10 days was not enough. I doubt 20 would have been enough. So, to all those that I failed to squeeze in coffee dates or goodbye hugs or even the most brief of loving glances with, I apologize.
But, those of you I did see, well, you all outdid yourselves. I don’t know if I can ever come home again, because there is no way that it would compare to what I just experienced. It started with a cheering welcome crowd of friends at the airport (complete with signs) and ended with an insane Las Vegas party bus club crawl on the strip. And in the middle? Plenty of delicious food I’ve been missing (most of which I did not pay for… my friends are ridiculously generous), wine walk, family pictures, TWO barbecues, more food, too many drinks, dancing, Justin Beiber’s Never Say Never, Just Dance on the Wii, pool time, a performance by Declan’s band (Mother Mary and the Disciples – all the way from Boston!) and so much more.
Special thanks go to Priscilla, Mikey and Jen for letting me crash at their homes and eat their food (I did too much eating during this trip…) and anyone who paid for anything or contributed to my sister’s sneaky “Help Carmen Replace the Stuff That Got Stolen” fund. Also, prizes go to Kate and Therese for driving Seattle to Reno (that’s like 14 hours. ONE WAY.) to Wine Walk with me, Aimee for scheduling her Madison to Vegas trip to coincide with my days home, Liz and John for making their way down from San Francisco to hang out, Bill for ditching Provo for a weekend to speak spanish with me, and Blake for braving the Los Angeles to Las Vegas traffic over Memorial Day weekend when all I promised him was lunch.
I felt loved. I felt comfortable. I felt spoiled. And, yeah, getting on that plane to get back was difficult. Mainly because it broke my heart to have to say goodbye to my sister. Partly because I didn’t want to leave my friends behind again. Kind of because I wanted to eat one more Freeman’s hotdog and do All You Can Eat sushi again. And a little bit because I was still feeling overwhelmed by what happened right before I left and completely daunted by my remaining (ohmygodhowistherestill?!) 17 months of service. My sister and I did the ugly cry at the airport and everything…
And the day Peace Corps asked me to stay near the office before going back to site didn’t help. It only gave me more time to dwell on why I didn’t want to come back. And the multiple meetings I had to sit through so everyone could tell me “Don’t walk alone anymore” (DUH.) only really helped me to cry some more.
But, you know what? When I finally made it back here things were surprisingly okay. It didn’t feel overwhelming or hopeless. In fact, I had a message waiting for me that a contact I had made a few months ago with an NGO, the Message Program, came through and had 5 sewing machines waiting for my women’s groups (they expressed interest months ago in learning how to sew and possibly turning the skills into income generating projects). So this morning, after an environmental presentation (we’re finally starting to educate kids about waste management and collect those bottles in the schools!) we headed to their makeshift warehouse in the capital and walked away with the sewing machines. Along with 20 sets of crutches, 10 sets of walkers and 2 wheelchairs to start a community loan program with. And a new baby weighing/measuring table, six bags of linens and other various medical supplies for the local health centers.
No, it’s not the same as before. I’m a little more on edge. (I almost passed out today at the sight of a security guy with a gun jumping down out of a truck in front of me.) I’m a little more wary of people and places. And, yeah, I’m a little angry that this happened to me. But I still have work to do and I have plenty of people here who don’t see me as a target, but as a person simply trying to help. And knowing that I have so many people back home supporting me makes it really hard to quit – I don’t want to let you down!
So, friends, thank you for everything in the past two weeks. It helped me get through a tough time, it helped to make my time at home very special and it got me back on my feet to face the next set of challenges that Guatemala will surely throw my way.