Monday, December 26, 2011

Festivus . . . for the rest of us

I'm an atheist. And I love Christmas.

Really, though, I love holidays. I love parties and celebrations and feasts and days off and getting together with family and traditions. So I love Christmas, but I also love Hanukkah, Solstice, Passover, Thanksgiving, New Years and the Fourth of July. I love singing Christmas carols, I really love some of the good old ones like Silent Night and Good King Wenceslas and Here we go a-wasailing (I also love wasail, yum) and Carol of the Bells, but I also sometimes just love singing Jingle Bells really loud. I love the Singing Christmas Tree. I love Christmas lights. I love seeing Denver all covered in snow and sparkling. I love the City and County building getting lit up and I love the Parade of Lights. When I was a kid, I loved getting up at 5am on Christmas morning and going downstairs to empty my stocking and watch cartoons and parades. I loved finding an orange at the bottom of my stocking. I love going swimming on Christmas.

I think that traditions are important and I appreciate the religious background to Christmas, I just don't happen to believe in Jesus as savior and son of God and all that. I like Jesus, I think he was a great guy and that we can learn a lot from him, so I don't mind celebrating his birthday. I also like to celebrate the birthdays of Martin Luther King Jr. and George Washington, cause they were pretty great guys too.

I don't get offended when people wish me a "Merry Christmas" as long as you don't get offended if I wish you a "Happy Holidays" because Christmas isn't the only holiday this time of year. Christmas is included in my "Happy Holidays," but since I don't celebrate Christmas for the religious aspect of it, it is equal in my mind with Hanukkah, Winter Solstice and New Years, which my family also celebrate with fun and tradition (I love lighting Hanukkah candles, and especially cleaning the wax off of the menorah, I don't know why, I just love playing with the wax).

This year for Christmas, my sister and her family cooked a holiday feast for us at their house- they invited their good friends and my aunt came down from Greeley. My mom (the only Christian among us) had to work until mid afternoon, but when she arrived we all sat down to a lovely meal of turkey and stuffing, with latkes from my aunt and pumpkin pie.

Happy birthday Jesus.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Time . . . to get back to writing

I have been home now for just over a year. That fact seems so strange to me. I have been home now for half of the time I was in Peace Corps and for twice as long as I traveled afterwards. It is funny sometimes how time can seem so different. How lengths of time are so different depending what you are doing. It is like how the last five minutes that you are waiting in class before a vacation starts can seem like they take years . . . and how hours doing something you love can seem to just fly by. The two years I was in PC and traveling are such BIG times. There were lifetimes worth of experiences squeezed into a little less than three years. Of course every moment wasn't exciting (January in Peshkopi seemed to TAKE FOREVER!). The year that I have been back in Denver does not seem to have taken very long and in many ways I am still adjusting to being home. I have maybe gotten over my NEED to tell everyone about PC, but I still bring up Albania and my time in PC often. I still refer to myself as having "recently returned" and I'm not sure when I will have to drop the "recently." A year ago, my parents picked me up from the airport and took me to a RPCV holiday party. A few weeks ago, I walked to that same holiday party. A lot has changed in my life in the past year, and when I walked into the party, some part of me still feels as though I just stepped off the plane from China.

You may have noticed that this is my first update in a long time. I have been keeping a journal in some form or another for most of my life and blogging seemed like a convenient way for my friends and family to keep track of me while I was gone, but I have pretty much stopped since I've been home. I have started to write in my journals again (something that I did only sporadically when I was gone), but I think that I have missed this outlet. There are some things that are private and belong only in the paper and pen version that sits on my bedside table and there are some things that I don't mind sharing with the world. I have never really known or cared if I had much of an audience (except my parents, hi Mom!) and I don't think that is much of a consideration for me right now. I think that I want to write for myself- to work out things that are going on and to update and remind myself. I doubt that I will come back to blogging as much as I was during my trip, but I think I will try to come back and update every once in a while . . . .

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I've been home for a few months now. I have started to write about 5 different posts, but I keep getting stuck in the middle or distracted. I heard a lot from people (and remembered myself from my previous abroad experiences) that reintegration was harder than the original culture shock of leaving and entering a new country. Knowing that doesn't really prepare you for it though.

Coming home is hard. When you leave, you expect things to be hard- you are entering a new culture, you are going away from everything and everyone that you have ever known. But when you come home, it is not like that. You would think that it would be easier to come home. You know these people, you know these things, you have lived this life. But things at home are never quite what you expect them to be. By the time I went back to China (after seeing my parents in the Philippines) I was really homesick. A big part of me wanted to just go home with my parents When I was homesick, I had this particular idea of "home" that is obviously idealized and not totally correct. So when you come home, the first thing is that it is not exactly what you were missing for all those months. I was missing something, maybe the idea of "home," but real home is this crazy real place that is always changing and is not always how I remembered it when I was missing it.

Second, when I was gone, things changed. I am at that age when a lot of my friends are getting married and having babies. So all of a sudden, I come home and there are all these couples and babies and people with completely different lives from when I left. I went away and they kept on living. They kept on living without me and now they are used to living without me, so it is sometimes hard to come back into their lives. They have been used to not calling me and me not being around. I have been used to not seeing them and not being around.

Third, I have changed. I'm not used to the fast paced American life anymore and I'm not sure I want to get used to it again. Even though it was really hard for me to get used to, I did eventually learn how to slow down and enjoy life a bit more while I was traveling. I kind of grew to love snuggling up to my fire and my laptop and watching a movie and then going to bed at 9:00. I got used to getting a full 8 hours (or more) of sleep. I am not the same person that left three years ago (yes, I just past my three year anniversary of leaving for Albania, crazy!). I have literally been around the world. I want to talk about all the places I've been and people I've met and things I've done, but I also don't want to talk about it too much. I feel a bit like this guy. My life is now defined by the past three years and I don't want to be boring talking about it all the time, but it is a frame of reference that I now will experience things by. My life is now "Before Peace Corps" and "After Peace Corps" and I now have a lot of stories that start out with "when I was on the train in Russia . . . " or "compared to Albania . . . " I don't know if people really want to hear about it or not. I know that I have heard all of my parent's stories about a gazillion times- I love their stories (and I love them even more now that I have taken the trip) but I don't know if everyone loves them. It is sometimes hard to know when to talk about it and when to just be quiet.

All of this is not even to mention the general weirdness of America. The cereal isle in the grocery store. Driving on the highway. Having a regular job. Don't even get me started on Sam's Club . . . This is the stuff that I thought people were talking about when they said that coming home is harder. And maybe I'll never really get used to grocery stores again, but probably eventually it will feel normal again . . . someday . . .