We’re undergoing a slight rebound of homesickness now. It’s certainly not as pronounced and almost all-consuming as that bit we had back in Novemberish, but we are a little homesick nonetheless.
I think it’s because of two things. One: mid-service. Having seen the entire group again brought back all these memories of September, when we were so newly immersed in all this newness. Back then, all the talk was about expectations and about how this whole experience will alter your perceptions and – yes, it’s really cliché, but – change you. And back then, we were the people we were. That is, we came into this adventure from our corporate jobs, our college days, our familiar routines back in the known universe of the USA. And it’s not that at mid-service, people were all that different; nor is it that we talked about what going home will be like. Still, somewhere in our three-day crossing of paths there were the people we will be, the people who will return home, the year having come to a close at last, and be inarticulably alienated from our familiar old US. Mid-service somehow conjured up two selves – each a year apart in age – for everyone.
I’m sure I’m not making sense. Here it is more plainly: mid-service is, well, the middle of this volunteer experience. There are three times all 40 of us (give or take a few) are together: 1) orientation, 2) mid-service, and 3) end-service. Having been together for the second of three times brought to mind both the first and third times we’ll all be gathered in one place. And we have lives that lie beyond those first and third encounters. So mid-service made me, at least, think about home before and after this year in Ecuador. And that got me a little homesick.
It’s a different variety of homesickness, though.
The second cause is the fact that we went home for Christmas. Coming back here wasn’t as difficult as we anticipated because we saw that there are things about home that we miss, and there are also things we don’t miss. My brief visit to Madison West High School, for instance, happened to fall on a particularly cumbersome day just before winter break; as a result, it was kind of a downer. I got to hear about the workload, about intra-departmental bickering, about nightmarish parents. It didn’t make me miss my job. And to tell the truth, there’s a lot about how people interact with each other back home –especially in times of confrontation – that is thoroughly unpleasant. We miss the seasons, the landscape, the house, the familiarity and ease, the proximity to family and to resources, the pets. But back in November, our homesickness was wholesale. We missed “everything.” Now, we’re wiser. We won’t ever go back to the over-glorified “home” that we missed during the skewed perceptions of November. It doesn’t exist. It never has. Instead, come August, we will go home to a familiar place that we now understand differently. It won’t even be the home that we knew last August.