As we all begin to adjust back into our “normal” lives there is a lot that happens. We look back at our pictures, we share stories with friends and family and we send emails to our fellow travel mates with the hope that our connection will remain as it was for the 2 weeks we spent together working and learning side by side.
I always get sad when the group sits down to our last dinner in Malawi. With each trip I have felt the same wave of sadness hit me as I pull my chair out and see all the faces around the table. The sadness comes because I know all to well that we will not pass this way again. I know all to well that the group that sits around that table is about to share their last dinner together. Never again will that group and those same faces be the ones that surround a table again. All that we shared and all that we accomplished all the laughter, tears, jokes, stories and everything in between is now just a memory. A memory that we think we will be able to hold onto forever and look back on with pictures and fondness. Its true we will have these memories forever, but a part of what we experienced will never be able to be explained or understood by anyone other than those faces around that table. Parts of our trip that once seemed so important will begin to fade and we will forget. We will forget certain moments that at the time seemed so meaningful. We will forget what the sounds were like walking to and from the village each day. We wont remember the words we learned or what someone said to us that made us smile one day.
Adjusting back to life should be easy. We are all home in our comfortable beds, clean showers, nice cars, family around us and people begging for us to share what we saw and did with them. What I have found is that it takes a few days to feel like yourself again. I find myself stuck in a haze of moments where my mind wanders back to Malawi and it almost seems as if the last 2 weeks were all a dream. Did it really happen ? It did. It happened and we made an incredible impact not only on the people in Malawi, but on each other. We became a sort of dysfunctional family that learned quickly how to move through this journey together. Every moment we had was an important part of the process and everyone involved gave so much of themselves in order for us to be successful and each learn exactly what we needed to.
Everyone comes home learning something different and feeling different about the experience. I am lucky in the fact that I get to wake up to emails in the days following our return from volunteers who are telling me how this experience changed them.
Its these days that follow the return that I wonder if I took the time to enjoy each moment the way I should have. Did I let things pass me by? Did I treasure every interaction and every moment the way I should have? What would I change if I could do it all over again? Did I/we do enough good? Did we do all we came to do? Have peoples lives been made better based on our journey in Malawi? What work still needs to be done? How can I continue to do this work and continue to make a difference? How can I put all of my memories from this trip away and at the same time use them to prepare me for the next? That last question is one that I think makes coming home hard. When the decision is made to finally close the book on this adventure it is a bit sad. We will not pass this way again.
I know I would not change thing. Not a moment. The good, the bad, the laughter, the tears, the hugs, the high fives….nothing.
I took my shoes out of my suitcase today. The shoes that walked me every step of this trip and the last six. They are coated with Malawi dirt and coated with so many memories. I put them back up on the shelf where they will live until I pack for my next trip back to the place I love so much.
Thank you Ellen, Linda, Sara, Christopher, Larry, Chelsea and Bwana for all you taught me. I am forever grateful that I was able to have this experience with the seven of you.
Cheers until our paths cross again.