Monday, September 10, 2012

America: “Everything is so tall and clean!”


Manahoana indray! (Hello again!)

Hope you all are well.  Sorry I haven’t been writing, but my trip to the states was an absolute whirlwind, and I am very happy I didn’t write as soon as I got back because the range of emotions that crept up on me upon my return was overwhelming haha.  So, back to the beginning.

After a lovely week back at the training center with my stage, retelling all of the shenanigans of the previous 3 months, I headed back to Tana with everyone to pack and hop on a plane.  Conveniently, there was another volunteer who was finishing her service and on the same flight, so we split a cab to the airport for our 1 am flight.  We get through everything and board the plane, and I realize that I am seated in “premium economy,” one step up from economy.  Either it was a mistake on the part of my mom and myself when booking through Expedia, or I got bumped somehow.  Either way I was ecstatic.  If there ever was a time for me to appreciate a premium class, it is after 6 months in a third world country on a 20 hour trip home.  So I settled in comfortable to my first flight, 10 hours.  I quickly took inventory of the movie selections, as I hadn’t even heard of some of the new releases.  I ended up watching the 5 year engagement first, because I knew it was filmed in Ann Arbor.  What I didn’t know was how much focus there was on Ann Arbor, which of course made me cry haha.  Luckily it was the middle of the night and most everyone else on the plane was sleeping.  Got to the Paris airport and found my new gate, and quickly grew very excited that people around me were speaking English.  AMERICAN ENGLISH.  The distinction is subtle, but still exciting.  I have a few friends in Madagascar that do speak English, mostly French people, but to hear American English was very different.  Hopped on to the next plane and was again surprised by premium economy.  So, in the 20 hours of travel, I got to have a mini French vacation, with wine, and cheese, and movies, and chocolate cake.  I got off the plane at DTW after another 8 hours and queued up for passport control.  Turns out, when they ask you why you were overseas and you respond “I’m a Peace Corps volunteer,” their response is simply welcome home, no questions asked.  The luggage hadn’t arrived yet, so I went to the bathroom to make sure I was presentable for my favorite person on the other side of the customs door.  My luggage came around fairly quickly when the carousel started moving.  Getting through customs was an easy feat, and then I practically ran to the big gray doors separating me from Michigan.  When I busted through them I started scanning the sparsely populated atrium and finally found Alex, who had come to pick me up.  We both had huge grins on our faces as we went to greet each other.  The whole thing felt so surreal. It still hadn’t sunk in that in less than 24 hours I could be back home.

We walked out to Alex’s sleek black Mustang (ahhh yes, America) and began driving back to his apartment.  The car ran so smoothly, quickly, quietly.  Everything was so tall and shiny and clean.  And no one was staring at me (well maybe Alex, who probably was having a hard time believing I was actually there).  We dropped my stuff off at his apartment, and since I had been craving sandwiches for 6 months (Madagascar does NOT do good sandwiches) we went to Panera (judge me all you want for my first meal, it was delicious).

The next morning, we went to surprise my mom at church, because I hadn’t seen her yet.  She knew I was in town, but she didn’t know I was coming to church.  So we stood across the lawn during social hour when she finally spotted me talking to a group of friends.  Mission accomplished haha.

I will spare you the play by play of the three weeks that followed, but I had a wonderful birthday, a great time at Tina’s bachelorette party and rehearsal dinner, a wonderful time seeing one of my best friends get married, a fabulous weekend in Chicago going to Wrigleyfield and seeing DSP people again, and a magnificent time with my visiting grandparents.  Overall I got to see a lot of people and catch up with them, making three weeks feel about like three minutes haha.

Before I knew it, it was time to get back on the plane to come back to Mada.  The whole time I was in the states, it felt as though Mada had been a dream, because everything in America was pretty much the same as I had left it.  My sister had a new house, my boyfriend was switching jobs, but all in all, I was still dropping my mom off at work and then running errands.  It was a very weird feeling.  It felt like 6 months just disappeared, not in the sense that they went quickly, but that they just didn’t exist.  The same feeling occurred upon my return to Mada; I felt as though the month in the states didn’t happen, and it should be August 12.

It was also harder to leave the second time.  Maybe it was because this stint will be longer, or maybe because the sense of adventure wasn’t as poignant because I knew more of what to expect.  Maybe it was because I didn’t have 29 other people going through the same thing.  Whatever it was, I was not a happy camper on the plane, or when we touched down in Tana.  Getting back to the Meva with other volunteers cheered me up a bit, but it wasn’t until I got back to Miarinarivo and saw Emma, Eric, and all my Malagasy friends that I started to feel settled again, and remembered why I was here.  Having other volunteers as your support system makes a world of difference.

So now, on to the next chapter.  Apparently with a kick start, as my host family from Mantasoa called me on Wednesday to tell me they wanted to come to Miarinarivo on Friday (GAHHHHHHH NOOOOOOOOOO), which I got them to push back until Monday (stress level midnight).  But it will be great to show them around, and certainly an interesting experience.

More on that next time.

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