Two Years, is a insight into Evade Magazine Gwen Debaun's world adventures and what to expect when reality sinks in.
I love holidays. I’ve grown up celebrating every one of them in some kind of capacity. Even when I went to college my first year roommate and I would decorate our dorm room. It was so much fun. Recently, I have come to really love Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday that revolves around family and thankfulness.
Thanksgiving is an important holiday for me. It wasn’t growing up, I remember we would always watch the Macy’s parade while eating cinnamon rolls, go outside and then eat dinner. But that was about it. At least until two years ago when it became something more.
The day before Thanksgiving in 2015, I landed back in the United States after spending 11 months abroad doing mission work on a trip called The World Race. It was an incredible year; I met some amazing people, saw more of the world than I ever thought possible, and learned so much about others and myself. I’ll never forget the day I came home. My squad and I flew into JFK and a few of us took a bus over to La Guardia to catch our flights home. My flight wasn’t until later in the evening, but as God would have it, there was an earlier flight available. I called my parents as I was running to get through security. They were as excited as I was.
I got on the plane, sat between two others and I cried almost the whole time I was so excited. I could hardly sit still, my knees shaking in anticipation of being home. I still feel slightly bad for the two guys I sat between, I probably smelled from all the travel and they were probably a bit alarmed by this young girl who just kept crying.
Walking out of the terminal and seeing my parents and friends was perfect. The tears kept coming as we all hugged and posed for photos. We laughed, smiled, cried, and hugged some more.
Every Thanksgiving reminds me of this day. I was so thankful to come home to welcome arms.
I’ll never forget when I had my ‘cereal aisle moment’. We were cautioned about it before coming home. We all knew America was just different than the rest of the world. Home is different than the rest of the world. My cereal aisle moment wasn’t actually in a cereal aisle, it was outside a restaurant a friend and I had gone to, to catch up about the past year. I had walked out to my car and there was a thin layer of frost on it. I freaked out. I started yelling to my friend in her car, “IT’S COLD HERE! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE! JUST LAST WEEK I WAS ON A BEACH IN SOUTH AFRICA?!” She couldn’t help but laugh a little, just as I was as I was calling to her over the roars of the cars and the tears rolling down my cheeks.
It seemed like the glass dome that was around the fact of me being home had shattered. I didn’t know what being home looked like. I had forgotten what it was like to have a bed of my own, a room of my own, and a bathroom that I didn’t have to share with 50 plus people. It seemed so odd to me those first weeks. I remember the first time I drove - I drove on the wrong side of the road trying to go to the store. I barely made it out of my neighborhood. I remember when I first went to a restaurant and mumbled “Hello” in Afrikaans, “Thank you” in Thai and “Goodbye” in Spanish. I remember when I started classes again in January, just a month and a half of being home. I missed the first day of classes after having a panic attack trying to drive to school in the snow. When I made it the second day, my lab group was talking about their winter holidays and what the semester looked like for them; I had forgotten how to have a normal conversation, one that didn’t revolve around what God was teaching you, how your heart felt, or how fundraising was going.
Sure, two years in from being home, I’ve gotten used to having my own room, not having to share a bathroom with anyone and being able to go anywhere whenever I want to, but it still isn’t easy.
The days on the field were so much simpler than they are back home. I remember waking to the sound of children laughing as they were walking to school. Just sitting in a window, or walking down the road with my face tilted toward the sun, in awe of the fact that I was there. The leisure pace of life not in the western world is one to be lusted after. The intricate simplicity of just living, not always rushing or worrying about what was next was the most intoxicating part of it all.
There are days when I wake up from a dream remembering the children that would walk with us through town. Remembering their smiles and laughter and how they just loved to play. I remember waking up some mornings to see animals eating our clothes as they dried on the fence; there was hardly anything we could do but try and pull them away without ripping them more. I remember the pure laugher with the children, not always knowing how to talk to one another in our own language, but we could laugh and smile, and that was all that we needed. I remember the hugs that we got from those we had just met and those that we were saying goodbye to. I remember seeing the desperate poverty that ran so deep in a home but could not take away the joy of those living there. I remember getting sick from drinking dirty water. I remember pouring murky, brown water for children to drink after they washed their hands in it. I remember the tents that were only supposed to be temporary but had become homes for those still displaced after earthquakes.
I don’t know why some people are born on one side or the other. I really don’t know how God chooses who gets to live in the West or the East. I am so thankful that I have seen so many places in the world, so many different kinds of home. I appreciate the walls and roof of mine even more.
It doesn’t leave you, the memories that you hold. They never could, even if you tried to run away.
It doesn’t make it easy when you turn on your tap and get to drink clean, fresh water. It doesn’t make it easy when you can take a nice hot shower at the end of a long day. It doesn’t make it easy when you can drive two minutes down the road to the store to pick up food instead of having to hitch hike.
It doesn’t become easy; some how it just becomes your new normal, but the memories never fade. You truly just begin to wonder when the memories will become reality again.