Thursday, January 1, 2015

Holiday De-Briefing

I feel like a lot has happened in such a short period of time, so I'm gonna blow through events trying to get my head around them.

1) Christmas

Celebrations in Ethiopia were...pretty mild. There's no large build up, no light up snowflakes on lampposts, wreaths on store fronts, carols in stores. It's all in your head, and in hindsight I think I held onto that Christmas idea hard because it was from home and America, so the day comes, you have dinner with friends, and that's it.  No one around you is even celebrating, because the dates are different.

I had expected, coming back, for Christmas to be a big deal again. But it wasn't. Maybe it's because I didn't have decorations in my apartment, or maybe because it didn't feel that special anymore now that everyone was celebrating. Or perhaps it was the fact that I wasn't excited for the holiday, but rather going home and seeing family.

I'm probably gonna peg some of it on displaced traditions too. I didn't decorate a tree this year. The stocking I've had since my first Christmas had been replaced while I was gone. I didn't bake any cookies - my sister had taken up the 'baker' position of family when I left and so all the tupperware containers were filled by the time I landed in DTW. 

It was another sign of how my family has adopted to my absence, of things that have happened while I was gone that I missed.

But back to Christmas. It felt like just a normal day, except for presents and the mass of people who ate around the dining room table. I enjoyed it, immensely, but I didn't have that magical feeling of Christmas I can recall having a few years ago. Maybe that is PC's doing, maybe it's just growing up cuz if I had to pick a year where I was most filled with the Christmas Spirit it would have to be sophomore year of high school.

2) Up North

We took a family vacation up north for a weekend to ski. Except, our ski day got rained out. That was a first. But still, it was a nice couple of nights. We had no signal, so we played a lot of games and did a lot of reading. It was nice, and I think helped reconnect us after not really having isolated family time in years.

Plus, it was fun to have them comment on the rustic nature of the trip and then share stories of my much worse situations. Oh no! The hot water tanks is only so big? We'll just have to heat water in the kettle and wash up with that and a wash cloth. Trust me, it's easy.

It was also interesting because of the drinking. My parents have been giving us wine glasses at dinner since 16, but this year we were all 21. Dinners out included rounds of drinks. Card games were played over liquor. I love my parents, but they've always been that. Parents. Figures who controlled my life through chores, allowances, and rules. But that weekend, I feel we were all on equal footing and it was a nice change of pace. It had at one point morphed from 'hanging with the family' to 'hanging with fun people'.

Don't get me wrong, I have for the most part enjoyed my family. But I suddenly realized that there are times I would elect to do actives with them instead of nearby friends. I feel like we all have more to contribute, a more balanced relationship now that we're (by which I mean us children) all older.

3) RPCV meet-up

I'm lucky I know a guy in SF who's an Ethiopian RPCV. Because, I'll be honest, I haven't been able to really click with anyone in that town - school or otherwise. I'm not entire sure if its cuz I haven't meet any other geeks, or something during my service changed how I relate to new people.

It actually was a common topic that came up at a mini reunion for a few MI RPCVs from G7. Things happened, events and feelings and thought shifts, that can make it hard to relate. Who else understands how you still marvel at everyday things once in awhile, who understands what's it like to live in a foreign culture and how dealing with that for years changes how you do, who gets it that you sometimes feel guilty and wrong because now that you're back in America you recall Ethiopian events and are slightly ashamed at how you adjusted, even if at the time it most likely made your life better?

We all had the same problem with Christmas, we all have the same problem finding people in our new cities to 'click' with, we all desperately miss each other, we all are frustrated about how people don't really want to hear about Ethiopia, about how they don't understand how much it has changed view points, and we all can't believe the attitude of people who have never left their corner of a state.

Regardless, it was just nice to see old friends that I can connect to on a level that I haven't found in other people in while. What's that saying, something about friendships founded in battle are the strongest? Not saying our Peace Corps service was a battle in the traditional sense, but I would say our experiences there brought us together two years ago and I'm super glad we were able to do it again this holiday season.


Post a Comment