Right now, I’m in the Kigali airport. My plane leaves in about an hour and a half. Tomorrow night at 6:30, I’ll be in Pittsburgh. Next to “What’s the first thing you will eat?” the most common question is “Are you excited?” After many hours of debate on my cement floor, I’ve decided my first American meal will be the Hot Dog Shoppe for the best fake cheese in the entirety of Western Pennsylvania. And the easy answer to whether or not I’m excited is, of course, yes.
While preparing for this trip home, I realized it’s not as easy as yes and no. I am excited to see the people and places I’ve missed for the past year. I am excited to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. I am excited to be a part of my cousin’s fantastic winery wedding. And I am more than excited to stuff my face with so much food.
But it’s hard to leave the place that’s become my home for the past year. And it’s hard to leave the friends that have become my family.
I had the chance to spend my last week in Rwanda with new incoming volunteers and old outgoing volunteers. I listened to their different views and the different levels of excitement for starting service and ending service. I realized that in just 12 months I’ll be getting ready to leave Rwanda, and 12 months earlier I was swearing-in as a new volunteer.
Ending service might be harder than just remaining a volunteer and starting service is certainly a lot harder than just staying at home. But everything in between, the relationships, the work, the good and the bad times, makes service worth it. And really time does fly by, some days two years seems like it is not hardly enough time and other days two years seems like a lifetime.
At my half-way point, I am ready for the work I want to do next year. I am excited to still be a volunteer. I also still have loads of books I want to read and places I want to see. What lies ahead does not seem as daunting as it was when I started, or as it will be when I end. And I wouldn’t trade the relationships I’ve made with other volunteers and Rwandan friends for spending the past year at home or spending next year at home.
While the time in America will give me a boost for my second-year and will be a much needed break from my life here, it feels good to know I have a home to come back to in my small Rwandan village and friends who are my family.
People ask me where I’m going during the holidays, and I respond that I am going home. If I get the question “Why am I coming back to Rwanda?” I can also respond with “I am going back home.”And to have figured out that I really do view Rwanda as a second home before I leave makes it much easier to come back happy, energized and ready – even if it takes away a little bit of the excitement.
Although, if I ever start to feel down and out about this fantastic trip ahead of me, I try to think of my parent’s smiling faces, my ecstatic puppy, Reba and all the fake cheese covering that beautiful hot dog.