Sometimes when a South African will ask how you're doing, they will ask, "Are you fine?" I have always thought this was funny, mostly because of the connotations of 'fine' that I am used to in American English. Fine can be used as a retort, "FINE!" Or to describe someone, "He's a fine looking man." So I would laugh a little to myself and then reply that I was doing okay.
And that's about where I'm at right now. I'm doing okay. It's amazing how quickly I'm reacclimating to America. I suppose that makes sense because my last three weeks in South Africa were spent in Cape Town and Pretoria. In my guesthouse by the Peace Corps Office, I got pretty far away from what it was like to take bucket baths and fumble for the candles when the electricity went out.
I find myself translating what things cost in dollars into Rand. Sometimes it's pretty pathetic. I don't know why I do it. Habit, maybe. I did really like paying with a different currency. But, for example, a nice "cheap" out-to-dinner meal with a friend in America might cost what, $15 with tip, right? Well, that's 120 Rand. That could pay for two nice meals in Pretoria! Or a week's worth of groceries and toiletries!
When my plane was first landing in D.C., I was so amazed at how lush everything was. The bright green color of the grass and trees was a nice welcome home after living the closest to a desert that I've ever lived in my life! But when we "de-planed" (I love that term : ) the muggy August air wrapped tightly around me. It didn't help that my luggage was so full that I had to wear a t-shirt, sweater, hoodie and my South African winter coat through my 30-hour excursion back home. (And 30 hours not showering plus four layers of clothes in August, eish!, it was something!)
I took my 'welcome home tour' and visited friends in Boston, Ann Arbor, Detroit and Cincinnati. It was nice to see everyone who had been so supportive of me - and to pass out souvenirs! Since I had expected to be in South Africa longer, I spent my last week going between completing my medical paperwork and furiously buying gifts! Of course, I ran out of money. And then I found out that Peace Corps pro-rates your monthly stipend and takes money back from you for the month you leave. Wow. It's not like we made that much anyway. Oh well. I got some nice gifts for most of my friends and family.
I'm moving along with trying to work with D.C. on a policy for survivors of sexual assault and rape - along with other physical crimes. I started a companion blog (since I'm not tech-savvy enough to create a website) for this effort at: http://firstresponseaction.blogspot.com/. You can also email me at email@example.com. The Peace Corps staff person I'm supposed to start this conversation with was on vacation until this past Tuesday. He'd been gone for two weeks, so I gave him this week to catch up on emails. I'll start again next week. I want him to be happy when we talk : ) I'll keep you posted.
In love and laughter,