Saturday, September 3, 2011

The challenges of home

I have been home for a little over 6 weeks... perhaps it's time for an update. =)

Let's Tarantino this entry and I'll start by telling you what has been so shocking about being home (i.e. what has inspired this entry to be written RIGHT NOW) and then I can recap what has been happening in my life the past several weeks. K?

Recurring themes in my life that remind me how much I have changed and remind me that I am no longer in South Africa:

I was just driving around town and was waiting to pull out onto Route 611, a pretty decently large road with a lane of traffic going in each direction and a center turning lane. So I'm sitting there, half listening to a story on the radio and waiting for a good opportunity to turn... there was no one waiting behind me so I was taking my time. There was a gap in traffic and I decided to wait, even though it probably would have been enough time for me to gun it and enter traffic... then this guy, passes and gestures to me with a shrug like "What the heck? Why didn't you go?" It really irritated me! What business of it is his if I go or not? It's not like I was being ambiguous or indecisive. I was just sitting there... why does he care that I just didn't feel like burning rubber out into traffic to make it where I was going. It was like he was saying "Why aren't you in a rush like everybody else!?" My opportunity came about 30 seconds later with a large gap in traffic coming from both directions. What's 30 seconds? Why is everyone always in a rush??

Joburg is, by no stretch of the imagination, a slow city. It's fast-paced, people jump out in traffic all the time, and walk quickly to get where they're going... but there's a balance. If I want to stand and talk to someone for a while, there's no problem with that. It's still perfectly acceptable to take your time...

I didn't think that being car-less would be such a challenge for me. I didn't have a car for most of my time in college... I lived without a car for a year in South Africa. But, my life living at home now has been extremely restricted by not having a car. I miss the taxis in South Africa SO much. I could get absolutely ANYWHERE by taxi during my year there... for very cheap! Of course, I'd have to wait for an unknown amount of time before I could arrive, but the point was I really could get anywhere. Now that I'm back in the states, I can't get anywhere! The public transportation here in the Poconos is lacking, at best. To get to Philadelphia, about a 2 hour drive away is $40 by Greyhound bus! That's 280 rands! I could go from Joburg to Pietermaritzburg by busfor that much! (6 hours away!!) And by taxi, it'd be even less.

It's funny that the USA is called the "land of the free"... what does this actually mean? Do we really believe we are more free here than people are in other countries?? (See South Africa's constitution... I think you may be surprised) And even if our economic, social and political world is supposedly constructed to fit with the "land of the free" picture, does our culture live up to that title?? Are we free? Are we free from the influence of corporations? Free from the grip of poverty? Free to REALLY speak our minds in a politically incorrect way? Are we free to be strong, healthy, educated and strong-willed people who challenge our government and keep them accountable? Or are we taking what we're given and living as victims?

Shifting gears a bit, I have never been more grateful for my family. My immediate family, who I am currently living with, has put up with SO much emotional up & down from me. It has not been easy for them to re-adapt to having me home. They missed me, but any change in family dynamics upsets the previous established order. My sister got used to being an "only child". My parents got used to only communicating with me once a week (now they have to hear about my weird dreams and strange ideas all the time!! Haha) They have been patient. They have talked me down from my occasional melt-downs. They have told me to breathe on numerous occasions. They are awesome.

My MUD family, the other volunteers, have been so good for me, as well. So far, I communicate with at least one of the other volunteers nearly every day... And some days, like yesterday, I get to talk to 4 or more! =)We are all at different points in our readjustment. Some are 100% ready to go back to South Africa, while others are just glad to be home but continue to struggle with getting re-established. Some are already gainfully employed, while others of us are still searching for work. But we all speak the same language these days and it's nice that they understand.

That's all for now, I believe. I will write again with the nitty-gritty details of how the past few weeks have been going. For now, I need to go do some dishes (yay for contributing to the workings of the household! Haha) and I also need to prepare for this evening as I am going to see some friends from camp. =)

Hope each of you is doing well and remembering to enjoy every moment, every challenge and joy that life hands you. =)
I promise I'll update again soon.


  1. I really enjoyed reading this post Manders. I really appreciate your insights into what is a VERY difficult time of transition indeed. I remember about a year ago I was in the middle of a huge 'melt-down' with my mother because I had changed so much during my year away...I think she didn't know how to handle it and I certainly didn't know how to handle being back 'under their roof'. You will never be the same again, this is a fact! YAGM changes us, it smacks us in the face, turns us upside down, shakes us like a rag doll and then throws us back into the world from which we came. Good thing God is with us every step of the way :) SHINE!

  2. Amanda, everything you say is true. The thing my SA friends marvelled at the most here was the cereal aisle in the grocery store. So many choices...they were overwhelmed. You will get more used to being home, but you'll never be the same. cfm