back into American society going to Target, Microcenter and Costco all on our first day back! We spent Thanksgiving day and the week after with the Kents, seeing lots of extended family and having a nice time relaxing.
Then we got a Greyhound down to Dubuque, Iowa to visit our college friend Fr. Gary Mayer. He invited us to do some impromptu sharing about our volunteer work to a first grade class and a high school class of juniors that he teaches. This was unexpected but turned out to be a lot of fun and made us realize how important doing outreach will be when we come back and have all these experiences to share. We’ve always said that although we are experiencing a lot of personal growth here, it’s integral to us to share what has helped us to grow so that this experience has an impact much wider than just us and our own faith lives.
Next, we made a stop in Cedar Rapids to see our good friends Wade and Nicole and their adorable daughter Addie! It was amazing to see how much had happened in their lives in the 14 months we’d been gone and kind of drove home the fact that life goes on whether you’re there to witness it or not. Despite the temptation to return home and think, oh things are just the same and I feel just the same, I have to remind myself that no, I’m not the same as I was, and neither are the people here. This will become clearer next year when we come home for good but I began to reflect on how to maintain relationships despite distance, accepting that you won’t be there to see/understand what the other person is going through.
Finally we arrived in St. Louis! MN and IA might as well have been other countries to me because I didn’t feel ‘home’ until we got to St. Louis. We had a million people to try to see and errands to run, not to mention me taking the GRE, while in St. Louis but for all that I think we did well getting to see as many people as possible while still maintaining sanity (there are only so many times you can answer the question “So how’s Bolivia?” in a day). Plus, it was my birthday (big 2-8) so everyone was very generous about taking us out for dinner/lunch which we really appreciated! Sadly we still had to miss a lot of friends and family (most notably Campion Christmas) but it turns out that three weeks is just not that much time.
On December 13th, after doing lots of clearance shopping and trying to pack our suitcases to the weight limit, we returned to Santa Cruz. Sitting at our gate in St. Louis, I felt very down-hearted to be leaving so many wonderful people and delicious food behind, knowing it was entirely my choice to do so. I thought to myself, we’ve had a good year, who says we need to do a second, why not just pack it in now? I still felt hesitant the first few days back but after a week of seeing the Hogar girls, hanging out with the other volunteers, doing youth group for the neighborhood kids, and joking around with the Sisters, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. I feel such a deep sense of purpose being here. I love being able to wake up everyday, no agenda, and say “God, what shall we do today?”