Finally Home

I have actually been home for a couple weeks at this point, but I decided that it is finally time to come out of hiding. Since I have been home, I have kept a low profile in order to have some time and space to readjust. The transition has been relatively smooth in regards to my car, phone, accounts, insurances, finances, etc. since I arranged for everything to be maintained while I was away. It is interesting stepping back into the developed world because it seems to happen so naturally. However, that doesn’t change the fact that I frequently feel disconnected or out of place. I’m like a fish out of water but I am getting used to it and glad to be home.

In one sense, it almost feels like Guatemala was just a distant dream. On the other hand, I can feel it with me all the time as I constantly flashback to my life and memories there. I am not ready to just let it slip away from me, but it is challenging to find a way to incorporate such a meaningful experience into a society where everyone is too busy to deal with anything except for what is right in front of their faces. A place where stress, consumerism, and addiction to immediate results and gratification are the common currencies coursing through the veins of the American people in this time- and money-dictated world.

I am happy to be back in the United States of America. I left Guatemala on my own terms, for the most part, and I came home when I was ready. I had a grand adventure! And to be surrounded by loved ones again—to feel safe and protected—is something that I appreciate more than I ever expected to. However, it is definitely a big change from the life I have been living on my own for the last two and a half years. The “I have to take care of myself or no one else will” attitude and survival instincts that go along with it that I developed while living abroad are still very much with me, as well as the patience and calmness that were necessary for managing the unpredictable everyday occurrences in Guatemala. I think those are all good attributes to have, but it will probably take some time for people who knew me before to get used to the enhanced, perhaps different, person I am now. And vice versa. Lots of changes have occurred over two and a half years.

Since I came back earlier in October, I feel like I have hardly been alone, but coming home to family and doing fun activities together and participating in American cultural traditions has been great. Here I am with my brother, Jeffrey, and my mom, Janine, at a pumpkin patch/corn maze in Dixon a few weeks ago.

Since I came back earlier in October, I feel like I have hardly been alone, but coming home to family and doing fun activities together and participating in American cultural traditions has been great. Here I am with my brother, Jeffrey, and my mom, Janine, at a pumpkin patch/corn maze in Dixon a few weeks ago.

The hardest thing I have been dealing with since being home is over-stimulation in every aspect. From spending so much time alone in peace and quiet whenever I felt like it to all of a sudden being surrounded by people who are excited to see me and tell me everything that is going on in their lives and then walking into a grocery store and being faced with like 40 different choices of yogurt, it has been overwhelming. It took me two weeks to even step foot into a grocery store; I just wished I could walk across the street to buy my eggs and milk. And one time I went to a shopping center to find a place to write and was faced with so many choices that I just didn’t pick any place and decided to leave. There is so much congestion of traffic and people and televisions and noise, but very little interaction. In Guatemala, we HAD to talk to people and touch people and live in a real, physically interactive environment. So I find that I am craving that on one hand and being oddly anti-social on the other hand.

I went to the cheeses section at Safeway where there were 199 different options (I counted) varying by type, size, brand, fat content, and preparation style; in Guatemala, I used to have to go an hour and a half out of my town to buy a small pack of shredded mild cheddar cheese (my other option was mozzarella), and then I rationed it because I knew I couldn't get more for a couple weeks.

I went to the cheeses section at Safeway where there were 199 different options (I counted) varying by type, size, brand, fat content, and preparation style; in Guatemala, I used to have to go an hour and a half out of my town to buy a small pack of shredded mild cheddar cheese (my other option was mozzarella), and then I rationed it because I knew I couldn’t get more for a couple weeks.

As I wandered through that same Safeway, I stumbled upon ANOTHER cheese section by the deli (the specialty cheeses). I didn't bother counting that time, but with the specialty cheese section, the first cheese section where I counted, AND the cheese "island" near the bakery/muffin selection, there could easily be between 300-400 options of choices just at one Safeway. Can you see how that could be overwhelming?

