“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” – Terry Pratchet
I know: My writing has been consistently inconsistent. It’s hard to believe all the days and miles and events that have passed since my last post.
I’ve actually written quite a bit since I last updated here – cover letters, emails, thank you notes, and journal entries – but, when I have sat down to really write about the end of my time in Montenegro, it seems like the words have been stuck inside of me, knotted and unclear. Unintelligible, even to me. “Tell me all about your trip!” countless friends have exclaimed upon our reunion – but I don’t know where to begin. I typically tell them a little bit about my Fulbright year, then just make a joke about holding myself back from kissing people on the cheeks and saying “ciao” everywhere I go now that I’m back in the States (Seriously: is there anything more pretentious than an American girl saying “ciao” in Midwestern suburbia? I don’t think so.). So, I never get very far.
What they don’t tell you when you move to another country – even if it isn’t for very long – is that, at some point, your experience becomes less of a “trip” and starts being… your real life. I know that people want to hear the crazy travel tales – the exciting bits that get all of the “likes” on Facebook. Hiking through mountains and taking salty swims in the Adriatic sea; winding roads with speeding cab drivers who are a bit too friendly; playing in waterfalls and late-night dancing down cobble stone streets.
Those things happened, of course.
But it seems remiss to talk about all that and not touch on the rest: waiting in line to register at police stations; getting totally lost navigating a city whose language you don’t understand; moments of extreme loneliness; lesson planning in yoga pants; anxiety (often brought on by drinking too much Turkish coffee); grading papers; and an embarrassing amount of Netflix (I may be the first person in Montenegro to fall in love with Tim Riggins, but I really hope I’m not the last).
Real life isn’t always exciting, but each aspect of it is important – the peaks and the valleys. All of it contributes to the overall experience and all of it is necessary. I’m finally beginning to comb through the overarching experience – through memories, scribbled notes from my journal, and looking back through my pictures. Over the next few weeks, I am going to try to write more, to untangle of some of the knots.
When I close my eyes and think of my time in the Balkans, I see a mosaic of experiences, each significant in its own way. I see people I love. I see a place I will always think of as home.
When I open my eyes, back in Michigan, I see people I love. I see a place I will always think of as home…. now, with new eyes and extra colors.
How lucky I feel to see beauty no matter where my eyelids happen to fall.