There have been difficulties in my service thus far. Ways that I've been challenged beyond my imagination. Things I've had to learn, overcome, change about myself, and/or accept. If I were to write a novel of all of the parts of these last two years that were difficult, I'd write one longer than all the Harry Potter books combined.
And while I'm sure that in every moment, I would have said, "This is the hardest moment of my life," looking back (though even in that perspective lens we are in danger), I now know that I was wrong. The hardest moment of my Peace Corps service was this Christmas time. For the first time in 25 years, I wasn't going to be home with my family, the cold,the tree, the music, the movies, everything. And being raised with a family where traditions are everything (and I, on my own particularly, might even take that a step further), I was trapped in a world where nearly none of those familiarities existed. I tried mightily by putting up my tree a little earlier, lights outside my house in the formation of a star, a stocking (to which, upon being asked, realized I had no clue where it came from), and even orally sharing and comparing traditions between cultures with my neighbors and loved ones surrounding me. But as the big day approached, it got harder, I got weaker, and I was lost as to how to cope. The 23rd? In and out of tears (okay, so sobbing tears) kind of mess. I wanted to lock myself away in my house all day. But the loneliness consumed me. I tried to leave and be with other families to help fill the void. But the loneliness consumed me.
All I wanted was my family (selfishly); my mom, my dad, my big brother, little sister, and my munchkin. My grandmothers, cousins, Guncle, and random friends who always manage to stop by. I wanted to make cookies and eat the batter behind mom's back. I wanted to help put up the tree while watching the Grinch, annoyingly quoting every. single. word. I wanted to go Christmas shopping no matter how bad I am at it or how broke I would be doing it with Christmas music blasting through the slightly cracked window just so I could feel the freezing cold air bite my left cheek while my right was burning red with the warmth of the heated car. I wanted to go to church, even if it was with the same outfit as last year. Eat every appetizer grandma put out and then on a full stomach, shovel dinner down too. Maybe even going for seconds. I wanted to watch my cousins open presents Christmas with a glass of white wine in my hands that dad never fails to keep full. I wanted to fall asleep with my little man beside me, kicking me all night long or taking over the entire bed with his skinny but long body, knowing my baby girl was right there too sleeping soundly through the night. I wanted to wake up before the two of them, go to the bathroom (taking an illegal peek down the stairs as if I was 5 years old again), return to both of them awake and start our knocking ritual to "wake" the sleeping parents next door. I wanted to wrestle, laugh, and pretend to get annoyed as we wait for the adults to get everything prepared and start video taping. To take our picture on the stairs still all groggy and gross but always with a sparkle from the tree and excitement in our eyes. To take turns opening presents with a patience that should never exist. To find the cookies and carrots partially eaten and the milk slightly spilled on the table or floor. Drink coffee, eat breakfast, call relatives, and then get ready to head over to grandma #2's. Where the ticking clock in the dining room always matches the pulse of my heart and makes me feel safe and at peace. More presents, wine, food, making videos, playing games, and just basking in the warmth of family. Never wanting to leave but the end of the night inevitably arrives. Always.
I have learned of an entirely new world, new culture, and seen how small our country that we consume ourselves in truly is. I've loved parts of here far more than certain things back home. But I would be a liar and betrayer if I didn't admit that there are still so much from back home that I appreciate far more now. Sure, we are over-consumers, we use technology way too often, we lack in soaking in the simplicities of life, and we forget about what truly matters some days. But damn it, do we know how to celebrate Christmas (to me at least). Haha And maybe being sick, lacking sleep, needing peace and quiet more than I ever have, and being so damn attached to certain traditions isn't being fair to where I live now, but it's just how I feel.
But to continue being honest, I was stuck in a space between living in the past, and trying to enjoy the present moment. So to be fair to the present:
I was able to celebrate Christmas Eve dinner with my second family and it was a beautiful disaster.
Absolute perfection, to be honest because it was just as unorganized and crazy, and delicious as it would have been back home.
I then got to dance and be with friends.
Christmas Day I was blessed enough to gather with some Americans in the area and we made food from back home,
a little man (whom I just met that night) stole my heart while mashing potatoes better than me and telling me his life story,
And my family was there through all of the mess that I was. Even at midnight while I was feverish, just got finished throwing up and was sobbing. Sam, you're the best for answering me while naked and about to shower (did I just post that publically? Oops 😜)
Reminding me that even if I make the decision to be away, they will always be there waiting with a suffocating group hug and glass of white wine.
Merry Christmas everyone.