We're almost packed! Abigail has checked her plane bag about 20 times to make sure the Hello Kitty pez dispenser and lollipop are still there.
We're heading back to the U.S. for Christmas. It's crazy, it's going to be crazy. Drinking tap water, flushing toilet paper, shopping at Trader Joe's and Walmart, loading and unloading the dishwasher, being cold . . . I'm really excited! Mostly to see everyone. The phone and internet make people seem much closer, but it's still not the same as physically being with people. It's been a long time, almost 6 months, since we've seen almost everyone we've known our whole lives.
I'm excited to talk with those I'm close to about my life here. In some ways, if this makes sense, going back to "report back" will make my life here feel more real. Analyzing my life in the D.R. from a distance will I think click my new life into focus.
It's a great time to go back. God is so good. I can't tell you how much better I'm feeling this month than last (and all the months before). As a super honest communicator much of the time, I've struggled with my answer when people have asked, "Do you like it there?"--admittedly a pretty innocent and seemingly non-threatening question. But in survival mode, I found that question a difficult one to answer.
Life here has been physically, emotionally, and mentally harder. New language (still wildly frustrating), new culture, new jobs added to the routine (related to a less sterile environment), new worries (Dengue fever, for one), new noises, new bugs in food . . . And none of that has changed, but I'm figuring out how to navigate my life without expending quite so much of my energy and internal resources. You don't realize how much of your day you do in automatic pilot until you have to think about each interaction and task for a while. It's exhausting.
I feel like I'm inching my way over a big initial hump. Suddenly I'm finding it possible to do some "extras." I got some editing done, I started a quilt I had meant to make for Abigail, I made a few batches of ice cream, and I did a few other projects I had put off for a "someday" that seemed quite remote. I didn't see it coming, but somehow I seem to have gotten adjusted enough that I'm able to do a little more than just the daily tasks of living before collapsing on the sofa.
But I started to realize in the last few months that my biggest issue at this point is relational. I mentioned in a previous blog how I don't have close friends here yet, and my friends from the States can't relate to my life here (though they are still an important part of my life). But what is so great is that in the last few weeks we've had more of a chance to hang out with friends from our church here, and we are genuinely starting to be real friends with them. And real friends, to laugh with about the ridiculous things we do here because we still don't know what we're doing, are what I have missed so much.
Feeling like I'm leaving and will return to people who get us and care about us gives me a very different perspective on my life here. I honestly feel now like I can say, "It's great! It's hard and we're still adjusting, but we love it!" :)