In Two Places at Once

I’m sitting in the kitchen of our cabin at Piatt Lake, blogging and reflecting on the incredible messages I’ve heard at Hiawatha since I got here Monday.

I’m walking through the plaza in Pucallpa with my host family. We’re all touching somehow – an arm looped through another arm, a hand on a shoulder, an elbow balancing on another shoulder. Intertwined, laughing, nearly falling, perfect. 

I’m running into my mom’s arms in Detroit, bursting into tears because I haven’t seen her in 5 weeks and I haven’t slept in 36 hours and my suitcase didn’t make it to the airport when I did.

I’m walking down the streets of Yarina, unknowingly about to attend a surprise party in my honor. As I round the corner by the church, the youth group runs out to greet me with hugs and kisses. We set off on a walk, arm-in-arm in one giant line, blasting music from a boom-box and laughing.

I’m walking through Wal-Mart slowly, reminding myself to say “thank you,” and “excuse me,” instead of “gracias,” and “permiso por favor.” I’m looking around in wonder at this store that is larger than some of the villages I visited in Peru, at this excess of THINGS, shivering in the air conditioning and wondering why in the world we need so much STUFF.

I’m sitting on the floor of Carlos and Carolina’s house, at the second leg of my surprise party. We’re all in a circle, passing shoes around while the group sings “guerrero a guerrero con la tiki-tiki-ta.” At one point everyone points at me and laughs, and I realize that I’m out… though I still have no idea what the point of the game was.

I’m perched at a picnic table on the beach, surrounded by cousins and aunts and uncles. There’s a 3-year-old on my lap, a cup of coffee in my left hand, and I’m taking a picture of the Piatt Lake sunset with the camera in my right hand. Doug and Marilyn are here, and the conversation turns to Peru.

I’m standing in the front of the classroom, dry erase marker in hand. I push play on my computer and my English students beginning singing “Give Me Jesus.” I write the chorus on the board, swat a few bugs, then sit down on a wooden stool and close my eyes, just listening.

I’m at the evening service at Hiawatha. Surrounded by staff and campers, I’m singing of God’s unfailing love; His eternal faithfulness. A tear slips down my cheek as I realize how far (literally and figuratively) I’ve come in the last week.

I’m at the airport in Pucallpa, sitting on a bench, talking to Monica and Pedro in sheer denial. My flight comes in an hour, but I’m refusing to believe it, refusing to accept the fact that I’m leaving. We’re just at the airport for fun, I tell myself. We’ll watch the plane take off, get back in the motokar, and go home.

I’m sitting on the floor of the rec hall at camp, telling my best friend all about my trip… in Spanish. He asks me to slow down a few times and I smile, proud even though I know pride is wrong, excited that I speak Spanish now. We’re looking at pictures, watching videos, sharing inside jokes, and my heart is pulling to another place.

I’m at my last prayer meeting at CEMY. The church members have called me to the front and formed a circle around me. Pastor Daniel begins to pray for me, and they join in one by one, until everyone is praying for me out loud, at the same time. Spanish rushes over me as I catch bits and pieces of the things they’re asking God for on my behalf. Tears rush out of my eyes and sobs begin to shake my shoulders while the realization that I’m expected to LEAVE these people begins to set in.

I’m arriving at camp, I’m walking around. Everyone hugs me, asks how the trip was. “Wonderful,” I begin, and take a breath to start the next sentence, or two, or ten. But they’ve already accepted that as my full answer, they’re already nodding, telling me something about their summers. I remember, then. I remember how it is to come back.

I’m still at the airport in Pucallpa. We’ve moved inside now, and I can no longer deny. I have my passport and boarding pass in my hand, and the flight attendant is standing by the door to security, patiently waiting. I throw my arms around these people I have come to love, one at a time, for a few precious last seconds. I have a goodbye party of about 14, and we are all crying. I embrace them one at a time, leaving them with an “I love you,” and a shoulder soaked with tears. My brother Pedro is last, and I cling to him hard, unleashing a small ocean onto his special graduation shirt for school.

