Thursday, December 12, 2013

Reflections: changing me

I have been meaning to write this and finish it, but all I have are smidgets and bocadillos of how I am feeling, of my heart, of my life right now. Instead of making it something beautiful or trying to tone the emotions, I am just going to give it to you as it is:

Try 1: (Monday evening)
From the first night in Arequipa
To the last day in Arequipa...
Four months ago today, I left my busy, (sometimes) monocultural life and moved to Arequipa, Peru. My life became less busy and more monocultural (though this time, the culture was not even close to my native culture). This morning, I said goodbye to three of the most important people in my life from this past semester: Papi, Mama, and Mari. I said goodbye to Mari before I even ate breakfast; I said goodbye to Mama when she entered the Clinic; I said goodbye to Papi after checking in at the airport. I hope I will see them again, but I have no idea what the future holds. My heart hurts and my emotions are exhausted.

What have I learned during this past month? Since the last reflection? This past semester? Since I left the States? In a word: lots. I don't know where I should start. I don't know how I should go about this final reflection. I don't know how to explain it all. I just don't know.

Try 2: (Thursday morning)
From sharing heart-wrenching goodbyes
These past two weeks have been so difficult. Between saying goodbye to my family and my friends, finishing final exams, packing my entire life, finalizing plans for traveling with my siblings, and trying to emotionally recover, every night this week I have gone to bed and slept when my head hit the pillow, woken up exhausted, and slept on any transportation between our scheduled stops.

To cherishing silly memories...
We've been crying, cranky, and crushed. Our world has just changed drastically. We will probably never see the people with whom we have walked the past four months. The people at home who are waiting for us will not understand us. We have changed and they have not. We're different and we're afraid. Will they ask the right questions? Will they listen well? Will they even sort of understand? The world to which we are returning often has not traveled, has not lived in another country, has not lived in another culture. Our worlds have grown and to us, it seems that the worlds of those at home have shrunk.

I am unbelievably blessed. My parents have lived in Guam; Cheri, in Spain; Marcus, in PA (if you don't think this is another culture, go ask him about it); Bill (self-dubbed godfather), Guam. They understand culture, saying goodbye, wanting to stay, loving your family, being misunderstood, and leaving your heart behind.

Try 3/Una mezcla de conclusiones: (Thursday Afternoon) 
If this seems poetic, too much, a rant, overwhelming... you may tone it down in your mind. These were the first tries at explaining my emotions, coming home, and saying goodbye. I'm exhausted and I feel homeless. My heart is torn in two pieces.

From the llamas in Selva Alegre
(and in front, Buddy, our pet llama)
I don't want to go to the States. I want one last day in Arequipa, one last almuerzo with mis padres, one last English session with Mari, one last run around the park with my llamas. I want to hold Yosely's hand and have Emily link arms with me. I want to laugh with Estefania and Soledad and hear Franco and Rafael joking about everything. I want to aggressively play futbol with Alvaro and have Kosef join us for another Bible Study. I want to have my home again.

To my family in the States...
At the same time, I just want to see my family "norteamericana". I'm ready to curl up in my bed. I want my piano. I want a bajillion hugs. I want to play in the snow. I want to curl up in warm sweaters and play legos with Caleb. I want hot chocolate and Mom's cooking. I want veggies and pot roast and grilled chicken marinated in italian dressing and stroganoff and chocolate chip cookies. I want to listen to my family talking obnoxiously loud. I want to hear my siblings bicker. I want to have my home again.

I want to be home. It's a little statement, but it encompasses so much. What I've learned after four months is that I will never have one single home again. A part of me will always be in Holland. A part of me will always be in Calvin. A part of me will always be in Arequipa. It isn't bad. It's part of growing up. It's part of moving. It's part of knowing the world. I miss the innocence of having just my little home in little Holland with my immediate family and yet I am so glad I have grown up, seen the world, and have a yearning to continue learning.

From the tombs in Sillustani
I've grown, changed, learned, loved,
 become more myself, more God's
daughter, more of who I want to be
To the jungle in Puerto Maldonado...


  1. Dear Laurel,
    Every time I came home from college, I felt lost in the world I used to know. I had grown up some, they had changed some and coming together was leaving my college family, my Dan's family, and finding a CA family that functioned very well without me. (I thought). Leaving pieces of your footprints in other's lives is a good thing. You have touched others in ways no one else every will, and the same is true of them. God puts us in weird places, but so many years later I finally could see the paths through them. Blessings on you and have fun with Marc.
    aunt ellen

    1. Thanks, Aunt Ellen. It is incredibly helpful to know that I have family who understands :) Love you lots!!