The Land of Milk and Honey..
My trip started at 6:00am Albanian time where I caught a taxi from Durres to the airport, about a 45 minute ride in the dark because the sun had yet to rise. I got on my flight from Tirana to Istanbul, about 300 miles in the wrong direction from America. My flight was delayed from Turkey to Newark by an hour which cut my layover down to 45 minutes. 45 short minutes to get off the plane, claim my bags, go through customs, recheck my bags and go through security again. Missing flights like this is usually a small inconvenience but this turned into a minor breakdown for me since I was about to see my friends and family that I haven't seen in over 19 months. After busting tale through the airport I made the final boarding call for my flight and had about an hour to rest.
I was met by three of my best friends from college at baggage claim with a Cook-Out chicken strip club sandwich in hand. What a great welcome home meal. Since I barely made my flight it was no surprise that my bags did not, no big deal, got them in the morning. We met up with a few of my other close friends from Raleigh and we celebrated my homecoming. The next morning I spoke at one of my professors classes at Peace (now known as WPU) about the Peace Corps and how I am using my degree from Peace working overseas. Saying it was nostalgic is not describing what I was feeling to the fullest. My dad sat through the class and afterwards we headed down 40-W to Tobaccoville for me to get my hair cut and colored, a long over due treatment. My best friend drove down from Charlotte and met me at my dad's salon. I thought I would have slept on the plane so I would be bright eyed but every time I closed my eyes I was thinking about the next two weeks of my life. After my 3 hours in the salon we went out to my aunt and mom's house to see them! Things just felt so normal when I walked in the house I almost had to remind myself that it had been so long since I'd seen my aunt, uncle and cousin.
I went to Target about 5 times, I actually visited 5 different Target establishments. I went so many times my relatives that were so excited about seeing me now refused to leave the house with me. I went into my first Target with my Dad and became so overwhelmed that I had to leave. Cold sweats set in about the clothing department. I blame this on going 72 hours without sleeping because the next visits weren't so traumatic. I feel like I never left but then I feel like I had been gone for decades.
To say I was anxious to go home would be a huge understatement. When you're abroad for any amount of time I think it's only natural to compare everything to what you know. After a few months you start to idealize everything that you use to know and have dreams about food or begin to think that your life previous to where you are now was some sort of elaborate hallucination. Once I got a full night of sleep it didn't take long to realize everything was more or less the same. "The more things change the more they stay the same" was kind of the feeling I got almost everyday as I met up with a college friend, relatives I hadn't seen in a year in a half or when I tasted the long awaited turkey sandwich.
I got to be in the wedding of a friend of mine. A friend that I've known since 6th grade and a friend who had a fiance (now husband) that without the grandiose gesture of offering to pay for my plane ticket home I wouldn't have been home at all for another seven months. The wedding was beautiful and the reception of NC style barbecue was more than pleasing to my southern palette. I've had a few days to readjust to life here and now it feels like I never left, like the last two weeks were a dream. I'm afraid that's what my entire Peace Corps experience will feel like once I return back to America for good. In other news, I've began to attack the winter.