Thursday, 11 July 2013

Some thoughts from home

When did it become that my original home no longer feels like home?
I have returned home to Australia for five weeks to be at rest and visit with friends and family. It is always a little bit of a strange feeling returning to a place so familiar after being away, feeling changed yourself and seeing others have changed too, enough so that you're not sure where you'll fit in again.

The first few days I struggled with how freezing cold it was and so I wanted to stay home, not only because of the cold but also because I didn't know where I fit anymore. Although things on the ship are always changing and friends come and go (whether we desperately wish they would stay or not), I know where my place is. I've lived in the same four-berth cabin and slept in the same bed for the last 2 1/2 years. I have a few long term friends and it’s comforting to know they are also still there throughout the seasons. So the thing that puts me out of place here, is that I've been away from my comfortable spot for long enough that it has gone. My closest friend here is happily married with two adorable children and successfully runs a household and I have never even lived out of home or had to cook for myself longer than one month! I look around here and see the marriages and babies, nice homes and cars and wonder what to do with all that. I am glad, so glad, for my friends who are happily married and raising their families. For a fleeting second, part of me wishes I was them before I realise, I just have a different road to walk. My journey is different, so different from how I thought my life would turn out. Like a lot a friends I know, I thought 21 years old would be a nice age to get married and settle down. Now I think back to when I was 21 and am so glad there was no one for me to marry! I wouldn't swap my life for anyone else's because I love it and I know that God has the perfect plan for me, whatever the future holds. I would love to be married and walk this exciting life journey with a partner for life and raise children with him, but I have to wait to see that fulfilled later.
But back here in this place I call home, I see the price of a new shirt and compare it to African money and suddenly I'm unwilling to pay that amount for another piece of clothing that I don't really need. I see a mosquito and I think, did I take my malaria medication? Before I realise where I am. Or I see a baby and look for pierced ears to see whether it’s a girl or a boy, before I realise it's not the culture here.

Coming back to Australia, the weather itself was a shock, as I have not had a winter (as mild as it is here in south-east Queensland) for three years. I have never really liked cold weather, unless it results in snow and then I will gladly face it. So I spent the first week covered in the layers of my only winter clothes and some days, my pyjamas and soft bathrobe, always with my pink fluffy slippers adorning my feet. At night I would make sure my electric blanket had been on for a good while before slipping into the toasty warm covers, tucking them up around my face and snuggling down for the night.
Thankfully over the last couple of weeks the temperature has warmed and the sun has shone brightly, warming up the ground. One weekend my family and I ventured out to the park for a BBQ and soaked in the sunshine, enjoying the red and yellow leaves still hanging tightly onto the branches of the trees. It has been a long time since I've been around for autumn. I can't remember particularly noticing the colour changes in the leaves or the change of the season before I left for Africa, but I have definitely noticed the big deal my American friends make over the season of fall. We have a Fall Festival on the ship and everyone talks about how much they miss the colour-changing leaves and pumpkin spice lattes and everything to do with fall. I didn't share their enthusiasm because my home town doesn't really change that dramatically so it was never really a big deal. But this weekend, I enjoyed staring up at the big, blue sky, watching the clouds blow by and seeing the sunlight twinkle through the sparse red leaves and the wind daring the smaller yellow ones to jump right off their branch and onto our picnic blanket.

I have found myself a few times in these past weeks completely alone. This is such a rare thing that in previous times I would have turned on music or organised to meet up with a friend, but this time, I sit and enjoy the silence. There is no hum of generator or air conditioning ringing in my ears, instead I can hear the birds outside in the garden. Today one of them flew right into the window in front of me, leaving a few feathers stuck to the window and my heart racing twice as fast. I got off the couch to check if he was on the ground, but he'd already flown away.

The bird print on the window

At night though, my ears ring in the deafening silence. You know the ringing after a music concert? It's what I hear every night (although maybe not as loud) from the missing generator and air conditioning noise, perhaps there's damage from other things too, but I know at least the generator drowns it out normally. Perhaps all I need is time to adjust.
My time here so far has balanced between catching up with family, visiting with friends and happily sitting at home, on the couch, basking in the winter sunshine streaming through the windows.

I enjoyed a quick trip to New Zealand to visit my Grandma, whose health has been failing for a year now. She is 95 years old now and lived on her own up until one year ago. She had been in a low care nursing home when Mum, Dad and I had gone to visit. She was sitting up in her lounge chair the mornings we went, happily included in conversation, but not having the mental strength to follow all thought processes. She looked tired. We didn’t know how long it would be before she’d pass away, as the previous three weeks she’d begun to decline in strength. So we said our goodbyes, telling her we’d next see her in heaven. And last night we heard, that’s where she’s gone. Goodbye Grandma, see you in heaven.

There is a little time left here now. More coffees to be drunk with people I love, while chatting about everything under the sun. More little ones to love, squeeze and kiss before they are all grown up. More love to be spread, because that is what life boils down to.

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