Weird, isn’t it? I wasn’t happy there, I was frustrated as heck, I couldn’t wait to leave, I counted the days, I hated the instant coffee every morning, it was the biggest *character-building experience* since I was abroad the last time….and yet I miss it, wonder about it, worry about it, plan to go back at some point, feel like I’m not quite here yet. What’s with that? The signs point to Reverse Culture Shock.
This is in combination with the fact that there seems to be no formal end to my English Language Fellowship, no ceremony, no certificate, no letter thanking me for my hard work on behalf of the American government’s strategic mission in __________________, no long uncomfortable dinner party, nuthin. I filed my final report (minimum ten pages), repaid the money I owed for bailing early to return to Portland, and, well, I guess that’s it. Not with a bang, but a whimper, says the bard. The newbies are scheduled to go to orientation in two weeks, and then the class of ’12-’13 is consigned to the dustbin of history. Sic transit gloria mundi. (Fortunately a subset of us plan to meet up at our professional association meeting in Portland next year…that will be fun. And in the meantime, thank goodness for email.)
Wisely, my shrink counseled an altar and a ritual. The ritual will be a little tough – she suggests trying to engage all the senses. (You may recall there is a Georgian food cart now nearby – that will help with the “smelling” and “tasting” parts.) A dear friend gave me a DVD of folk music – there’s three, and I’ve got the photos, so four, and now all I need is touching. (Hmm.) But the altar was a damn fine idea and I’ve assembled a few little pieces, that I’ll share with you…
You have the postcards of the national dress, some lovely gift earrings, the wine containers, and the music DVD. And, of course, the framed pictures of Kitka. It helps. It really does, and I can’t quite describe why, but thankfully, it does.
Perhaps the hardest part is not talking about it. Anyone who’s traveled knows this little conundrum. “I can’t wait to hear all about your amazing adventures,” your friends crow, sincerely. And so you start in, get a sentence and a half into something, and then the conversation goes somewhere else and never really gets back. And that’s *perfectly* understandable. While you’ve been away, they’ve….been dealing with 1001 issues in their own lives which are front and center while your life-altering nine months at the end of the world is really a little less crucial. I get it, I really really do get it and I’m not angry, it’s just that….I want to talk about it, chew over it, ruminate, rusticate, remember and recall. My best bet is to do that with other folks who are also going through a similar experience, which is probably why none of us have left the “Georgian Wanderers” group on Facebook, even though, well, we’re not wandering in those parts any more.
It’s an experience like no other to travel abroad, especially to a place as, um, remote to Americans as Georgia. It brings to mind something I read a long time ago about the astronauts who traveled to the moon and back and found themselves overwhelmed by their experience of gazing at our planet from the moon, yet really unable to fully share it with others when they returned. For some things it seems, you really do have to be there.