We have been back in the Midwest for over a month and a half now, and away from Thailand for three months.
A few different books and people have told me that the transition back to your ‘home’ country (or ‘passport’ country as one book used the term) can be just as difficult, if not more so, as the transition to your country of service. I can now officially vouch for this.
What exactly is hard about the transition back? That's interesting because it's more difficult to put your finger on. It could be a combination of things that all add up...
- Adjusting to the extreme time difference typically takes a couple of weeks for me to have a normal sleep cycle again. Add in the stress of job-hunting, and sleep cycles can get interrupted again.
- Little events make me feel like there is a brief 'catch' in my breath. This morning, I realized that I was opening my last green tea bag that I bought in Thailand. While I won't necessarily miss the actual tea (it was very cheap and bought in bulk at a Costco-type store but it did the trick), the fact that it's from Thailand and my way of life and home for eighteen months is a more accurate, emotional connection.
- There are bigger events that more than take my breath away. A couple of patients have passed away since we left. One of the patients had been fairly weak since he was brought to the Care Center a year ago April. John, the Thai staff, and the patient's wife had been very involved in his care. While we knew that his death might come in the near future, it is still hard. If he had the advantages of a rich person in a different situation, would his life had been extended a bit more? It's hard to say, but those types of questions come up for me.
- Another patient passed away shortly after we left. This one feels harder to accept because she was someone that we hoped to see on visits to Thailand in future years. Her spirit and smile will stay with me always. It's too emotionally difficult and tiring to publicly share more about her at this time.
...There have been joyful moments and experiences since our arrival back, too. We both spent some extended time with our parents and families. I spent a full week in the Detroit area at my parent's home, which will be more complicated to do once we have jobs again.
We have spent time connecting with friends again, in Chicago and elsewhere. I traveled to Baltimore to see a childhood friend and her baby and husband. There has been plenty of laughter and sharing.
Another difficult aspect of catching up with everyone in person again: I see the nuances and history of the last twenty months flood through at moments. It's not always verbal but more of a feeling, an emotional history: the pain and joy of each person's journey while we were away. While this isn't normally overwhelming, catching up with so many people dear to us, all within a short amount of time, was hard for me at first. It's a matter of numbers. Everyone is catching up on mine and John's experiences: a total of two experiences. While we catch up on everyone else's: dozens or more.
But I wouldn't give any of this up, even if it's hard. I'm grateful for the person I became and am becoming because of my time in Thailand. While I'm still navigating how to do this, I am glad that I am more intentional about my life than I was before I left. Overall, I feel like I have choices when it comes to how my life is going to look. From the simple but important everyday, like having less material stuff and eating more healthy. To the more complicated: of how I choose to spend my time.
Now if I could just remember this gratitude after a full morning of job-searching and writing cover letters. Or when I forget momentarily, once again, that we drive on the right side of the road in the USA.
Lastly, let me say 'thank you' again to you all. We have such a stellar support network. Thank you for showing your understanding in all kinds of ways since we have been easing back into life stateside. Or even when we're not 'easing' into it, but pushing through the tough moments of any transition. Until next time.