(This should have been posted yesterday, but my internet service crapped out on me. Thank you, Vodafone.)
I got a text from my mom as I was walking out the door today:
Today marks halfway...you left 19 weeks ago today, you come home 19 weeks from today!!
Happy Halfway Day!! xoxo
I stopped dead in my tracks.
Halfway done? Not possible...
When I talked to my dad later I expressed my skepticism but my mom has been - as he put it - "wearing holes in the calendar" counting the days, so I guess it must be true. I don't know how it can be true, but it is.
Time has a strange, dreamlike quality here. It stands still.
I watch the dates change day after day. Occasionally the name of the month I have to write on the blackboard changes. But that doesn't mean anything to me. Maybe it's because the seasons here are not the ones I'm used to using to mark the passage of time. Maybe it's because I simply can't believe that I really, truly did it: I moved to Africa fresh out of high school for a gap year.
What an appropriate name, gap year.
I used to hate that term because I saw it as implying a wasted year. But now it simply seems like a year out of time. Like I will come home in May and it will still be the summer after senior year, I just took a little vacation. I'm starting to understand how Rip Van Winkle must have felt; I'll land in Michigan in May and realize that time stood still for me while it ran for the rest of the world.
In many ways, my stalled perception of time has worked in my favor. I don't feel homesick very often because I don't feel as if I've been gone more than a month. I'm not sad that I'm missing a year of holidays because it doesn't feel like I've missed them. For me it's still August- I'm in my ninth month of summer, baby!
In other ways, I can see how it will likewise cause some problems. It will be hard not to expect everything and everyone to be the same as the way I left them, but whatever my perception almost a whole year will have passed.
If I could actually process that fact, I don't think I'd know how to feel about it.
I mean, there are more days than I like to admit where I wonder just how far Ghana can wear me down before I completely lose it. The girl with a near phobia of lice has had to hand-pick literally dozens upon dozens of them off the puppy she so foolishly bought. Some days, school is spelled "D-R-E-A-D." Ever since Nyamekye died, I've been convinced I will have to experience another child's death. At times I would sell my college fund for some Qdoba and a season of "Gilmore Girls" on DVD.
And then there are the days where I don't think I'll be able to leave. Days like yesterday when Andy and I came home from our two-week trip to Cape Coast/Egypt and my reunion with my host parents gave me that warm, fuzzy feeling all the way down to my toes. Days like the day my student Grace wrote me a scribbled little note telling me that she loved me and wants to be my friend forever. Days like the day I left VARAS and had the amazing revelation that I'm starting to learn how to be an adult, little by little.
To go home, I have to leave home.
I suppose the key is just to accept every phase of my life in its time. Much easier said than done of course.
I'm already only halfway done.
The past four and a half months aren't something I can easily sum up or draw conclusions on; too much joy and pain and frustration and wonder for me to define as either black or white or even a shade of gray.
And I can guarantee the next four and a half months will be the same.
So bring it on, Ghana!