It has been over a month, actually 40 days, since we have returned home. Whatever adjusting I had expected to happen should be all finished up by now. But if anything I feel it more intensely. Funny how a feeling can be so strong yet so difficult to aptly explain to someone else. A recurring , descriptive image keeps popping into my head and although inadequate, it seems to be the best way at the moment to convey my current feelings .....imagine a head and inside that head is everything witnessed over the past year, landscapes, people, food, sounds, monuments, smells, customs and they are all trying to find their place to settle in, but communication between these foreign bits and fragments is difficult at best, and there are a lot of pieces that just aren't able to fit along side others, but they each keep trying to get their points across, trying to find their place, in the big chaotic mess called my brain.
Believe me I know I sound like a little travel snot. I can hear that too, even through the muddle. "Oh, I just got back from traveling the world, to beautiful Hawaii, and I am so confused and depressed".... and spoiled. I know. But it doesn't make the adjusting any easier. Does it make it less annoying, if I acknowledge it myself?
Mixed in with all that is the fear of "loosing" all of last year experinces as we settle into a routine, that is astonishingly similar to that which we left last year. But when I take the time to look past the day-to-day and to think of actualities I realize that our travel experiences are forever part of us, an us that is so much stronger than it was before.
But as I sit here I realize we have gained even more. Hearing the kids tell their versions of our epic experiences actually makes the area where my heart is located warm. Witnessing the fresh eyes with which they literally "see" the cultural in which they have grown up as they draw comparisons to others they have experienced, makes me proud. Their real interest in foreign affairs, because they now have a personal connection, has changed the way they learn and will have a lasting impact throughout their lives. Somehow these moments of light, when I see "the big picture", help organize all those bits and pieces in my head and I find myself feeling less unsettled with this whole "settling back in" phase.
There is another descriptive image that kept persevering in my thoughts. This one has a more comical feel. It is that of our family of four crammed in a space ship, that old kind of 1960's style, red with flames painted on the side, coming in for a landing on the lush island of Kauai. The boys are out running about before Zuki and I even know we have landed. My daughter and I sit in the space ship with our hair blowing in the wind and our mouths open in awe, staring in bewildered confusion. And to be honest that is kinda how it was when we first got home.
It probably comes as no surprise that I wasn't ready for the trip to end. As our time was winding down in the Philippines the rest of the family was mostly excited to return home, see friends, unpack missed toys, have our kitchen again...there was a little anxiousness as far as what it would really be like to return, but the sentiment "Yeah, we are going home" prevailed. I dragged my feet, ho-hummed, somehow shocked that there was an end to our around-the-world-trip. I wasn't good at hiding it either.
Luckily at the last minute, the very last night, something changed and I genuinely began looking forward to going home. It just hit me like a frying pan. Zuki had been telling me for a few days how she often sees "signs" around her. When she thought of something, more often then not she was finding that the answer or something relevant would appear in a literal sign. (English advertising and signage is quite prevalent in the Philippines). It intrigued me. I was feeling so lost; I wanted a sign. I looked and looked; nothing seemed fitting to the questions that were whirling in my brain. Lucky kid. But turns out It might not be a sheer matter of luck but may boil down to the fact that I simple may not be as in-tune as she is. My signs had to be less cryptic. Just as I began to realize that the infected bug bite on my leg was pushing past the acceptable "it's going to be fine; lets just clean it" limit, as visions of me rolling through the next three airports in a wheel chair filled my head, my stomach started to do those all too familiar summersaults of traveler's belly. "Ok", I screamed in my head " I GIVE IN, I AM READY TO GO HOME!". And just like that my stomach problems receded and the antibiotics started kicking in on my pain-ridden leg...OK. I just needed more obvious signs to steer my brain to the appropriate frame of mind...home will be nice on a lot of levels.
After talking a bit, I get up to continue to walk and she asks me where I am from, "cause you have a strange accent". A smile breaks out across my face as I reply, "I live here" and I remember the countless other times someone has said that same thing to me upon my return to the states. Somehow in my attempt to make conversation with people who speaks English as a second or third language easier, I often simplify my sentence structure drastically, "We go now," kinda thing and I guess it is not an easy habit to break.
And with that I am reminded that I have felt this way before. It actually has a name, "reverse culture shock." I know I need to give myself time and luckily I have it. We live on a beautiful island, where we live a life pretty darn close to dream-like, and we truly appreciate this. So for now I am indulging myself by blaring music that sings to me, "liking" quotes that speak to me, and simply allow there to be empty space to sort out all the foreign puzzle pieces in my brain. And slowly my sentence structure is returning.