Two days after returning from Tanzania, I headed off to summer camp with my youth group. As I walked up to the church to check in, I was overwhelmed with this feeling of not belonging. Everyone was chatting, hanging out, waiting to get on the bus. There were youth group kids everywhere: laughing, talking, having a good time. Everyone had spent the summer together...except me. While it was good to see my friends again, something just felt off. I thought to myself: "After all I did and learned this summer, I just don't fit here anymore." It felt strange and foreign...a feeling that, frankly, could be left behind in the dark days of 7th grade. By the end of the first day of camp, I was exhausted, still didn't feel like I belonged, and was on major sensory overload. I longed to be back in Tanzania, where the familiar was.
Because, honestly, after spending six weeks there, if felt more like home than my home did.
And as I continued on through the next couple days at camp, the feeling of disconnectedness didn't go away. I still felt strange. There were so many new people I hadn't met. And I constantly wondered: "What is my role here in this youth group anyway?"
On top of that, I didn't sense the excitement I had anticipated in people. I thought (foolishly) that everyone (I had my list of about 10 anyway) would want to hear about my trip.
Idiot. Other people had amazing summers too.
I tried to listen. I really did. I tried to prepare myself.
But I don't think you can ever fully brace yourself for re-entry (which is coming back into your home culture after being in a different culture). Things still catch you by surprise.
Like the fact that I can drink the tap water if I so desired. Or the cars on the opposite side of the road...again. And I can read and understand the signs. And everyone around me speaks English. And my city is so quiet. And I don't hear the call to prayer anymore.
After camp, I came home. My tasks for the next week: 1. Clean your room. 2. Send a letter to your supporters. 3. Get ready to talk about your trip for 10-15 minutes on Wednesday. 3. Prepare a two-minute summary of your trip for your church for Sunday. 4. Sort through over 2,000 photos from Tanzania PLUS the extra 520 from camp. 5. Try to breathe.
Yesterday was rough. I woke up with this longing to go back to Tanzania. I started off the morning texting a dear friend in Tanzania. I looked through pictures. I lived in memory lane yesterday. Constantly checking the time in Tanzania. Looking at the photos again. Trying to put together my talk for Wednesday.
All I really wanted to do was nothing on my task list. All I really wanted to do was get on a plane and fly back to Tanzania and see my friends again. I wanted to go back to what felt familiar and safe.
One of the most encouraging things that helped me get through this week was that a friend of mine at church on Sunday let me just be honest with her about how I was feeling. To have someone just listen, that's cool. And to know that even though they may not understand, they care.
So here I am. In the middle. Floating. Grasping. Trying to figure out where I belong. Not wanting to forget my friends and experiences from Tanzania. Knowing that at some point very soon, I'll have to figure out how to function in this world that is my home.