I once asked some friends who were returning to Australia after two years of volunteering in Tanzania “How long do you think it will take you to get used to being there?” Their answer was a couple of months.
After spending 6 weeks in the US, I can verify that answer. We were just getting used to the conveniences of life and how things worked in another world.
But now we’ve returned home.
Home is where the majority of my family is. Hannah is with her husband Luke in New Zealand, awaiting the birth of their first child next year. That leaves Pete, Liz and I.
We were all a bit anxious about returning because we knew what we were heading into. It will be home for a few more years. We were looking forward to a more familiar world and definitely not living out of a suitcase.
Home, a 4 letter word that means so much more than that.
Our first morning here was interesting. None of our showerheads were working, so I ended up having a bucket shower. One where you fill a bucket with boiled water and pretty much pour it over yourself a few times. I realized afterwards that I had forgotten to pull out the tap so water came out of the showerhead.
We thought our internet had pretty good speed, until we went overseas. Now it feels painstakingly slow. It’s way better than dialup but also much slower than what we experienced in the US.
Coming home meant unpacking an entire houselot of furniture from a spare room. Because the floors had been sanded and repolished all of the cupboards were full of red dust. You could tell that the workers had thumbed through our clothes hanging up because their fingerprints were all over the place. We also discovered they had stolen our very good iron and used our TV stand as a ladder. We knew because there was paint all over it. To say we weren’t happy campers is an understatement. And this was just Monday.
Of course, you can’t live in their world any more without the internet, but guess what wasn’t working when we returned? This meant trips down to the mall to visit our friendly staff at Zuku who worked it all out for us.
Jetlag, unpacking, buying food, meetings on day 3, all were a bit much. Before Liz headed off to volunteer at her preschool I insisted that she put up the Christmas tree to keep her busy. Liz had absolutely no worries about jetlag. She slept like a baby, while Pete and I got about 2 hours sleep and stayed awake the remainder of the night. We’ve never had such jetlag in our entire lives, and we’ve done a lot of travelling. It took an entire week to get back to normal.
Coming home also meant that we were broke.
We stayed two weeks too long on our trip. While we had a couple of schools in that time, it really put the financial pressure on us. We didn’t realize how expensive the US was going to be for public transport and food. We stretched ourselves way further than ever before. We don’t have a credit card to fall back on, no savings that we could dig into. What we had is what we had and with the fall in the Aussie dollar there wasn’t much bang for your buck.
Coming home meant coming back to very little freedom. This has been my biggest challenge to date. No more walking around at night. Always having our bags and cars checked at church and shopping malls. Having to take off my jewellery before walking out in public. Locking the metal gate and door every time you step out, even to get rid of the garbage.
The loss of freedom is something I haven’t got used to. A friend who lives here but is in New Zealand over the Christmas break, couldn’t help but send me a post of Facebook post to say she had just walked home at 10pm at night. I miss freedom.
But – this is home.