Home Again: The First Week

At about this time last week, I arrived in the Chicago O’Hare International Airport. After passing through immigration and passport control with impressive speed, stopping at the Mishawaka Apple Store for a fix, and making a weekend trip to Mississippi to surprise my little sister, I am home in Indiana. I feel like I have to clarify that because, really, I have two homes. Now that I’ve been back at my Indiana home for about a week, here are some things I’ve noticed, perhaps more flagrantly than on any previous visits home:

  1. I am a foreigner in my own city.
    More than ever before, Fort Wayne seems somehow different. Its not that Fort Wayne has changed–its pretty much the same, but the little things just feel strange–as if I am walking into a city that is not my own. I don’t feel like a complete stranger, but I have to consciously think about how to get certain places (and I’ve made the wrong turns!), and it just doesn’t feel totally natural being here.
  2. Which side of the road is actually right?
    Maybe this is just because I’ve driven a lot more cars in Dar es Salaam over the last six months, but getting into the correct side of the vehicle as a driver or passenger, and then, more importantly, pulling into the correct lane, is a deliberate decision. That’s new. And fun to joke about (until it actually happens and I find myself on the wrong side of the road).
  3. Wait, you don’t understand Swahili? At all?
    I’ve discovered that there are a number of words that, even when talking with my expatriate, English-speaking, friends in Tanzania, I say in Swahili. The reason I’ve noticed this is that I keep wanting to say them here, and no one has any idea what I’m talking about. “Pole,” for instance, means “I’m sorry you’re experiencing that (but its not my fault)” and is quite the fantastic word for all kinds of situations where I don’t know exactly what to say in English. Or, a random one, “Saa ngapi?” meaning, “What time is it?” somehow comes out quicker than its English equivalent. But nobody here has any idea what I’m saying…
  4. A life divided.
    This is probably the thing that stands out the most. I have two lives that have very little crossover. And I love them both. I love being in Tanzania, teaching at HOPAC, working with YoungLife, going to Kurasini, and hanging out with my friends in Tanzania. But I also love working at Summit City Bicycles, breathing in the open spaces of farmland, being with family, and cycling or playing volleyball with friends in Indiana. And when I am in either place, I feel like it would be terrible to ever leave that place. In some ways, it even feels a bit like I am two different people with lifestyles to fit my environment in each of my two worlds. I am living a life divided that I see no way of reconciling…and I don’t even know what to think about that.

All that to say, being home is different, interesting, thought-provoking, and, above all, VERY GOOD. I’m not sure that I will be updating much during my short/long (it depends on which “person” you’re asking–my TZ self, or my IN self) stay here in the U.S. I will be flying back to Dar mid-August and will resume regular updates then. 🙂

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