I’m glad to be back…I think…maybe…

Dear Granddaughter,

Ah, from one birthday to the next, you’ve changed…and it doesn’t all show.

It’s wonderful to have you back after an 10 months in a foreign country.  I know you’re safe.  I can look at you, touch you.   I notice your new poise and confidence.  You’re more independent.  These are obvious changes that I expected.

It’s the invisible shifts that make re-entry difficult when returning home. I recognize your distance and the feeling of displacement because I gone through these transitions.  It’s a joy to be home with the people you love and a sorrow to be away from what has become your other home. The journey back is surreal, isn’t it?  Before you open your eyes in the morning, you feel the jolt of dissonance. You are in a bed that you have known for years, but it seems alien.  Your sleeping mind hasn’t returned yet.

Travel always adjusts your perspective.  And when you decide to make a life in another country…whether it is for a month, a year,  or a lifetime…your life is irrevocably changed.

When you leave a part of your heart and mind somewhere else, the streets of your hometown seem more foreign than the cobblestones of Quito.  And the people?  You probably didn’t notice the color of the people there (except that you drew attention with your blond hair and blue eyes).  Yet now in contrast everyone seems faded and indistinct.  Here there are no groups of people with native dress and no bright feathers tucked into the brims of hats.  Instead the feathers are hanging from ears or entwined in hair.

And where are the people living in community?  You live in a town whose streets are crowded with people every day.  And still, it’s different.  There are no women sitting on benches with their children playing around them.  You don’t see old people spilling from the churches on the arms of their grandchildren.  There are no plazas interspersed with shops and restaurants so that each time you walk out of a door in the town you see young people gathered in groups or men sitting on the shaded steps of the cathedral.

But that isn’t the crux of the matter, is it?

It’s that your heart is wandering around with the friends you made and the people you love.  Your ears are waiting for the comforting sound of the language that now forms your thoughts.  Your whole being yearns for whatever peace and fulfillment came from shedding your past and living in a culture that felt like home to you, no matter what house you stayed in.

I suppose there are people who can live in a foreign country and retain their sense of who they were and where they came from.  And then there are those of us who absorb our surroundings.  We form bonds with people and places and the ambience that exudes from the cultures we become a part of.  We leave ourselves there.

Appreciate the changes in yourself.  Welcome the broadening of your vision of what your life will be.  You are changed.  And it’s all good.

Happy Birthday.


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