Becky and I recently had the opportunity to take a three weeks vacation back home to the United States. Charleston, SC is our home; it's where we were born, raised and where we left from when we came to live here in Nicaragua. Home is so many things really; people, places, sights, sounds, smells, feelings, memories, etc.
We had a really good time experiencing all those things again after being away in a foreign culture for 10 months. I particularly enjoyed eating at some of our favorite restaurants, some more than twice. For me it was a chance to recharge and be refreshed in a lot of ways. I don't think that I realized how tired and burned out I was from ten months of culture shock, language acquisition, work and being stared at all the time. Only once I was able to ease back into the comforts of my home culture did I come to understand the extent of my malaise.
The thing that stuck out to me the most about being back in the United States is that everything is really nice and clean and orderly. There isn't a ton of trash in the streets, drunk men passed out in puddles of mud along the side of the road nor hundreds of near dead parasitic dogs wandering the streets looking for the next meal that will only go to feed the worms crawling through their skeletal bodies. Now don't get me wrong, Nicaragua is a truly beautiful country in many ways but it doesn't rival the States as far as things just being in a state of "niceness" if you will.
Being home was great and it only took a couple of days for the weirdness of things to wear off and for me to feel like I was "home" again. However, after the first week or two I really started to miss being in Nicaragua. I missed our friends and our church and the work that we so strongly believe in. Although little thoughts about how nice it would be to just return to the States and live there again did cross my mind now and then I can honestly say that the draw to return to the land of lakes and volcanoes outweighed the longing for the comfort and ease of the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Looking out the window of the plane as we made our approach into Managua at night I started to feel a little worried, it all seemed so foreign to me all over again. I had felt so "at home" in the States again and I wasn't sure if I would so easily be able to slide back into my Nicaraguan ways. I was pleasantly surprised/relieved once we landed and sat our bags down in the hotel in Managua at how very normal it all seemed to me. The next day as we drove through Managua to do a little shopping before heading back to Jinotega I felt totally at ease, in fact I felt "at home". I experienced that same feeling of comfort, familiarity and ease that I had felt while being in Charleston.
I think now I not only know in my head but in my heart also that I have two homes and two worlds within which I live. I love both of them dearly, neither one is perfect or better than the other, they're just different, and spending long periods of time in either one in no way diminishes my ability to be "at home" in the other.