Thursday, July 22, 2010

Returning home

I can hardly believe it, but my time in Tanzania has now come to an end. I had a wonderful last few weeks, wrapping up my project and helping the church transition to be able to continue the work on their own, visiting Zanzibar, and traveling all over the country for various MCC Tanzania team meetings. Saying goodbye to friends, co-workers, and my host family was in some cases difficult, but the prospect of returning home to reunite with friends and family has made the leaving process not as difficult as it otherwise might have been. I am so thankful for the generosity and hospitality that was extended to me by so many people throughout the whole year, and I will certainly miss Tanzania.

After saying all of my goodbyes in Shirati about a week ago, I travelled to Nairobi, Kenya and spent a few days at the Mennonite Guest House in preparation for my flight back to the States. It was a nice time of relaxation, and a good space to begin the major transition from life in rural Tanzania to life back in the U.S. I have now just returned to Akron, PA, the headquarters of MCC, after 24 hours of traveling. All of the approximately sixty SALTers have converged from all corners of the world to share in a few days of re-entry activities, and I am looking forward to having this time to share and process with others who have had experiences similar to mine before I will return home.

While leaving Shirati and Tanzania will be a major transition, I am ready to be back home again and to reunite with friends and family. It has been a wonderful year of stretching and growth and new experiences, but it feels like the right time to say goodbye and to return to Michigan. I think I will always have a special place in my heart for Tanzania, and it is certainly possible that I might return to live there again some day, but for the time being I am ready to come home. I know and have heard from others who have lived abroad that returning to life in one's home country is a major transition, so I am a bit apprehensive about the challenges that still lie ahead. Resuming life in a familiar place and with familiar people will I suspect be more challenging than it might seem, as it will force me to realize the ways in which I have changed over the year--changes that up to this point I have not even perceived.

I recently ran across a fairly well-known quotation from the twentieth century Christian writer and poet T.S. Eliot, and I think it describes well my feelings about returning home. He writes:

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

Seeing 'home' for the first time sounds a bit terrifying, but also in some ways exhilarating. I suspect that in my first few weeks back I will have moments where I feel like I am looking at a familiar picture but with a new set of glasses. My time in Tanzania has I think in a very real sense given me an altered set of eyes through which I see the world. Seeing things afresh will be at turns fun and exciting and at turns painful and difficult, but in the end I am convinced that each new layer of experience that colors our view of the world with a little bit more truth and a little bit more perspective is something to be thankful for, even in the moments when the new vision might bring pain or frustration.

I am very much looking forward to some simple things that I have missed throughout the year, like road biking, going for walks in the woods, eating delicious foods, and even driving a car (watch out if you see me on the road, I haven't driven a vehicle in a year!) Thanks for following my blog throughout the year, and I hope to see you soon in person!

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