We’ve been back in the USA for just over 2 months now. It has stopped feeling ‘new’ and started feeling normal again. We’ve been keeping busy. The first week back we had two objectives: cellphone and car. The two most basic things that are necessary to re-enter US society. After that, Christmas celebrations began and we got swallowed up into family gatherings and traveling. That continued until Jan. 7th when we were spit out into the world of unemployment and the unrelenting question, “now what?” I texted my friend that day and said, “today I mentally arrived back to the US.” She said, “Welcome mentally home.”
That first month I mostly felt a sense of loss, a feeling echoed by this other previous volunteer who worked in an orphanage in Peru. You don’t want to let go of the people that you still love that are so far away, but you have to let go a little bit to be able to accept it and move forward. Every time I went shopping after Christmas I found myself just thinking about how much the girls at the Hogar would like everything I saw. I ended up buying some things and sending care packages to the Hogar. I realized later that I sent the packages less because they really needed the stuff, and more because it made me still feel connected to them.
In the second month, I am still grieving but don’t find it so crippling. I can now talk about the girls and our experiences without crying. And we’re looking forward to the future. Tom has received a job offer from Boeing to return to similar work as what he was doing when we left, and he will start work the last week of February. I have signed up for a teacher-certification program to be certified in the state of Missouri to teach high school biology. While I study, I will subsitute teach and apply for positions to start in the fall. So our list of achievements is getting longer: cellphone, car and now, job. Next month on the agenda is housing. We are currently leaning on the hospitality of my parents in St. Louis until we can work out the fate of the house we own which has been rented while we were away.
An interesting product of the reverse culture shock that we’ve both experienced is a desire for safety and making conservative choices. What I mean is that before, when we were both tired of the ho-hum status quo, we were excited about shaking things up and undertaking this big Bolivia adventure. Now we feel like going to the grocery store is adventurous and that we want a stable and predictable life. How long this feeling will continue before we get bored again, I don’t know. Or maybe this is the new norm, it makes me feel old though.
Overall, life is good. When people ask “how was Bolivia?” We answer, “challenging but a good experience. We are glad we did it, and glad we survived it.”