I’m learning to be thankful for those who want to know. For my mom, who has listened to every story and still wants more. For Doug and Marilyn, who understand and were there this year and are as desperate for debriefing as I am. For my dad, who patiently looks at “just one more picture” – about 200 times. For Craig, for Emily, for Molly, for Madison, for Alyssa and hours on the phone and over Skype. I’m at camp, but my heart is still aching for Peru.

I’m letting go of Pedro, blowing final kisses, walking through the doors to security. I’m apologizing through sobs; the flight attendant is telling me not to worry, it’s no problem. I’m walking across the tarmac to my plane, turning around over and over to look at the upstairs window where they’re all standing, waving, crying, blowing kisses. I’m walking up the steps to the plane, turning around one last time. I’m sitting down, thankful for my window seat, wishing the window was on the other side. I’m clutching my nearly empty pack of Kleenex, staring out the window at my Pucallpa.

I’m sitting on the sand next to a blazing fire. My friend-first-cousin-second, 4 years my junior but my confidante and partner in crime nonetheless, has her head on my shoulder and my arm is around her neck. If nothing else, Peru erased my space bubble and turned my love language to physical touch. We’re singing, a song that begs God to take total control of everything. The stars overhead are blinding in their brilliance.

I’m buckling my seatbelt, trying desperately to keep from sobbing loudly. A man and his son are sitting down next to me, doing  a valiant job of pretending there isn’t a crazy gringa bawling her eyes out. The plane is moving, moving, faster and faster. It completes the runway and turns around for another loop, gaining speed. I’m looking out the window toward the airport as we approach. My view is blurry because of my tears, but I make out a group still standing in the upstairs window, still waving, still blowing kisses. The plane is taking off, and I’m picking out buildings from above, recognizing the streets that take me home, to church, to Monica’s, to town. 

I’m finding out that my planes are delayed, that I’ll be sitting in New Jersey for 5 hours after sitting in Lima for 12. I’m ordering airport food, running on auto-pilot, buying a blanket because the air conditioning is already making me sick. I’m reading Reader’s Digest in Spanish, forgetting to speak English, trying to sleep. I keep crying at stupid little things. I just want to go home already.

I’m opening the cards that were pressed into my hand at the airport. I’m reading and crying and crying and crying. The man and his son are still doing a wonderful job of pretending there’s nothing wrong with me, handing me my airplane beverage and sandwich without meeting my eyes. I’m not knowing when I’ll see my Peruvian family again, not knowing if I can bear not knowing. I’m crying, still crying. 

I’m eating Mexican food, unpacking, repacking, eating ALL the cheese. I’m talking 6 million words per minute to Mom, pausing to take a breath and gulp down some more Diet Coke with extra ice. I’m sitting on my living room floor, but my mind is thousands of miles away.

I’m laying in my hammock. I’m eating rice. I’m going to prayer meeting. I’m speaking Spanish. I’m listening to music with Pedro. I’m teaching Ruth how to make cookies. I’m watching Yo Soy! and Combate while journaling. I’m riding in a motokar. I’m walking down dusty roads. I’m taking a cold shower. I’m hanging clothes outside. I’m walking down the road to buy bread. I’m eating a stuffed potato from a cart. I’m talking to Monica. I’m hugging Nathaniel. I’m taking pictures with Fabiano. I’m smiling, I’m laughing, I’m crying, I’m dancing, I’m happy. I’m home.

I’m sitting on the footbridge. I’m eating camp food. I’m going to morning and evening services. I’m speaking English, except when they ask me to speak Spanish. I’m looking at pictures with Craig. I’m talking with Emily about the differences and similarities between Peru and Guatemala. I’m watching the staff do skits and singing praise and worship. I’m driving  a four-wheeler. I’m walking down dusty roads. I’m taking a hot shower. Mom is hanging clothes outside. I’m pulling bread out of the cupboard. I’m eating microwave popcorn. I’m talking to Marilyn. I’m hugging Madison. I’ve only taken 4 pictures. I’m smiling, I’m laughing, I’m crying, I’m singing, I’m happy. I’m home.


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