Back to Boston

Trip Start Jun 02, 2003
Trip End Dec 31, 2006

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Flag of United States  , Massachusetts
Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Can you believe that I am writing another travelpod entry? It has been quite some time. So much has happened, yet I think of Benin everyday as though I were just there and will be back again after the weekend. It's better to think of it that way.

So, let's see. I left Benin on August 7, 2005. I spent about ten days in France. I returned to the States on August 18.

As my plane landed in Boston, I got tears in my eyes, and my heart started pounding. I know this might bother some of you to read, but the tears and increased heartbeat were not because of excitement. In reality, I was really anxious and scared. Boston looked very much the same from the plane: ocean and skyscrapers glittering in the afternoon sun, red brick back bay and white sails on the Charles River. It is a beautiful city, and I recognized that, but it also signified the completion of my two + year journey, or so I thought. For some reason, as hard as I tried, I wasn't able to think very much about the new journey I would be beginning as soon as the wheels hit the tarmac. This particular ending/beginning was quite fuzzy, not able to be defined by dates and departures and landings.

I was exhausted and weak when I arrived. I hadn't eaten or slept much on the plane. My friend Gina was there to pick me up at the airport. (By the way, I am grateful to everyone who offered to pick me up and let me crash at their place for the two nights I was in Boston before heading down to Texas.) I started to cry as she hugged me, and I didn't have much to say when we were in the car. I remember feeling strange and a little sick. I wasn't used to air conditioning anymore, and as Gina's volkswagon whipped down Boston's crazy streets, I had to open the window for fresh air.  My eyes followed the curves of Storrow drive and the Charles.

Gina was a gracious host. She was gentle with me, which I needed at that time. The first night was rough. I made some phone calls to two Benin volunteers who had returned a year before, and they helped me calm down enough to sleep. Why am I telling you this, you may ask? Is the United States that awful? No, it is not. However, I was really nervous about returning, and I was sad. I didn't feel at home here in this country where everything was so clean and orderly and lacking in vibrant colors and cock-a-doodle-doos. All I could think about was the fact that I might never again see my Beninese friends and family (yes, I had a Beninese family). It was frightening to think that now that I was back I would have to find a job, move into a new place, start paying bills (Peace Corps is quite a good tactic to avoid the responsibilities of bill-paying!), and begin anew within a few short weeks.

After a couple of days in Boston, during which I took care of some business and reacquainted myself bit by bit to America, I flew home to Texas. My parents picked me up at the airport in Austin and drove me to the ranch. I slept soundly at the ranch. Maybe it was the comfortable bed. Maybe my body was simply too exhausted to stay awake anymore. Maybe it was the familiar sound of birds and mooing cows.

Finally, we drove across the Harbor Bridge, and I looked out at the "Sparkling City By the Sea" that is Corpus Christi. Things had changed a bit, and we weren't able to drive down Ocean Drive like I usually like to do. Our house smelled the same, though it felt drier than usual. Air conditioning and a new de-humidifier. My cat, Killer, was still alive to greet me, along with the dogs, Bogey and Tank. The house, too, had changed during my absence. The kitchen was no longer the bright yellow color of my childhood. Now, it was a gleaming blue and white, and the back door was in a new location to accomodate my parents' new bathroom. Everything changes.

Over the next ten days, I spent time with my family. I allowed my mom to pamper me with new clothes and pedicures. I lunched with my dad. I soaked for hours in my parents' new jacuzzi bathtub. During those first few days, I received difficult news about some deaths both in Benin and in the United States, and that made a nurturing environment a bit more necessary. In fact, four young Beninese girls had drowned during one group of volunteers' Girls Camp.  And another volunteer friend of mine who had also just finished his service was mourning his brother who had died in an accident days before he was supposed to arrive home.  He hadn't seen his brother during his entire Peace Corps service.  I am thankful I did not have such a homecoming.  I can't even imagine what that must have been like. 
The ten days in Corpus Christi ended a bit too quickly, but I was determined to move into my apartment in Boston on September 1.

Soon after moving back to Boston, I met up with the strong females of my family in New York City. This was the first reunion with my sisters, my aunt and her sister and niece, and my grandmother, all of whom I had not seen in more than two years. Talk about culture shock! I went from paying two dollars for a glamorous African outfit, complete with headscarf to perusing $175.00 skinny tank tops at Bendel's (which I DID NOT purchase!).  I went from being squished between a goat and a marche mama in a bush taxi to drinking champagne in a shiny stretch limo. Meals were no longer 50 cents for a giant plate of rice and beans. The gourmet restaurants we frequented charged 35 bucks for a piece of guinea fowl the size of my nose garnished with one baby carrot and half a lettuce leaf! Gourmet, schmourmet. No wonder New York models are so skinny!

