The Journey Of Returning

Do people expect me to be normal?What is different about my life now, compared to six months ago? How am I different? Am I different?

Did I immerse myself enough in the cultures of South Africa? Talk to people enough? Love enough?

Is life in South Africa and Lesotho, as I experienced it, relevant to life in America? How can I connect two worlds with such fundamentally different lifestyles?

These are hard questions for a hard time. Rejoining America, and all its familiar imperfection, has been a rugged road. I felt oppressed on all sides by homework, cultural expectations of punctuality, and a frustratingly simplistic set of comments and questions. And so I found myself back in Harrison- burg and on campus, disoriented and grieving. I wondered why I suddenly had a carefully planned schedule and why it was so cold outside. I wished cars would drive on the left side of the road, and muttered Sesotho words to myself out of habit.

I thought about and missed my South African families. I avoided answering people’s questions at times, because anything I said would be inadequate. In light of the relaxed, simple, slow pace of life we experienced in South Africa and Lesotho, I felt overwhelmed to return to a lifestyle governed by productivity.

I took comfort in friends and family who felt like home, even if the country did not, and drank endless cups of tea. I rebelled against technology.

Slowly, EMU began to feel like home again, but it was an often stressful and overstimulating home. This is not to say that life at school never felt stressful and overstimulating before I went on cross cultural, because it did. The difference is that now I have hundreds more memories of cultures in which people are less rushed, less focused on goals and productivity, and more steeped in simplicity. The fact that I was now spending my days constantly thinking about what I had to do next felt ridiculous to me, and yet I had no idea how else to function in a college lifestyle.

And, honestly, I still feel that way. I still hurry through the day, wishing I could slow the pace of my steps and my thoughts. I am struggling to under- stand why nearly every single person in modern American society seems to live this way: balancing too many tasks and agendas, setting impossible quotas for how many goals can be achieved. Whatever the causes, the results (for me) are a mind and soul that are exhausted, and not at peace.

So I will keep searching for the ways to keep what I learned last semester relevant to my life now. Cross culturals are not over when we come home – we are meant to keep struggling with what we have seen and felt.

On the flight home from Johannes- burg, I wrote, Rea hopola we remember. Though the remembering is not easy, we do it because after growing to love an entirely new group of people on another continent, it is hard to forget.

Meg is a senior music major who finds beauty in the smallest things. She hopes you are reading this in a moment of peace.

Meg Smeltzer

Categories: Opinion

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