As I wandered through that same Safeway, I stumbled upon ANOTHER cheese section by the deli (the specialty cheeses). I didn’t bother counting that time, but with the specialty cheese section, the first cheese section where I counted, AND the cheese “island” near the bakery/muffin selection, there could easily be between 300-400 options of cheese just at one Safeway. Can you see how that could be overwhelming?

It has been extremely heartwarming to know that people want to see me, and I have felt so welcomed by most of those with whom I have been able to spend time already. Little by little, I am getting out and about and I really appreciate the patience and understanding that everyone has demonstrated while waiting for me to come around. I am very excited to get to everyone and hear what is going on in YOUR lives, and I have noted everyone who has individually contacted me expressing interest in meeting up. As I settle in and regain some structure in my life, I will be sure to set aside some quality time for correspondence or, when possible, in-person visits. Of course, this will not all happen overnight, but know that my heart is with all of you and I’m sending well-wishes your way for now. I haven’t even seen all of my family yet, but I am moving at a pace that is comfortable for me and eventually it will happen.

My brother, Zack, me, my little sister Lyndsie, and my older sister, Christie, at our cousin's wedding just a few weeks ago.

My brother, Zack, me, my little sister, Lyndsie, and my older sister, Christie, at our cousin’s wedding just a few weeks ago.

Although I wasn’t originally intending to, I have decided to move back to Roseville (near Sacramento) with my mom for a while. Compared to the Bay Area, Roseville is a lot more laid back and less crowded, providing a calm, peaceful environment that will make for an easier transition, I am thinking. With a couple family members and close friends up there, I have a really nice support system, but at the same time, since I am not going back to the area where I was living and working immediately before joining the Peace Corps, I have the opportunity to start fresh again. I got hired (sooner than I expected) at a very nice restaurant called Suede Blue in Roseville and will start tomorrow, working mostly in the evenings. It will be nice to get back on my feet again and start earning some money so I have time to adjust and finish some personal projects without the burden of being completely broke and trying to make payments on student loans, insurances, other bills, etc.

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Part of my support system in the Sacramento area includes this bunch here with me at Apple Hill just over a week ago: My mom, my brother, Jeff, his awesome girlfriend, Tanya, and our family Golden Retriever, Savanna (my new running buddy).

Unfortunately, I did not finish my writing project before I came home. This was not entirely unexpected. My travels ended specifically because my cousin Robert set his wedding date for earlier in October, and I wanted to be there in person to show my support for him and his wife, Anita, on their special day. I tried very hard to write as much as possible in Central America before coming home because I feared that all of the distractions in the American society would prevent me from finishing, but I am not done yet. (Don’t worry: I will give the story a proper ending!) I have approximately eight chapters to go. They are all formed in my head and if I don’t get them out now, I might never finish the story. And then I will always be thinking about them and stressing over it. Not cool.

My cousin, Robert, and his bride, Anita, on their wedding day.

My cousin, Robert, and his bride, Anita, on their wedding day.

As I expected, finding time to myself to write has proven to be a challenging endeavor, but now that I will have some structure in my schedule and be living in one place, I am determined to incorporate writing time into my life here in the USA—at least until I finish this writing project. I am not putting major pressure on myself, but I’m expecting to wrap it up around January. So even though I am home now, there is still more to the story. One benefit is that now I can incorporate some of the cultural aspects that may surface during this readjustment period which will add an enhanced perspective.

Coffee shops are usually the best places for me to write. There is no shortage of Starbucks in the USA: my brother, Zachary, told me that there are 11 Starbucks in a 3-mile radius around my dad's house, including this one--inside Safeway--that is currently being remodeled. I think Guatemala has ONE, (maybe two) Starbucks store in the entire country, which has approximately the same land area as the state of Tennessee.

Coffee shops are usually the best places for me to write. There is no shortage of Starbucks in the USA: my brother, Zachary, told me that there are 11 Starbucks in a 3-mile radius around my dad’s house, including this one–inside Safeway–that is currently being remodeled. I think Guatemala has ONE (maybe two) Starbucks store in the entire country, which has approximately the same land area as the state of Tennessee.

