I’ve been gone a long time. It hit me hard the other night. I’d been counting the months I’d been in Thailand, but I hadn’t been counting the time I’d been away from home. It’s not the same.
The months I’ve been in Thailand are a little over 18. It’s been much longer for such things as seeing certain friends or hiking a trail of dead leaves in Northern Wisconsin or having a Summit at a Saints game or listening to my record player or hanging out with my sister or spending a few hours browsing at the library or putting on a jacket or …
Most of the time I have no strong urge to return home because I’m thinking of getting a job, going back to school, paying rent, purchasing a car, moving and facing a nation I’m no longer accustomed to. But then I go through the photos I did the other night and I can’t help but look forward to leaving the land of smiles for the land of 10,000 lakes.
Looking through the folder marked “Random Summer-Fall 2010” I realized why I took many of the photos. I was just a clueless 32-year old working at Hutchinson Technology knowing I’d likely be in another country a year from then, but not knowing where. I was excited to start my Peace Corps adventure, but knew there’d be a day I’d miss home. Home is not Eau Claire. It’s not Forest Lake, either. It’s simply the United States of America and all my friends and family.
I paged through the photos of downtown Eau Claire in the fall and some shots of Ramona, my cat before I left, and remembered my mindset when I took them: someday I’ll miss all of this and these photos will make me smile of my life that once was. I don’t think I’d thought to look at them until now: 18 months into my 27-month service to my country.
Thanks 32-year-old Jeff for the trip down memory lane. It was as if I discovered a time capsule hidden by a friend without my knowledge and only after paying close attention to the photos did I remember why they were taken. There were photos of the Acoustic Café, the American flag at Wilson Park with bright autumn colors behind it, myself walking up my sidewalk wearing jeans, a long-sleeve shirt with an undershirt, socks, dress shoes and a fedora hat (all too warm for Thailand), the inside of Racy’s coffee shop near the UW-Eau Claire campus, Ramona watching a Giants-Rockies game and even a photo of myself lounging on the steps of Midway Stadium enjoying a ball game.
There was also the photo I took on September 23, 2010 at 3:26 p.m. At that moment my coffee table contained a Sharpie marker, a blue Bic pen, two remote controls, a banana, my cell phone, Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon, some random boring mail and a large envelope I knew would change the course of my life marked “Invitation Kit”. Before I opened the heavy package from the Peace Corps, I took a moment to enjoy that part of my life that was about to end. The part where I didn’t know what my future held. Of course, even after I opened the package to see I’d been invited to serve in Thailand, I had no idea I’d spend two years of my life surrounded by batshit-crazy old ladies with no teeth and men who don’t see the humor in the phrase “It’s five o’clock somewhere” because they have no qualms drinking at sunrise. But before I opened the invitation kit, I knew an era of my life was about to end.
But don’t think of pitying my occasional, light homesickness for I am a Peace Corps Volunteer – a dream realized. A big part of the appeal is the challenge and difficulty. I love it. I have one of the coolest jobs on earth (Denard Span still has me beat). It won’t last forever and I’ll be back some lucky day.