Friday, July 31, 2009

Going home…from home and back home….huh?

I have now been back in Paraguay for about one week. I took a two-week vacation to go back to the US to visit my family. I spent 16 days there and my visit spanned three states, more family than I can count, and a lot of fast food and home cooked food that I had been desperately missing.

My first night back in Paraguay, I stayed in a hotel in Asuncion and ran into a few volunteers who were also in town. They had many questions for me about my trip home – what had I eaten first (a favorite question among volunteers) and where had I gone…where was home? That has always been a difficult question for me. I mean, I spent 19 years in Florida and it’s the place I called home for the longest amount of time – even to date and yet I’ve never thought of Florida as home. After having left in 2000, it became simply the place my parents lived – that made it home-y but somehow, it just wasn’t home. For the next few years, I called many places home. I called a village in Burkina Faso, West Africa “home,” and then three years in Washington DC, two years in Rolle, Switzerland, and nine months in Vermont and now I’m working on my second year in Loma Grande, Paraguay. I’ve considered all of these places home but do I really still have a home in the US? Can an entire country just in some general way be, “home?”

My parents now live with my sister in Virginia and this was my “home-base” for my recent vacation. So, in “going home” I was really just going into a more or less “known” culture. I was with family and friends and Wendy’s Frosty and Chipotle and salt and vinegar chips. The main point is that I dislike answering the question, “where is home for you?” I noticed too, that I didn’t like answering that question from people in the US. When people asked me where I lived, I noticed that I didn’t really like telling them that I was living in Paraguay. For some reason, this is not necessarily, how I like to begin conversations with people. It’s not that I’m not proud of being a volunteer or about Peace Corps or even Paraguay for that matter. I’ve found that this often focuses the conversation around my life and work, which in all honestly I love. I love talking about my life and work. But in most instances, the attention is focused entirely on me and I often feel that that it somehow misguided. I guess it’s the “exotic-ness” of it that bothers me. It’s not exotic to me; it’s just life…a different kind of life sure, but just life all the same. But many see it as this very lofty thing, to choose to live a more humble life to help others. I think it says something about me and about my life that is easily misinterpreted and yet it’s not something I want to justify or explain to people either…especially not people I’ve only just met.

But back to the idea of home. I went home from home and now I’m back home but I’m also already missing home. Are you with me? Did you get that? Home for me has so many meanings. It’s more of a feeling than a place. Right now, the city of Loma Grande is my home but at the same time, the US in a general sense since I no longer have an actual home there, is my home. When I think of home (US) I think of the foods that I grew up with and that I love to eat, familiar voices on local radio stations and basically things that are familiar to me. Whenever I’m in Paraguay but not in Loma Grande – I get the same feeling. Going “home” to my own bed, my own food, and books. I love the home I’ve created for myself in Loma Grande and I appreciate the friends that I’ve made that have supported me and continue to do so. So, now I’m back home, from home and though I miss home, I’m glad to be home…

Got that? Keep a good thought friends….