I admit it; I was a little bit nervous. Had it only been two years? It felt like much more time had passed.
About to reconnect with my ex, my head was swimming with “what ifs.”
What if I talked about Mexico too much?
What if our familiar now felt unfamiliar?
What if I gestured too emphatically?
The latter was a bad habit born in Mexico. Whenever I felt anxious, I used hand motions for conversational emphasis. While this custom is widely practiced in Mexico, the gestures have no meaning in the USA. They just serve as a reminder that one culture’s “normal” is another’s “crazy.”
When I thought about it, I realized that I was not nervous about how much time had passed; I was apprehensive about how much had changed during that time. I knew that, in addition to my gesturing habit, I had. It was inevitable that my ex had as well.
Returned Peace Corps Volunteers typically go through an adjustment phase. I knew that I would suddenly become aware of the changes that had accumulated gradually for others; I would reconcile my past with the present; and I would accept the changes that have occurred in loved ones, for better or worse.
Still, regardless of my nerves, I was excited. It was June in a vibrant city. There were wineries to visit and long stretches of riverbank to bike.
It was time to re-connect with my ex: my ex-house, my ex-city, my ex-self.
Couchsurfing once again, this time I was in my former house.
From the outside, the place looked the same. Sunflowers stretched tall in front of the paint-chipped Victorian. Its front door made a familiar creak as I swung it open, as if inviting me into a time warp.
Inside, the ghosts-of-roommates-past abound. From posters to rugs, baskets to mugs, so many items had outlived their original owner’s presence and become house-property.
It had been a great home for many years, and now I appreciated it all the more. Peace Corps can bring awareness to all that we once took for granted. In the house, potable water runs out of the tap, hot or cold, at any time of day. The address posted adjacent to the front door directs a functional mail service that delivers correspondences six days per week. Internet and cell-signal are consistent and fast.
My former roommate happened to be making a coffee in the kitchen as I set my suitcase down, tired from jet lag. Without skipping a beat, he described a new-release movie in nuanced terms as he handed me a mug filled with coffee.
I sat in that ugly but comfortable kitchen stool, and I listened. It felt like I had never left.
Right there, on the stool next to the stove, began the best welcome back a girl could wish for. My nerves melted away in the June heat. It all fit like a great pair of thrift-store jeans: well-worn and a bit familiar. This was going to be a great month.
I spent June picking strawberries, gossiping over pedicures, and delighting over home-made hummus at back yard barbecues. I have not felt so much like myself in a long time. There I was, reconnecting with my former self in my former city.
There is something magical about New England summers. Cities fill their green spaces with runners, picnickers, and kayakers, and each person is fueled by iced-coffee and sun-delivered Vitamin D.
All of my favorite spots were still there, but they were even better than I remembered. I drafted resumes at the public library, marveling at the reach of free wifi across the city. I stretched flexibility into my ankle during yoga classes, noticing that the gym is surrounded by so many delicious restaurants and cafes. Even more impressive: all of those businesses have easy-to-find information posted on websites and on the business door. Too easy.
It was the same city, seen with new eyes that brim with appreciation.
After attempting to bike in Mexico, I have a new-found love of bike lanes, crosswalks, and the pedestrian right-of-way.
After getting sick from contaminated river water during Peace Corps training, the Charles River almost startles me with its beauty and cleanliness.
After buying water in plastic bottles and carrying the empty container all day until I found a rare trash can, Boston’s public infrastructure no longer goes unnoticed.
As a fellow Peace Corps friend recently said: Want to appreciate home even more? Leave it for a while.
Reconnecting has so many perks: the flavors, the places, the new perspective. But above all, the best part about reconnecting is the people. I wholeheartedly love my Boston friends. They have it all:
Patience: My friends happily stuck to our pre-arranged plans, knowing that I did not have a phone for the first two weeks. When I got one, they gave me smartphone lessons.
Compassion: My friends laughed kindly when I forgot about online shopping, that businesses accept credit cards, and that you don’t need to break high-value bills whenever a pile of cash is stacked on a restaurant table. “Every business accepts 20-dollar bills and credit cards, welcome back,” they told me.
Generosity: My friends treated me to yoga classes, afternoon coffees, and resume editing sessions. They squeezed in lunch break catch-up sessions and breakfast dates into their busy lives.
Acceptance: My friends asked how I had changed but saw that deep-down, I am still the same person.
Affection: My friends give the best hugs, period.
Boston is an amazing city, but the people are what make it so special to me.
Thanks to everyone for helping me land on my feet again, and thanks for supporting my decision to move on. In just four days, I will find myself in a new city, ready to start a new chapter. But do not despair, I will not be far away anymore!