…From Being Home

Noah Hapke - Ecuador


May 13, 2016

I'm writing this in a collection of days, because I simply have not been able to formulate my words about being back home. I'm writing this from my bedroom back in Huntington Beach, California; from the kitchen table with my coffee, and cat sitting next to me; and from the sofa in my pajamas and snuggly snuggie. After a family weekend vacation on Catalina Island. And purchasing latte after latte. Going out with friends for every type of food imaginable. And, ultimately, easily falling back into my old routine. 

It has been about three weeks since arriving "home."
HOME
it's such a strange word.
Of course, things still feel weird. Certain aspects of my presence here, and lack of being in San Juan, still hit me in a variety of hard and soft at different, and some of the most random, times. I've probably spent more money from these past 3 weeks than I spent in all of my 8 months in Ecuador. I have probably driven equal miles, too.
Both in Training Seminar 3 and Re-Entry we talk so much about "reverse culture-shock" and, by underlining this harsh reality for many Fellows returning home, I assumed it would, and must, hit me the same.
But it didn't really.

Actually, most of the activities felt the same and seeing old friends seemed just like a continuation forward. My family's relationship has, while growing for the better, remained static even in the midst of my ever-changing emotions inside myself. My family took the four of us on a trip to Catalina Island, a 75-minute boat ride from my hometown to a touristy island 25-or-so miles away. We ate out, went shopping, played card games, and spent hours talking – all things my host family back in Ecuador hardly did with me. It is, in all honesty, nice to be back in a family where I feel unconditionally loved.
Amidst the slow pace life I am living right now, I am finding myself losing track of the present. I am texting my friends. Preparing a lot for my move to Oakland. Making playlist after playlist. Staying up a bit past 9pm. And, although these activities are nice and relaxing (and I haven't had those opportunities for a while), I recognize I still need to practice self-awareness and staying present in a land that I feel I know completely. I am still adjusting, and probably will be for a while. The amount of free time I have to watch documentaries and do absolutely nothing here is strange, especially when I miss being at Nicanor Aguilar for ten hours a day, teaching and chatting with my co-teachers.
I also have a lot of time to talk about this incredible (literally so freakin' awesome) program – Global Citizen Year. I never knew just a year could truly impact an entire life to this extent. I went to my old high school and spoke with juniors about the benefits of a bridge year, and this program in particular, and I caught a few kids' attention and it was magical. Also, I have been making meal after meal, seco de pollo con arroz y arroz chaufla and so many other amazing dishes that I really miss eating from my host mom every dinner. I have gone through pictures with family and friends to talk more about my life in Ecuador but, in all honesty, it's so hard. They don't get it. They listen, yes, and they fully try and want to understand but they don't because they weren't there. And it's nobody's fault; I just never would have thought talking about my memories with others could be so challenging.  Finally, I finished my Capstone video and once I watched the final result I was taken back almost to tears. It has been almost a month since being back in California, and some of those videos and photos seemed like they were taken years ago – or not even taken at all. I miss my Fellows and Team Leader incredibly and miss talking about both the silly, goofy aspects of Ecuador and the most challenging and self-conflicting situations imaginable. Like Esther reminded us at RET, we must talk about our experiences because, slowly, memories will fade and we will be left with just some photos. I don't want that to happen, though.
There's not much left for me to say so, with that I'll end with a quote as that is the Global Citizen Year tradition. I am so incredibly grateful for this experience and for this program, and for all the wonderful people who help make it possible. Thanks everyone.

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."
~Dr. Seuss

Noah Hapke