We did have a hearty meal at an Italian restaurant that we are convinced is a front for the mafia. My mom schmoozed with the the owner when she popped in to use their bathroom earlier in the day. He invited us back, and voila! Five star treatment, complete with a complimentary bottle of champagne and red roses! The beefy, Italian-chatting Soprano types leaning on their elbows at the corner table only fueled the already loose and bubbly conversation.

I think my family members thought I was a little shell-shocked. They were right. I tried my best to remember that this, too, was a cultural experience. I saw New York and America through different eyes. I think I appreciated it more than I ever had before. I also appreciated my family in a new way. We had fun.

The next few months were a blur of ups and downs. I spent a lot of time utilizing the New England Peace Corps Office's Career Corner. I walked a lot until the weather got nasty. I soaked in the tub when times got rough. I met other Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) at their monthly gatherings. I had a hard time walking past people doing work on the street and not wishing them "Bon Travail!" (Good work!) I got compliments on some of my West African clothing. I ate way too much Ben and Jerry's.

I also mourned someone else.  I debated over whether or not to put this in here, but as it is also part of my experience, and as I have written about this person, I've decided to share it.  My former neighbor Alice died in October 2005.  She was 16 years old.  She was a bright and beautiful girl who had a lot going for her, a spunky personality, intelligence, curiosity, courage and love.  She would often come to my house to bake with me, to study, to sing and dance, to chat about school and friends.  Nearly every Peace Corps volunteer I know has one or two young people who sort of adopts them and whom they adopt.  Alice was my girl.  I am thankful that I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with her during my last summer in Benin, and I thankful that I got to know her.  She was the oldest of six sisters.  I miss her very much and am very very sad that I won't ever be able to see her grow into womanhood.    

I had a harder time than I imagined finding the perfect job, but I finally landed one that, as much as I may mumble and grumble, has probably been perfect for me as I readjust. Workin' nine to five-thirty, that's no way to make a livin'! Barely gettin' by, ... Can't remember the rest of the song, but anyway, I'm rambling. I began working in Boston University's International Students and Scholars Office just before Thanksgiving. It's not a difficult job, and I can certainly leave it behind when I walk out the door at the end of the day.

Readjusting has not been an easy experience. I don't know that Peace Corps really prepares you so much for when you come home. They try, but like Peace Corps itself, the readjustment experience is quite lonely at first.
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I began writing this back in April of 2006, and now it is hours before the big ball in Times Square will drop.  I don't know why, but I never got around to finishing this entry.  Some might say that I am holding on, not ready to let go of an adventure, a life-changing experience.  I'm sure that is partly true.  I think another part of me wanted to be able to have something exciting to say to show that a new adventure was beginning, and somehow, getting paid hourly to work a desk job, as important as my job might be for the international students who visit our office, doesn't seem like an adventure.  Perhaps I'm being too judgmental.
So, where am I now?  I am still in Boston and still in the same job, but there is a light at the end of tunnel.  Just as I began to write that I heard the blasts of fireworks bursting outside!  A good omen?  Let's hope so.  The light at the end of the tunnel will hopefully be graduate school studying either International Education or International Development.  I opened my laptop to attempt to finish a grad school essay, but my procrastinating (and an email from an unknown reader of this blog) brought me to this page instead.  Fitting, perhaps, to end this travelblog at the end of the year.  It's time.  After all, the closing of one door allows others to open.  I'm ready for the next door. 
In other news, I will have a story published in a travel anthology next summer!  This is partly thanks to all of the wonderful encouragement I have received from all my travelpod readers.  The anthology is called Best Women's Travel Writing 2007 and is published by Travelers' Tales.  It comes out in May 2007. 
Also, just to let you know that, while this will be my last entry for this particular travel blog, I will be uploading more photos (in the near near future!), and someday I may get around to writing a bit more about the Lybian airport as promised! 
In a few hours, I will be saying farewell to 2006, shouting Happy New Year, and hugging my friends and welcoming 2007.  I wish you all good health, joy, prosperity, love and adventure for the new year!  Again, thank you so much for joining me on my Beninese Peace Corps adventure.  Until the next one ...     
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