Well, I finished up my service in Sausal, moved all my sh*t to Lima, put it in storage, grabbed my plane ticket and I've been home since December 22nd and returning to Peru this evening. One of the perks of sticking around for a third year is that you earn a round trip ticket and 30 days home leave. So I definitely took advantage of this, tacked on a few extra days of vacation and have got to relax with family and friends.
Is it weird being back? Well yes and no. I was home for a week in May for a wedding, but time blurred by – there was always somewhere to go, someone inviting me to a beer. Being home for much longer is a bit more relaxed. And the readjustment curve isn't as drastic since we don't exactly live in the bush in Peru. But in some aspects, it has been a bit odd, overwhelming, and agitating.
The best example I can give is my boxing gym. I've boxed at this gym since I was 16 and keep going back. So naturally one of the first things I did after Xmas is show up and start working out again. It's under new ownership and now shares it's space with a barbell club and a kettle ball/fitness club. And they fixed all the leaks in the roof. But the same heavy bags, rind, timer with a busted light, and hell even a lot of familiar faces are still showing up and remembering who I am (even without my golden mane). So while there's some minor changes, it's still largely the same.
And that's how it is to be back in the States after two years absence. Sure, details have changed. My friends are finishing up grad school, have steady jobs, and one is getting married. My cousins moved houses and my grandma's house is vacant. People change jobs, but they don't change too much. And that's the thing with family and good friends – while some of the details are different, I'm back in the mix of things like I haven't missed a beat.
My punk band reconvened for an afternoon basement session and then more friends converged to Pittsburgh to spend New Year's weekend together. Most of us haven't seen each other since graduating Wooster almost three years ago, and even then only in small group settings. We even lucked out as our Navy buddy was in town for a rare appearance. We talked. We drank. We ate. It was good.
It's the same with the family. Although I haven't been around for awhile, most of the details haven't changed. Sure, I'm usually out of the loop on anything that has happened in the past months. That's bound to happen. But regardless, it's as warm and welcoming as ever. We talked. We drank. We ate. And it was good.
The biggest adjustment, and I expect it's similar with many RPCVs, is finding a new purpose while being at home. Since the days aren't action packed when you're home for a month, sometimes there's really nothing to do. At site, I was always busy visiting families, attending meetings and any number of activities. I had things to do. I was working. But here, I've been more restless – maybe there's somewhere to go in the evening, or at least a drive out to the gym and a 90 minute work out, but slowly I've started to realize that my life is more defined by Peace Corps and Peru than I thought. A significant chunk of my social circle is now south of the equator, as is the past two years of my life. A lot of my stories have the word Peru or volunteer in the first two sentences. And some of the stuff I talk about (how awesome it was to have a washer, combi stories, dry composting bathrooms) simply don't register with people like they did in Peru.
Being home has been great. Living abroad for 2+ has given me time to be more reflective, and I realize that while they're not highly vocal, my family is truly my biggest supporter. Leaving and saying goodbye at the airport gate wasn't too difficult when I first left the States, but this time is going to be a little more difficult.
Hasta manana, Peru.