There is nothing like banana trees to make you feel like you've been gone awhile. It's due to their capacity to grow so quickly. Behind the apartment building where we all lived for our two years in Kenya, we had a shamba where we grew lots of produce, and we had transplanted a few banana saplings there in the first six months or so. Towards the end of our term there, we took this picture. You can see a few banana trees in the background, spindly and a bit solitary.
Several months ago, someone sent us this picture of the same plot, now with a veritable forêt of trees. Wow, I guess has time has passed. And when I look at the picture of Maggie above, I must admit that small children have the same effect as banana trees.
What to do? After some deliberation, it was decided that my family and Jason will be spending the majority of that time at Tenwek Hospital.
We look forward to a time of getting back into medicine, seeing old friends, renewing contacts, showing off the interim growth of our family, hiking down to the waterfall, and of course, checking out the banana trees. We will even be staying in our same apartment, which happens to be vacant at the time.
Maybe it's the time that has passed, or maybe it's the end of an alpine winter, or the lack of medical practice for a while now, but it seems that the nostalgia of our lives at Tenwek is at an all-time high. When we think about visiting so many colleagues and friends, sharing a mug of chai, waking up at precisely 6:15 to a cacophony of birds, it's enough to send us into the third heaven.
Our time there was a time of great joy. And yet we know (and if you have been reading this blog, we hope you know as well) that, as life always is, it was so much more multi-dimensional than that. It was joy and sorrow. It was routine and frustration. It was smooth and so very very difficult.
So, what to do with all this nostalgia? Ride the wave until you crash on the rocks of reality, i.e. when you remember all the other dimensions? Stifle it down to avoid the disappointment?
Because living cross-culturally involves such cycles of emotions with regards to one's host culture, I think the question is an important one. And it strikes me that such nostalgia has at least a chance of being a time of great gain. A time of truly loving and enjoying the blessings of a place and its people, while letting the frustrations roll of one's back a little more lightly. Maybe something that can linger, or even last.
We'll let you know. But for now, we're excited to shake a million hands, greet people in Swahili, keep a warm chapati in one hand and a bottle of Stoney Tangawizi in the other, and enjoy our trip back to Kenya.