I left home 3 weeks ago today, and not a day has gone by when I haven’t missed it. I miss my family, I miss my friends, I miss my bed and hot showers and turkey sandwiches. Oh my goodness, I miss turkey sandwiches. I wish I could drive my car around and belt out songs or relax on a couch and watch TV. I want to hug my mom.
I made it through the first week and was feeling mostly okay, just very homesick. Then I met my amazing host family and moved into a new little home in a town that seemed as foreign as Mars. Let me tell you, culture shock is real. I walk everywhere, I drink liters upon liters of water a day (which, if you know me, is extremely unusual haha), I live with chickens and goats and the occasional, very unwelcome, mouse. I eat strange foods that I’m still trying to get used to, and I’m finding the shops in the market that sell cookies. 🙂 I go to bed shortly after the sun sets, and I wake up when it rises. I draw water from a borehole, take bucket baths, use a pit latrine, and sweep my front yard that’s made of dirt. I’ve made incredible new friends whom I already love so much. I feel like I’ve known them my whole life instead of just three short weeks.
There are many wonderful things about this new life I’ve chosen, but a big part of me still misses the one I left behind. I got really sick halfway through my first week in homestay, and all I wanted to do was go home. I felt like two years was an impossibly long amount of time to commit to living in this strange environment with people I don’t know and food I don’t like, and I didn’t think I could go one more day without being around my family and friends back in America. This whole experience is further out of my comfort zone than I ever honestly expected to be, but I think that’s what makes it worth it. When I was telling my sister how I was feeling and how I was planning on coming home, she shared a quote from the infinite wisdom of Coach Jimmy Dugan from one of our family’s favorite movies, A League of Their Own: “If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” I doubt she has any idea how much that snapped me back to my senses, but it’s exactly what I needed to hear. It reminded me that I came here for a reason, and I came here knowing that it would be hard. I chose to come here even though it would be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I believe that it will be worth it. It will be worth all the sleepless nights and the crippling homesickness and the frustration of the language barrier and the sicknesses and complete lack of free time. I don’t have ice or orange juice or carpet or a TV or running water or electricity or a car or any of the comforts of home. And I won’t have those things for two years.
But I have stars.
I have a vast sky full of more stars than I ever imagined existed. I look up at Venus and the Milky Way, and I feel so, so small. It’s comforting to feel so small, to remember that there’s a whole universe out there, and that my problems, though they seem colossal to me at the moment, really aren’t that noteworthy in the grand scheme of things. I’m so incredibly lucky to be here, living out my dream with a group of people who all just want to make a difference in this world. And I think we will. I don’t think we’ll change the entire world, but I do think we’ll impact a few people, and to me, that’s worth it.
So, I’m trying to focus on the things I do have. I have friends with the most beautiful hearts. I have a family who takes care of me and laughs with me until my face hurts. I have a bike and a home and music and books. I have neighbors to dance with and village children who greet me with such enthusiasm every single time I pass through town (which is at least four times a day). I have the best support system back home who (almost) all told me that I needed to stay here when all I wanted was to hear them tell me to come home. Their faith in me helps me have faith in myself. I know I’m supposed to be here. I have everything I really need. And I’ll be okay. I’ll be more than okay! If I ever doubt that, all I need to do is look up at night at the majesty of those stars, and they put me right back in my place.