I leave tomorrow on a 36 hour journey to go back “home” yet at the same time I’m leaving “home”. It’s bittersweet always, and it never gets easier. I am always torn between these two worlds that are so opposite of each other. It never ceases to amaze me that I can hop on an airplane and find myself in such a different place.
I love people watching in airports, and there is a lot of people to be watchin’. They click around in their high heeled shoes, suits and carry briefcases. Screaming babies and sleep deprived mothers and dad’s who are completely oblivious. But it’s all lacking. Vacations, work, adventurer- they are all minding their own business without the friendly, welcoming smile you find in Uganda. Oh, and there are so. many. white. people. It sounds funny, but it always slaps me in the face “welcome to the grand ole U.S. of A.”, I feel like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.”. Except it’s Africa, and it’s not only just a “feeling”, I’m definitely not in Africa any more.
Upon arriving in the states I usually go to Starbucks almost immediately, but then I start the calculating- $7 for a drink and a pastry? You gotta be kidding me… I could do so much with that money in Uganda-$7=18,000 Ugandan shillings... but I always give in and find a corner and connect to the WIFI. The Starbucks is good, but my thoughts are a thousand miles away.
Clean restrooms, drinking fountains, nice floors, no chance of the power going out, roads without potholes and driving without dodging goats, cows or chickens. Fast food on every corner and running water in every home. The sweet dishwasher and washing machine… the washing machine always get me… I get used to the fact that I have to wash my own “baby clothes” while we pay our friend to wash everything else. The fact that eggs and milk are found in the fridge at the grocery store- unlike here where they are kept on the shelves. No more walking past men who yell “mzungu, i love you! you are beautiful!”. I can’t just hop on a motorcycle taxi and go where ever I choose for a quarter- yes, a quarter. There is no need to boil water before drinking or spray for mosquitoes. No more ants eating anything and everything we leave on the counter. Oh, and no more soda made with real cane sugar… It’s a whole new ballgame. A whole different culture.
It’s hard readjusting, harder than you might expect actually. Jet lag has nothing on me- but the cultural change is always hard to wrap my head around. It too much, too fast, too busy and not enough all at once. I have a meltdown every time I arrive home in the states, it’s normal, nothing some good chocolate can’t cure. It’s all good in the end.
But something I have learned in coming and going so often is that no body truly understands where you are coming from. 30 hours of traveling… man that’s cruel! They ask how I am, and I answer with a “fine” “good” or “great” and that’s the end of that. But if I were to really tell you how I am, it would take a lot longer than that. Missionary life is hard. It’s more than the adventure and the African heat, food and animals. It’ poverty and the woman knocking on my gate for money and the man with the crutches who makes his home on the side of the road. It’s the abandoned child and the boy with malaria and the girl who has ring-worm covering her head. It’s watching a mother bury her last born, her baby, and listening to the sorrow filled cries. It’s the rumors going around that I work for the devil and am going to steal children from the village parents. It’s the sadness and the goodness and the joy and the heartbreaks. It’s the finding life with a purpose, and if you really wanted to know how I am and how life in Africa is, it’s gonna take quite a bit of time. But honestly, I don’t think many understand the emotions of a missionary. Unless you’ve walked a mile in my dirty flip-flops, you won’t know. But friends, that’s okay. It’s okay that I have to be dependent on Jesus. Oh, it’s hard not to pour my burdens and challenges upon friends, but it’s something I’m learning. Many people will never fully understand Africa, or my heart for this new home of mine.
But Love knows. It knows where we’ve been, it knows what we are fighting for, it knows our pain and our struggles and hears our heart breaking. When nobody else can understand, when nobody else can look through and see what you have seen, when nobody can take the burden from our souls- Love does.
As I’m headed home I remember that He is always here. He doesn’t leave me at the airport- say good-bye, wish me well and send me on my way. He will not leave me, He will go before me. He knows every burden, every cry of my heart, every emotion I have felt. He won’t leave me at the security check in, because He is so much bigger than that. His love is enough.
USA, here I come.