coming home, wherever that will be

I’m in Addis now, waiting to close out my service. I said goodbye to Bahir Dar and the people who made my life in Bahir Dar interesting, if not great, for the last two years.

Twenty six months. It’s amazing how much can change in that amount of time.

I left Milwaukee thinking that in two years I could pick up right where I left off. Social life, job, relationship – all of it.

How stupid I was.

I wasn’t prepared for all that has happened back home. Good friends moving away, divorces, near divorces, pregnancies, babies, new jobs, new homes, health scares. The Milwaukee I knew — the life I knew — is gone, has vanished, never to be seen again. (Is that too dramatic?)

Since so much has changed, I’m not sure what really awaits me when I step off that airplane in August. And that’s why I’m casting a wider net in my job search. For the first time in my life, I don’t know if Milwaukee will be my home (besides my time in PC, of course).

It’s exciting but scary.

In that vein, I’ve come up with suggestions for friends and family to help make the transition back to American life a little easier:

Please be patient with me as I readjust. I don’t know what’s going to be difficult and what’s going to be easy. I need to figure that out as I go. Some people freak out in the grocery store. For me, it might be the sight of real bacon. It could be the first time I drive, or the seventh time I drive. Who knows. If I marvel at something simple, give me a pass. It’s been a while since I’ve had running water in my house.

Please only ask me a question if you actually want to know the answer. In return, I’ll try to keep my answer short and sweet so as not to have to watch your eyes glaze over. I’d love to talk about my experiences – in fact, sharing my host country’s culture with people in America is one of the three goals of Peace Corps  – but I could talk about it for a long time. Be warned.

Keep in mind that I’ve changed. And it’s probably in ways I don’t even know yet. If I behave a little differently than you remember, that’s because I’m a little different than you remember. Try to enjoy the new me. I will too.

Tell me if I’m being annoying. If I ever become the “When I was in Ethiopia…” girl, slap me. Seriously, slap me.

Please don’t ask me “What’s next?” or “Do you have a job?”* The answers are: “Not sure” and “Not yet.” If you must, come up with a specific question (e.g. “Where are you looking for work?”) or a creative way of asking me what’s on the horizon (“Did JT leave Jessica Biel for you yet?”). If I don’t have a job by then, it’s going to suck being reminded of that constantly. Not only that, I’ll probably have been asked a thousand times by the time you want to ask. That’s not fun.

*If I do have a job, I’ll answer those questions all day long. “But how will I know if you have a job and thus know if I can ask a question I already know the answer to?” Simple: I’m sure I’ll tell you without being asked. Also, if you have a job to give me, you can ask me whatever you like.

Try to make time to see me if you can. I know you guys are busy, but I miss you! It’s been two years! Don’t worry, I’ll ask questions about your life too.

I hope those are some helpful tips. I can’t wait to see you all in August! America, here I come!


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3 Responses to coming home, wherever that will be

  1. Katy KK says:

    You are so thoughtful. 🙂

  2. Amanda Schultz says:

    Hey Leah! Congratulations on what was sure to be an amazing chapter in your life! I’m also sure that these years and changes are only going to create additional opportunities for adventure and change- knowing you, you’ll make the most of each and every open door and window life presents. 🙂 I wanted to thank you for your post. Coming back from Honduras nearly two years ago, I’m not sure I had the wisdom to blatantly ask for what I needed from family and friends. People generally did a great job of being honest, genuine, and patient with me, and I was pleasantly surprised to come home with new eyes, recognizing/appreciating things in others that I never noticed before. That said, coming “home” were definitely challenging… know that there are lots of us that would love to hear your stories, talk about life, and support you in your journey!
    Best of luck to you in wherever the wind takes you!

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