Lunch in the national home, accompanied by my friends, was an excellent transitional experience back into "the way things are done" here. I was grateful for my original two weeks in country a couple years ago, because that gave me a foundation for culturally appropriate "meal etiquette," etc! This particular national friend also happened to have tutored my teammates in their language learning...and is an excellent English speaker herself. That too, made me feel comfortable. But little did I know when we first arrived, that by the time I left, she'd be MY tutor as well...by the end of the meal, she'd agreed to add me to her "clientele." Exciting!
The rest of the day was spent getting my essentials--opening a bank account, purchasing a cell phone, etc. Walking the streets brought back to life all of the sights and sounds (AND smells) that had been banked away in my memory...and jumping into a "petit taxi" again for the first time made me break out in a smile. (Though I admit I wasn't quite as happy to rediscover just how "warm and cozy" they are inside..!!)
After a quiet night at home and a chance to go to bed at a regular time (I hadn't realized just how much even our few outings of the day had taken out of me!), I woke up on Tuesday morning with nervous anticipation for the reunion with my host family. We checked a final trip to the big French market off the list, to buy a few more last minute items, and then it was time...
I needn't have had any butterflies! After a memorable ride (check out the pictures for the full story), I arrived at our meeting place...and after not too long, I saw one of my host sisters appear around the corner of the building. I had been afraid that perhaps my family wouldn't remember me, or even if so, might be indifferent (or puzzled!) by my return. SO...
I was relieved to see the look on my sister's face change from polite greeting, to surprised recognition, and then genuine excitement--she rushed forward and with a big hug, said, "OH, I've missed you!!!" I was encouraged to find on the walk home that she's picked up quite a bit more English since my first visit - the only other English-speaking sister had gotten married and moved out. I knew this would help in feeling a little less isolated, as I work toward beginning to communicate in the language! While walking, she told me excitedly that today was K's* birthday...the sister with whom I had grown the closest during my initial stay, because she was a Spanish speaker! What great timing...(definitely not a coincidence! Yay God.) :)
When we arrived at our front door, it swung open and I was greeted by yet another sister--who led me into the entry way--where I suddenly ran into K*, sitting on the steps. She looked up, and I again saw the same look of astonishment--before being enveloped in a wonderful bear hug. We both laughed as we stood there in our embrace, and I thought, "I may be far from family and friends, but somehow...this still feels like home sweet home."
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And coming soon...more about observing Ramadan! Stay tuned...