Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Home is where the heart is

Before I begin, I need to be sure to thank some very important people.  It’s a big list this time.  Since I am heading back to the US on the 1st of July, I wanted to make sure I had a chance to thank all of the supporters I’ve had, but who I haven’t been able to thank yet.  This list includes supporters for May, June, and July.  I’ve had an amazing year, in part thanks to: Bishop John Smylie, Press Stephens and the Foundation for the Episcopal Church in Wyoming, Christ Church Mission Committee and the Bargain Box, The Cowger Family, The Fox family, Pat and Connie Keller, Lee Ann Hand, Betsy Sell, The Sunderlands, Madeline Galagan, Mary Caucutt, Jill Carow, Randall Neilson, The Schnackenbergs, Carra Wetzel, John Galagan, The Whitlocks, Mrs. Wilkinson, Connell Keegan, Sue and Dallas Davis, The Call Family, Francis Clymer, and Nick Galagan.

Home is a funny concept.

At this time last year, I was in between two trips that I would have considered huge in any normal year.  I had just returned from France and was getting ready to spend 2 weeks in New York.  I was absorbing every moment I had at home.

When I left for Tanzania in July, I knew that I was doing the right thing.  I was excited to have the amazing experience I knew was coming, but it was hard to leave home.  I don’t remember ever living anywhere but Wyoming and have always considered Cody home.   The 2 hours from Cody to Billings and the airport I was flying out of was the hardest drive of my life.  It’s a good thing I was only in the passenger seat.  My vision was a little blurred. J

When I pulled into Dodoma the first time, I remember thinking, “Here’s my new home.”  It didn’t feel like it yet, but I hoped it would soon.  I walked into my front door, looked around, and thought “Sure, I can live here for a year.  It’s quite good, actually.”  I had walls around me, a roof over my head, a bed, cooktop, refrigerator, and a mosquito net.  Simple?  Yes, but I really didn’t need anything else.  After all, this was a temporary living situation as far as I was concerned. 

When I came home from my safari in October, I realized that Dodoma wasn’t quite home yet.  The safari seemed like another thing to do on my trip to Tanzania.  I had begun to refer to Dodoma as home, but it was mostly out of habit.  It’s much easier to think that way and to talk that way than it is to feel that way.  Returning still felt like I was coming back to a hotel room after a short trip away. 

A couple of months later, I had another opportunity to travel around and see a bit of Tanzania that reaches farther than my Dodoma bubble.  I had an eventful Christmas break and was glad to get home to a familiar bed.  At the time, I would have told you that it felt like I was returning home, but I realize now that it wasn’t quite there yet.  Even after 5 months here, it still felt like a temporary place.  I may have been resisting the urge to fully call it home knowing that it was only mine for a short time.

After my week and a half away at Easter, I knew all of that had changed.  The time away felt like a vacation, much different to the feeling I had in October.  The bus pulled into the stand in Dodoma and I looked for a taxi to take me home.  It was no longer a temporary place that I got to experience.  It was my home. 

I sit here with three weeks left before I leave Tanzania.  Three weeks to the day before I hop on a bus, taxi to the airport, spend roughly a day and a half in airports or airplanes, and land stateside with my parents at the airport anxious to see me.  I think back to what was surely ten years ago, but also could be last month.  Three weeks before I came to Tanzania.  In a way, I feel the same, but in so many ways it is different.

How can I describe it?  The short way I’ve been telling people who ask is that it feels like I’m leaving home to go to a place I only call home, knowing that if I ever actually get to make it back, it won’t be my home at all.  Confused?  Let me try to help.

I will have spent almost a year in Tanzania.  Every person I met and every friend I hung out with was here.  My entire life, with the exception of a few Skype calls and Facebook messages, has been in Tanzania.  It has truly felt like home.  Not only is it the place where I escape at the end of the day, but it’s the place that has granted me adventures, growth, and fantastic new friendships.  I have fallen in love with Tanzania.

In three weeks, I will say goodbye to everyone I have met this year.  They will all return home or to a vacation destination.  Most of them will return a month later, but some will stay away.  Like me, they are done with Tanzania, at least for now.  If I make it back at some point, even if it is only a year away, Dodoma will be changed.  Friends I leave will have left and new people will be here.  My home here will never feel the same. 

As excited as I am to see all my friends and family in Wyoming, part of me isn’t looking forward my return.  It is so hard to leave home knowing it will never be the same again.  It is harder to return to a place that should feel like home.  Yes, I am looking forward to real hamburgers, and root beer.  It will be nice when a hole in the road is not “fixed” by sticking a branch from a nearby tree in it so that people avoid it.  I’m not sure I’m ready to be bombarded the things I have lived happily (and been better off?) without for the past year.

Home is where the heart is
No matter how the heart lives
Inside your heart where love is
That's where you've got to make yourself
At home

1 comment:

  1. Love it Heidi. Enjoy your last couple weeks in Tanzania. I'm so happy your feel at 'home' there now and have made so many friends, what a great opportunity you have had! Looking forward to seeing you 'around'. Safe travels.