“Man, it’s been a long haul, huh?” Robin lamented. She emailed the other day wondering what’s going through my head and heart these final days before I leave for Thailand. She expressed her wishes that “amid the swirl of thoughts and emotions that I am keeping the excitement of all this in plain view.” Robin and I started an on-line friendship over a year ago when I first learned the Peace Corps was sending me to Ukraine. She was already over there in her first year of Peace Corps service. I happened upon her blog and liked her writing.
Robin got evacuated from Ukraine and my service there was canceled before it started, at the end of February. She’s in Mozambique now and she knows I’ve been waiting a very long time for this chapter in my life. It’ll be almost three years from the time I finalized my application to when I will actually begin service. Yes, it’s been a long haul.
What is going through my head and heart? I’m back to the point of waking up at 4, 5 in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep. My mind drifts to Robin in Mozambique and I think about all that she has to endure: the lack of privacy, the taunting from the children who are constantly at her door and a recent unsettling horror that she so brilliantly shares in her own words. http://robinpicard.blogspot.com. Will I have the strength and fortitude she has, the resilience to rise each morning and take another step out into that strange and possibly unwelcoming world around me?
I try to stop my brain from racing in the wee small hours, to slow it down enough to concentrate on what it is I’m actually thinking. As I toss from side to side I wonder about what kind of mattress I’ll have in Thailand or if I’ll only have a bamboo mat on the floor, struggling to sleep in the heat. I wonder about the kind of pillow I’ll have or whether that travel pillow I bought for the 29 hour flight to Bangkok will be the only one I see for two years. In thinking about my head, I remember the packable safari hat that’s stashed somewhere in the back seat of my car and I try to make a mental note that I need to find it and pack it. As my mind wanders out to the car picturing where the hat is in it, I contemplate for a split second the fact that I still need to sell my car. Will Dan help me do that or will I have to do it on my own? And when I think about the car I think about driving out to Western NY to visit dad and Joyce one last time. There are only a few weeks left now and the week between Christmas and New Year’s seems to be the most likely time to do that. Will this be our final goodbye? Will the weather cooperate? It being Christmas, what can I possibly give them that they don’t already have? I roll over again and wish my dog was next to me to give me comfort and the context of the present.
A fellow Thailand Group 127 member posted a photo of her dog on Facebook and asked if anyone else was leaving a pet behind. Within minutes, photos of other dogs were posted by those of us who have already left, or will soon leave, our beloved companions with family and friends as we prepare to embark on this journey. As I think about my Tatter, I think about all the photos I have of him on my phone and on my laptop and how he will travel with me in memory and in pixels. Then I remember I have only a few pictures of my father and Joyce from recent visits and no digital images of our earlier lives and none of my mother who died 25 years ago. All the old photographs are in storage and I add another task to my sleepless list. The images of my mother when she was young and the photos she saved of her parents and her childhood in Germany will need to be scanned and saved and taken with me to show my host family in Thailand that I am not completely alone in this world. Not nearly as alone as I feel at 4 in the morning.