They say that many volunteers suffer more from reverse culture shock upon returning home than they did from the culture shock of arriving in country. This makes some sense, I suppose. You expect going somewhere new to be hard, you mentally prepare for it. But going home is supposed to be easy, a relief even, since you are simply going back to what you already know.
The problem, I guess, is that two years is a sizable chunk of time and things change, people change, and, more importantly, the volunteer changes. What once was a perfect fit might not be anymore and I’m guessing it’s harder because the idea of home that a volunteer carried with them throughout their service now doesn’t exist. They feel lost right when things are supposed to make the most sense.
I’m trying to do the smart thing and mentally prepare for these possible issues now. Most of this involves coming to terms with the fact that many of my friends have real jobs now, and some even have spouses and children, and that their priorities and lifestyles – along with the way I fit into their new lives- are significantly altered from how they were two years ago. I also have to accept the fact that I am not going to understand certain aspects of pop culture and probably won’t fully understand how all the apps on my phone work (or why they’re necessary). I’m going to need to re-adjust to US prices, particularly on produce (I’ll miss you, 12¢ mangoes and avocados!). I’ll likely miss the friendly nature of Guatemalans and wonder why my fellow countrymen don’t want to greet me. I’ll also probably have to readjust to the pace of life and probably won’t enjoy having the upcoming election shoved in my face.
However, I also think my time here has conditioned me in ways that will make certain challenges not so challenging and make commonplace aspects of life feel absolutely luxurious. My future hour commute to campus? EASY compared to the hours long journeys on camionetas. Dealing with bureaucracy? A breeze compared to the often dysfunctional processes here. Awkward silences? I doubt they’ll even phase me. And I can’t wait for the beautiful, beautiful bathrooms of the states with their constant supplies of water and toilets with seats and showers I’m not of afraid of.
I think I’m ready.