Leaving my family was by far the hardest part of Peace Corps. I will never ever forget leaving the Kansas City airport that cold February day. I remember not sleeping the whole week leading up to it, just sitting up crying thinking about what the next two years would be like without them. I remember loading the car early that morning to depart and not being able to hold it together leaving them to do most of the work. I remember being crammed into the back of my mom's Malibu shoved up against my brother and not wanting to touch him because it was too hard. More than that I remember how he told me that it was okay if my arm rested against his leg, the look in his eye telling me he was trying to soak me in also. I love my brother more than anyone in the world, in fact, I can't fathom loving someone more than I do that kid.
On the other side of me in the backseat of that car was Matt. Matt is an amazing person. We have been friends and lovers off and on for close to forever now and he continues to be there when I need him. He is part of the family now so it was natural that he would be apart of the final send off. At the airport he was the optimistic one, buying funny trinkets to keep my spirits up. When it came time for the final send off he kept it together better than the rest of us.
My final memory of both Zach and Matt was watching tears stream down both of their faces through the tears on my own face as some airport worker told me that I would be okay as she shoved me through the metal detector. I still remember being so thankful for her, I am not sure I would have made it here without that last shove. The last thing I remember both of them saying was "I love you, and we will see you soon."
Well, two weeks ago all of those memories came flooding back! They came to visit. Our reunion was going to happen just like our depature...in an airport. In the days leading up to their arrival I had friends come and visit me in my village to help keep my mind off of how slow time is capable of moving. I thought I had gotten used to this fact being in Africa where time is SLOW when it wants to be, but when you are waiting to see two of your favorite people after 16 months of not seeing them, slow doesn't even begin to do time justice.
So there I am in the airport. I watched their plane land, sick to my stomach with excitement and hands shaking like crazy from nerves. I run down to customs so that I can greet them and hug them and somehow make them understand how much I have missed them both sooooooo much. With every person that clears customs before them I get more and more excited and the tears boil closer to the top, and then my brother comes to the door, and says in his brother voice, "I need your address now. They won't let us come through until they have an address." Asshole is business as usual and I love him more for that than if he had rushed to hug me also. "Well, how are you doing, I'm glad you're here." I say in an almost shrill voice. His response: "Well, I just sat on a plane for 13 hours, I am not great." For those of you that don't know Zach, you are thinking he is a complete dick. For those of you that do, you will understand why I love that asshole so much. 16 months and my greatest fear came to be realized as a waste of my time. I had been so worried that 16 months would change the amazing brother and sister relationship that the two of us have and so many others will never understand. The only thing that he didn't do was punch me, other than that, we were the same as always.
Then came my buddy Matt. Happy, smiling and ready for any adventure I could through at him. He gave me the hug that I have come to know so well in these past almost 7 years. Then to compensate for Zach he said something positive and along the lines of being happy to see me.
Just like that life was normal and more perfect than I had ever known before. We left the airport in a shuffle of bags, questions and haggling taxi drivers.
There are no words to express my happiness watching my brother and Matt play American football with my village kids. Or hearing my favorite kid Joanie saying "Get out my way, Imma gangsta," to Matt and Zach because all he knows is that it makes white people laugh when they hear him say it in his most adorable accent. There are also the memories of me laughing just like my villagers used to laugh at me when my visitors tried to talk Nyanja. I've always felt lucky to be able to experience life in an African village, but to be able to share such an incredible experience with two impressively open minded individuals who I happen to love very much...I'm just so lucky.
Being able to wake up at 5:00 in the morning and go on a freezing cold run with someone who was interested in my running and understood the runners lingo rolling off my tongue was such a breath of fresh air. I've always loved running with Matt. I love running with anyone who has run HCXC, but Matt and I have gone on many runs together. We've finished many runs together, some good and some bad. We ran almost every run at the same pace. That has never happened before. Matt is always much faster than me, or he has picked school or work over running and I can go longer than him. All of my PC friends smoke and think that I am some alien for wanting to take good care of my lungs so just having a running partner for a bit of a run would have been nice, but the fact that I had someone who could match me stride for stride was a really powerful boost in motivation at a pretty important part of a training program. Lucky again.
Going to a really fancy safari lodge as 3 mid-westerns who know absolutely nothing about being classy or how to really conduct ourselves in public without our mothers giving us "the look" from across the room gave me memories that still have me giggling out loud when I think about it. Seeing my brother so relaxed and in love with life that he is almost glowing was something that I never thought I would see. Watching him laugh until he cried because I stuck my finger in the butter because I am a moron is something I will never ever forget. Getting drunk with Matt in a pool at 1:00 in the afternoon from 1.5 beers while Zach is off getting vacation massages...awesome!
Getting soaked in the mist from Victoria Falls and then climbing into a taxi dripping wet talking about all of the things we are going to jump off of tomorrow with bungee cords affixed to our bodies is another memory I won't forget. Watching my brother taste Indian food for the first time with the grunted response being, "This is good shit," in the classy way that only Riley County Kansas can teach you. Or going on freezing cold 14 mile runs with Matt to Zimbabwe after scaring the shit out of him with my creepy hand at 5:30 in the morning crawling through his mosquito net. (I am laughing as I type out these memories.)
My last memory of them is still through streaming tears at an airport, but it is the memories in between those two that will keep me going for the next year until I see them again. I know I am consistently writing about how lucky I am, and you are all probably tired of reading about it, but I am so thankful for the this life. I am grateful for visitors, I am grateful that they could afford to come and I am insurmountably thankful 16 months did nothing to damage two of the relationships I value most.
Take care of all your memories, for you can not relive them. ~Bob Dylan