Over the Christmas holidays we had the opportunity to go back to Louisiana and spend some weeks with family. It had been 16 months since we had set foot on U.S. soil and we had trepidations about how the reintegration would affect us. We took our time getting back, stopping in both White River, South Africa and London, England for a couple of days at each location. It was nice to allow ourselves some in-between time. It gave us the opportunity to break the 17 hour drive and 20 hour flight into a few days of travel, rather than one full push. Our intentions where to avoid using a large part of our vacation just recovering from travel. It was a well designed plan with a bit of adventure and rest mixed in.
England has long been on my list of the top 5 countries to visit, and I was looking forward to sitting in an English Pub enjoying a pint with friends and family. Elizabeth's college roommate, Mae Christie, is a Vicar with the the Church of England, and she was quite a hospitable host. Not only did she facilitate our pub visits, but she and her husband outfitted us for the bitter cold and piercing winds of an English winter. Mae met us at the airport wearing her Vicar collar and reindeer antlers! it was a joy spending time with her, seeing her amazing 110 year old Cathedral and participating in an Eucharist service.
We left our house in Maxixe, Mozambique on the early morning of December 10th and arrived in Mansfield at 11:00pm on December 16th, tired but ecstatic to see family after such a long time. As we settled into the yellow house, our accommodation for the next six weeks, a sense of peace and familiarity fell upon us and we crashed.
The next couple of weeks were a blur of family, friends, and food. We surprised people who had no knowledge of us coming back, as we kept our travels as quiet as possible, we ate tacos from Ki Mexico, we hugged grandparents, we ate tacos, we played in hay fields and ran on golf courses, we ate tacos. i was reunited with my mountain bike at long last, and we managed to find time to eat tacos (did I mention that). We found little trouble in repositioning ourselves into the culture from where we came.
There were, however, two cultural reintegration "events" of note. The first occurred in the first hours of being back in the States. We stopped at a gas station on our way home, having been picked up at the Dallas airport and driving 4 hours to the house. As I stood in front of the cooler staring at so many options of peeled, cut fruit in the mist of a convenience store five times the size of our three aisle grocery store, I had brief and slight moment of panic. I was reminded everything really is bigger in Texas. So many options in such a large space was not what I was expecting in my tired, jet-lagged state. A deep breath and a decision of watermelon brought me back to my self.
The second occurred on my first day driving in Shreveport. Mindlessly I pulled out of the parking lot of a local business and continued to my next errand. I looked ahead and was confronted with a car coming straight at me, in my lane! I was on the brink of road rage when it dawned on me, I was driving in the wrong lane. You see, in Africa, the steering wheel is on the right side and you drive on the left. I had fallen back into my Africa driving habits. Elizabeth and I managed a laugh after we safely righted our path. Admitedly, mine was more hearty than hers.
Overall our trip was great, and much needed. We viewed our time as a chance to reconnect to what brought us to our Mission. We judged how our lives had changed and who we are now based on the comparison of countries and cultures. We longed to find out if the country we left, the one we had been building up in our minds over the past year and a half was indeed what we remembered or was it glorified in an attempt to find footing as we attached ourselves to a former version of us. We are sure of one thing, we are different Americans because of our time living abroad.
I've taken to say "America is the land of Opportunity." And with this opportunity will can fill our days to the brim, always finding an activity or cause to whittle away the waking hours. Elizabeth and I found ourselves falling back in to the routine of scheduling our days until we grumpily and exhaustedly fell asleep. It was in this, a real appreciation for the remoteness of our little part of Africa surfaced. I began to long for the time when there was nothing to do, because where we are there are no shopping malls, no running clubs, no committee meetings, no organized after school activities, it is just us. After work and school we return to our small and cozy home and we just Be. They girls will play outside, Elizabeth and I enjoy a cup of tea as we look upon the bay. Because of the brutal heat, we spend out time outdoors in the shade and we live a simple life.
There has been much spiritual and mental growth during our time in Mozambique. I am thankful in the many ways God has shown and delivered God's glory to us and our community. And also, I am thankful for the new way we live, the more relaxed, less rushed style in which we approach our family time. I found this was what I missed the most during our visit to Louisiana.
January 30th began another adventure, a visit to PA and snow storms, 17 hour flights, three hour border stops, broken down cars, and a new puppy acquisition, but we arrived back in Maxixe on Feb 7th, late in the evening. We were greeted by a surprise party by our new friends and neighbors. They lovingly made posters and dinner for us. It was a welcome site after months of travel and change. As we sat on the back porch and watched the girls chase our new French Bulldog around the yard, we felt how good it was to be back home.