So after bidding goodbye to my dear family in Washington Saturday, January 2nd, I flew back to California and spent an evening with my uncle’s family and my Nana. Though it was a quick visit it was wonderful. Sunday Morning my Aunt Laura drove me all the way back to Ojai and we went for a beautiful ride in part of the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy (the land I worked to protect as an intern the summer before Peace Corps) with my mom. Her business is going well by the way and I highly recommend going for a ride in Ojai if you need a breather! It was so beautiful and I still can’t fully comprehend why I’m so intent on moving so far away yet again. And then my whirlwind two days-before-moving-to-the-east-coast began.
That night I randomly bumped into Ms. Anaise, my old high school English teacher who truly opened my eyes and helped me to develop the way in which we put our thoughts to paper-writing (not to mention the time she saved my life! I stopped breathing, hey, it happens). She invited me to come speak to her current students about my experience, and possibly inspire some kids to think about Peace Corps as an option in their futures. Though nervous, I just couldn’t resist. I managed to run all my errands on Monday so that I could spend Tuesday speaking to her students.
It was SO weird to step into Ventura High School as a true adult. Getting a visitors pass made me feel supremely old. Late for class and shaky, I made it and spent four periods talking to juniors. I must take a moment to thank them immensely for their interest and sweet comments (they got extra credit for reading my blog, and for that I must apologize, it can be dry). They were full of questions about everything from the Peace Corps application process to living in a mud house, Moroccan cuisine to living in a Muslim country, how we party there to gender roles and relationships. It was awesome, and I truly hope they enjoyed my answers as much as I enjoyed their questions. Particularly as an RPCV, sharing our experiences is Peace Corps goal 3: “Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans” and I hope to do it again.
After that delightful day in school I finally headed to the beach. I’d driven by it numerous times, but shamefully, hadn’t stepped foot on the sand or in the water since returning to America! I know, I can hardly believe it myself. Leaving my shoes in the car, I walked out onto the terrain I know best. The sand was cool as it was nearly sunset and only the fear of hypothermia kept me from completely diving into the water. The Pacific in January is freezing! I plopped down and let the calm set in of being so at home next to the water. Whenever I allow myself the time to sit there I am refreshed. It still amazes me how oblivious so many Californians are of the incredible beauty that surrounds them on a daily basis. Is that why I’m moving away? To get away from the lack of appreciation? No, its not like there will be more in Massachusetts. I know my standards are impossibly high, but I aim for them nonetheless. I pondered my decision to leave yet again in those moments on the beach, and while I cant express any real conclusions, I remain wholeheartedly committed to my choice. Something in me is saying go, and so I follow. My instincts are right far more often than my reason, so it’s quite reasonable to trust them.
After a stressful night of packing while trying to let my mom sleep, we headed out to breakfast with my grandparents and sister Michelle before Mom, Bu and I headed to the airport. After a sweet goodbye I dove into the insanity that is LAX and after over two hours of security made it onto my flight just in time. The tranquilizers for Buggid worked like a charm this time and one layover and plane change later I was in Indiana.
From the top of possibly the slowest and longest escalator in the world I spotted the pink figure of joy that is my best friend/roomate/heterosexual soul-mate/other half/etc. Ashley. I squealed just a bit as I tried desperately not to scream and when I finally got off that damn escalator we all but knocked each other over. I have to admit I was a bit nervous about our reunion. People change, our lives had taken such different paths, two years was a long time, yada yada, but holy moley, you’d think not a week had gone by. Though vastly changed as people, our friendship is exactly as it was-completely delightful. I can’t begin to express how happy I’ve been this week with her. I’m just all smiles.
Even covered in snow, she’s given me a fabulous tour of Bloomington and her grand campus of IU, the recycling center, etc., we even went wine tasting and I’m a convert! I’m the one that hates wine, but apparently shitty Moroccan wine really isn’t the way to go. On the way home with a bottle of Oliver I realized aloud, “Ashley, maybe I’m not a cheap date anymore.” Of course I still am tolerance-wise as was shown a couple nights later. She somehow coerced me into watching stoopid football with her wonderful friends before going out to the Hairbangers Ball. It was amazing, we (me in particular) got completely smashed and danced like there was no tomorrow to awesome 80’s covers. Wow.
Today was the first day of classes and I was lucky enough to attend one class with her, Art, Craft and Technology in Subsaharan Africa. It was wonderful and I deeply miss living in Africa. I appreciate even more today how happy I am to not be in school anymore. It was cool, and odd, to be on a real, working campus again and hang out with grad students, and see how happy and thriving Ashley is there, and how happy and thriving I am to not be there. It’s good to know these things about ourselves, and to accept them.
I’m just waiting for her to come home now for tonight, my last night. We’re having Chinese delivered, popping open that bottle of wine, watching movies, doing henna and relaxing. Tomorrow Bu and I fly to New Hampshire, have a wonderful evening at the Coes’s, and Thursday I drive to Sheffield and life at Moon in the Pond Farm begins. Bismillah farming!