I'm back in the states!
After a long year of traveling, adventuring, wondering what the year would bring- my time in American Samoa is over, and I've been spending the past two months traveling around the West and East coasts, getting ready to start grad school and all-around transitioning back into our weird US culture. After a year away from home, my first few weeks were spent reconnecting with my family and closest friends. I also had the difficult task of choosing which graduate school to attend & planning the next few years of my life- eep! Even the smallest task, like going through a years worth of mail, seemed like the most daunting chore. ALL of this has been a lot to balance. I often feel really overhwelmed by the process. I go through periods of intense sadness, missing my students and the Samoan friends I made. Then, periods of euphoria, being back at home where our resources are infinite and my old life is at my fingertips. Not suprisingly, I also miss the volunteers- now that we're back in the states- we're spread out everywhere, and it will be a while before we all hang out together again. Our program was a lot like college- an intense year of communal living and then you "graduate" and everyone goes a million different directions...except when it's Samoa...chances are you will NEVER see many of these amazing people ever again. It's a hard reality to come to terms with.
After a few weeks home and my head spinning a little bit less from the transition, I was able to call my host family, Saunoa, the doctor and his family, and a handful of students. It was a really emotional and wonderful experience. They were really excited and happy to hear from me- and the feeling was absolutely mutual! Talking to my students on the phone from the states was a surreal experience. I spent everyday with these amazing kids & now I feel so far removed. My life back here is SO incredibly different from my one, wild year in Samoa. Somehow, I'm trying to fit the pieces together and quilt the Samoan journey into the East Coast one I've had going on for twenty-odd years now. Everyday, another realization will hit illuminating how much I've grown or how much I've learned from the experience. From what I can tell now, I'm certainly a more adult version of myself: more self-assured, much more independent, more observant of my own culture/home and infinitely more appreciative and conscious of all of the amazing resources and opportunities I have as an American. The emotions I feel day-to-day are really roller-coastery and overwhelming...I'm happy to see everyone, but the social interaction can be too much after a year in a village of 100 people...going to the grocery store can be a serious outing! Sometimes, I often feel isolated emotionally...mostly b/c no one from home can really understand what I'm going through...even though I'm really lucky to have such loving and supportive family and friends in my life. But the transition inevitably gets easier everyday. This month I'm moving up to Boston to begin graduate work in Women's Studies. I'm completely excited about this new adventure (though somewhat apprehensive about the New England winters again--eeek)& ready to have some stability in a familiar place again...at least for a while.
Would I do it all over again? Absolutely. Will I do it again? Probably! I've got wanderlust for sure & the earth is too big and beautiful and too full of rich, amazing cultures to hang out on the east coast forever. But, after a year so far away from the northeast, I'm happy to say that there really is no place like home: the family farm, the new england woods, the cities, the resources & all of the amazing family and friends I have here- well...it's safe to say, I'm home for a long while. :)
If I have any more realizations/epiphanies/life-altering ideas from my travels abroad, I'll be sure to post them here. But, it's pretty safe to say, "over and out" now that I'm back from my year by the sea. <3