It is better to wear out than to rust out.
Bishop Richard Cumberland
I have been putting off for days, no weeks, writing this final entry in the blog, Patty in the Peace Corps. Not sure exactly why I have been such a sluggard. It has not been for lack of time. I have had plenty of that these last 16 weeks. Being homeless and jobless has been a trial for me as I have transitioned from Kenya to the USA. Strange enough, that I really have not been motivated to do much of anything except shadow other peoples lives as I have bummed food and shelter from friends and family. Part of my reluctance to complete the blog is that it signals the end of an adventure I am probably not willing to let go of yet.
My first few weeks were caught up in trying to decide if I was going back to Kenya, doing my taxes, buying a car, and trying to figure out how I would spend my time while I found my place. My son, Mike, was gracious enough to let me stay with him in Atlanta as my home base. It was strange indeed adapting to his household schedule and way of doing things and letting go of my own. It was good practice for all the other people I ended up staying with over the following weeks. Mike will probably never let me live down “how to stack a dishwasher” Mom’s way. Like he hadn’t been stacking his own dishwasher for years……. Atlanta was a good choice for the weather as well. As warm as it was there in comparison to the Northeast in March, I was wrapped up in blankets and still had the shivers for weeks. Can’t imagine what it would have been like had I picked another place to use as home base.
The “weepies” and tiredness that I experienced on arrival in the USA took a couple of months to get rid off. I had a good visit with family and friends in upstate New York and my sister, Rose and her husband Frank, kept me smiling and let me rest up. I actually made a trip up the east coast and stayed with several friends for as little as a couple of days and as long as a week. Everyone opened their arms and homes to me. One friend, Yuanting, even forced me out of her apartment (a nice emotionally safe zone for me in Washington, D.C.) and made me go sight seeing downtown to keep from hibernating! I normally do not sightsee, eat in restaurants or even go to the movies by myself. This was a stretch for me and I ended up finally seeing the tourist attractions I missed on all my business trips in the past.
I spent about three weeks with my younger sister, Judy, and her family in Alabama. Unfortunately, she and her grandchildren were in a very serious car accident. So, I hustled over and lent my two hands in caring for her and the kids. Rachel, the 4 year old had a body cast and certainly had the toughest time. Those who know me and love me anyway can speak to my lack of patience. Rachel tested me to my limits! I am thankful I got to spend some time with Judy and her family. It gave me some meaningful work while I waited for other events with the Peace Corps and house hunting to run their natural course.
A couple of friends took me in for a while in as well. The Peace Corps required me to have follow-up medical treatment that included a colonoscopy and several doctor visits to help me get rid of my little parasite and some unwanted bacteria in my stomach. This all took place in metro Atlanta. Janet and Siomara took care of me and gave me space at their place and generally embraced into their lives for several weeks.
Each stay brought new situations that forced the comparison between my old life in Kenya and the new transitioned life back in the USA. Everything from the size of stores to how people interact with each other brought the differences home to me daily. Just the sheer abundance of food (and water and electricity) that is available was enough to repeatedly make me stand in awe. Even brushing my teeth with water from the faucet instead of bottled water was weird. Many are the times I reached for a bottle that was not there. The ability to access the internet from home and in any room, libraries (no libraries to speak of in Kenya) and the abundance of everything imaginable is still a continual amazement.
The first time I heard the national anthem sung (at a graduation ceremony) I was unprepared for the emotional effect it had on me. It took all the strength I had not to cry in front everyone. Trust me; there is no other place in the world as good a place to live as the USA. I am sure I did not fully comprehend my love of country until the soloist began singing that evening. It was overwhelming.
I still watch families interacting; people in shops with their customers; my new community and beautiful new home; and draw comparisons to my life in Kenya. Both are so different, yet the each has appeal. God has blessed me with contentment in both situations. I think about Shukrani LifeWorks, the women and youth in Mariakani and sometimes feel like it was a lifetime ago. I miss them all and at the same time, I am grateful to be here in my home country surrounded (even if by lots of miles from some) by family and friends who love and care about me. Just to be able to pick up the phone and call whenever I feel like it is a very big deal for me and still a cherished activity. I know that all the “newness” of being home is going to fade into routine and soon I shall take for granted all that I have here. The sadness that should accompany the loss will go unfelt by me because I will have fallen victim to the normalness of living in America.
And, as with many American’s, I am now a new homeowner in Davenport, Iowa. LeClaire turned out to be such a small town and Davenport, while small by Atlanta standards, is still plenty big to me after Mariakani. It is a river town and has just the right amount of “stuff.” I am near the water; all the big chain stores are here (gratefully positioned outside the city proper); and, plenty of walking and biking trails. My son, John and his family are less than 15 minutes away and I know that God has some meaningful work for me here. He just hasn’t told me what it is yet!
While I wait on Him, I am busy looking for a new church home, getting settled in my new home and planning a few excursions through the end of year. Included in that is a month long tour of China with my friend, Yuanting. She is between job assignments and has invited me to travel with her when she goes home for a visit. I still have a few friends to catch up with. They will come to me or I am going to them. Most importantly, I have numerous letters to my granddaughter, Guthrie, which I wrote while in Kenya, to edit and get ready to give her. I missed being a part of her life so much while I was there, they may be too dramatic and emotional. Taming them down a little is probably a good idea.
I shall miss our monthly chats through the blog. Your emails, notes and packages as a result of reading it were highlights of my days, weeks and months. Thank you for your friendship and for being a good listening ear while I served in Kenya
Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.