Approaching a month since we left Ecuador, our re-entry to North Carolina has been smooth and easy in many ways, yet challenging in others. It’s hard to believe (as I look out at snow-dusted forest) that just weeks ago we were swimming in the Cuyabeno River in the Amazon. I have posted the photo album below. Struggling to stay true to my “be fully present” persona, I walk through stores and drive streets of Asheville, feeling sadness as our sabbatical chapter comes to a close. I’m not quite ready to immerse here. I stand in no-man’s land, a place I have been before. I know that this is an important piece of the re-entry process and that our minds travel at different speeds than our bodies.
Logistical details have been cumbersome; cars, car insurance, health insurance, shuffling our stuff, re-renting our house, deciding upon an apartment to rent, re-establishing phone service, setting up utilities, changing postal address, school registration, job search… the list goes on. Yes, many details, yet efficient systems and customer service oriented people make these roads navigable. And, everyone speaks English! Our friends here in Asheville have all been so helpful. In fact, we are staying in the garage efficiency apartment of friends until our move into our own apartment at the end of the month.
The cultural aspects of re-entry are more difficult to express. I feel like I am walking around in a bubble. There’s a thin layer of protection surrounding me. Inside my bubble are analytical thoughts about crossing cultures and preserving memories – things I can’t articulate to those around me. The walls of my bubble are invisible and impervious. Outside of my bubble is a beautiful tornedo of activity and energy, encompassing my dearest friends. I know this tornado well, as I swirled in it for years. My bubble protects me in two ways; it preserves precious experiences and lessons learned from a fantastic sabbatical year, and it serves as a speed bump which allows me to re-enter American culture with caution and intentionality. As I witness a flurry of activities and opportunities in which to engage (in a time-oriented culture that seems to be racing to who knows where), I feel at peace in my little bubble. It’s as if I’m holding a no-stress charm which warns me against making too many commitments.
At the end of every day our family sits down to share a meal and talk about highlights of our days. And alas, I realize that I share my bubble with a most wonderful husband and two compassionate and creative teenagers. We are going through re-entry together; feeling similar pangs of joy and sadness, our minds traveling to shared adventures, our hearts protected by the same God, and our aspirations beginning to take new directions. Ever grateful for our opportunities to Go, Give, and Learn in Peru and Ecuador, we look ahead to life in Asheville with a similar excitement and energy.
Abstract as it may sound, that is my best attempt at describing this stage of re-entry. The peace that blankets us is a gift for which we have much gratitude.