Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Unexpected Journey Home

...It didn't start as well as I hoped. No amount of wine, sleeping wills and boring British films could put me to sleep on the plane. I spent the vast majority of my time shivering and staring into space which made a seven hour flight last a lifetime. Descending into Chicago, tears of relief streamed down my face. Home was close and my mother was closer. It was nearly eleven pm by the time I was greeted by Starbucks and my mom in the airport lobby (luckily trail mix, pita chips and Twizzlers were waiting in the car for me as well). Deflated, I slumped into my car seat and settled in for the last part of the trip.

A new pattern arose from the exhaustion: twelves hours of sleep plus an afternoon nap, periods of chatter followed by aimless staring into space, general culture shock and feeling overwhelmed by the phone and communication. I avoided phone calls from dear friends, couldn't focus on watching TV and wasn't even listening to music. My brain was overloaded and it rejected any form of distraction. Friends and family tip-toed around me, unsure of what to do with the introverted, quiet form of myself. Truthfully, I didn't know what to do with myself either.

Post-surgery Kyla
Over the next two weeks, I began to speak more frequently, listen to the concerns of others, and the crying tapered off. Surgery came and went and eventually I had purged myself of the fatigue and bad memories which haunted my night. There was no exact cure for the trauma, but the combination of a safe environment, incredibly supportive family and friends and time allowed for me to begin the healing process.

Ever the patient woman, I had an intense list of things "to do" while in Michigan and proceeded to check items off this list regardless of my gimp leg. I spent my days visiting apple orchards, wine tasting in Traverse City, shopping for gifts and taking an eating/drinking tour of West Michigan. Soon everything felt comfortable, easy and relaxing. I could drive where I wanted, speak English and say "no" whenever I felt like it. In six weeks, I rediscovered my independence and sense of identity. I had missed being me and it was good to be back.
Family and beer!

One of my many "to do" lists
Before I knew it, the transition home turned into a transition back to Morocco. I had barely regained my sense of self before I had to go through the goodbyes and tears that I initially faced just six months prior. The panic of "having so many things I want to do and so many people to see and knowing there is no way I can enjoy everything I want in the next week" set in. I constantly reminded myself that it was my choice to return to Morocco, mostly because the only thing harder than returning would be to not return at all. That sounds convoluted, but I swear it's a thing.

Choosing to return was a renewal of my Peace Corps vows, or more importantly, my vow to myself and the people of Tazarine. I would continue to choose this life everyday in spite of the tears, separation and hardship. I had also made a promise to my fellow volunteers; friends who were depending of my support and presence for the next two years just as I depended on them. I am particularly thankful to Leah, who in response to my expression that I "felt as though I belonged nowhere," responded simply "you belong here."

Celebrating Fall

 Despite my fear of returning to the place where I was assaulted, my longing for a comfortable life in Michigan and the close proximity of family and friends, I got on the plane that Monday evening. After a final Starbucks Chai and two difficult goodbyes, I took my seat and cried during the entire flight from Grand Rapids to Detroit. I closed my eyes again and prayed for relief; I was granted sleep.
Something I miss.

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