I’m in no rush, but some of the next steps—because that seems to be everyone’s favorite question for me right now—include studying for and taking the GRE (which is similar to the SAT, but for graduate school), researching grad schools and programs, fixing up my résumé, taking on another job perhaps in the Spring, fiddling with some other small personal endeavors and creative projects, and spending a lot of time with my family and best friends.

I just got back from a week-long trip to Portland, OR, to visit two of my close Peace Corps friends as well as one of my best friends, Krista (the one who visited me in Guatemala), and Krista's fiancé, Chase. Krista, Chase, and I enjoyed an afternoon wine tasting in a part of Oregon wine country last Saturday.

I just got back from a week-long trip to Portland, OR, to visit two of my close Peace Corps friends, Kelly and Pedro, as well as one of my best friends, Krista (the one who visited me in Guatemala), and Krista’s fiancé, Chase. Krista, Chase, and I enjoyed an afternoon wine tasting in a part of Oregon wine country last Saturday.

So for those of you who are still reading, I hope you are enjoying each chapter, and I promise you that some of my best chapters will be the final ones. Thank you for keeping me motivated to finish!

Love,

Alexandra

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cynthia Peterson
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 21:15:32

    Hi Alex! I’m so glad you’re home safe and sound, and that you’re enjoying time with family and friends. Wine tasting in Portland with dear friends is definitely a delightfully sweet and wise way of easing back into the blessings we have here in the USA.

    Thanks for the updates and photos. And, I’ll be looking forward to the rest of the story… :0)

    God bless and much love,

    Cynthia

    Reply

    • Alexandra
      Nov 14, 2013 @ 20:44:54

      Yes, the wine was yummy! 😉 We even stopped in at a winery that does a special bubbly tasting…that was fun!

      So I am here and thinking of you everyday. An interesting thing happened with my employment so I am on the search again (and therefore feeling unsettled again). As soon as I know I have a job and get a regular schedule, I will be seeing you.

      Looking forward to it!

      Love,
      Alex

      Reply

  2. Elease Ayala
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 22:43:57

    Ally!
    Good luck tomorrow on your first day at your new job!! I loved all the pictures with your blog. You look so beautiful as always! Hope we can get together soon! I enjoyed reading your updates. I’m working tomorrow & Thursday but I will catch up more with you Friday. I’d love to hear more about Oregon! Love you & have fun tomorrow!!
    Xo -Elease

    Reply

    • Alexandra
      Nov 14, 2013 @ 20:46:55

      Hey Girlfriend!

      I had a great time with you last week and am looking forward to our next girl time date! Plus, I forgot to tell you about Oregon. Haha! Love you and talk to you soon!

      Ally

      Reply

  3. Lois McClure-Smith
    Nov 08, 2013 @ 11:53:25

    Glad you’re safely home and settling in though the culture shock is …. a shock. Still here in Boise if you ever come this way!

    Reply

    • Alexandra
      Nov 14, 2013 @ 20:49:28

      Hi Miss Smith! Oh, I am definitely thinking about coming your way… Since I need to buff up my financial situation again, travel is on hold for now, but I was thinking that when the snow melts in the Spring, I should make my way over for a visit. I am really looking forward to it since I haven’t seen you in so long! Plus, I have never been to Idaho… 😉

      Reply

  4. Aaron Adelman
    Nov 08, 2013 @ 16:29:17

    …great picture of you and your siblings. How about Zack’s tie !!

    Reply

    • Alexandra
      Nov 14, 2013 @ 20:52:02

      Right? He is pretty stylish lately! He walked in one night with his hair all styled and I thought he resembled Elvis; it’s fun to watch him become so suave and sure of himself! And Lyndsie, too. She has this vintage elegance going on… I need to take her with me when I go shopping!

      Reply

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Common Peace Corps Acronyms

PC = Peace Corps (sounds like "peese kor")
PCT = Peace Corps Trainee
PCV = Peace Corps Volunteer
PST = Pre-Service Training
ET = Early Termination
COS = Close of Service
NGO = Non-Governmental Organization
HH = Healthy Homes, the PC program I am in.
YD = Youth Development, the other program in my training group.

Disclaimer

Anything that is written or views expressed on this blog are mine personally and do not represent the Peace Corps or the United States government.
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