Well, our time in American is more than three months now, with more than that to come before we return to Burundi. We are probably as settled as we are going to be, which is to say "sort of".
One of the questions we get from people is "what do you enjoy the most about being back in the US?" This is a good question. It's good, because it is likely to yield some interesting information for the question-asker, but it's also good because it pushes us, the missionaries in the US, to a useful type of reflection.
Because there are lots of really great things about being back in the US. The top of that list is our family and friends. We love being here because this is where so many people that we love and have missed live. It is here that we get to be a part of birthday celebrations, attend graduations, and see new nieces when they are still newborns.
But we also enjoy ice cream. We enjoy the quiet serenity of driving after dark on a well-lit road. We enjoy frank communication styles. We enjoy Trader Joe's and Target. We enjoy the way that Americans take so much problem-solving initiative.
Yet I thought I'd mention here one of the things that I appreciate more and more as time goes on: Seasons. We've spend the better part of 5 years in the equatorial highlands of Africa. Both in Kenya and in Burundi, we've lived above 6000 feet, and within 5 degrees of the equator. (Kenya was less than a degree!) People almost invariably assume that we live in a hot humid place, and almost all our visitors comment on how great the weather is at Kibuye. And it's true. Believe me, we don't take it for granted, since almost all our missionaries friends are sweating it out somewhere else! At Kibuye, highs range from 60 to 80 degrees (depending mostly on the clouds and rain), and it can dip down into the high 40's at night. At least, we think so. No one has a thermometer, and there is no weather service, so we're just guessing.
And yes, it's perfect. And there is some changing of the environment as the rainy and dry seasons alternately unfold. But it feels the same. And as the months go by, I miss the seasons. I miss being cold, and I sort of even miss being hot (though we can visit Buja for that).
Because the seasons are beautiful. Right now in Ann Arbor, everyone is outside, taking advantage of the few months of summer. Fruit trees are producing. Outdoor festivals are almost every weekend. It's light until after 9 pm, which is just shocking. On the equator, sundown is always between 6:15 and 6:30. One African friend exclaimed that he can't eat dinner if it's still light outside, which is a thought that never would have occurred to me. But now, we can sit outside after dinner and watch fireflies come out. Bugs that light up! Can you believe it!
Maggie understands the seasons. Ben (who is 4) is a bit hazy on the details. He gets the order mixed up. Or he thinks that Fall is when things grow. But then, the last time he saw the leaves all change color and fall off the trees, he was one. So, this will be fun to watch. Apples to pick, sweaters to don, leaves to rake (definitely a blessing and a curse, I know), football to watch.
I'm even glad that we're going to be here for part of the winter. The burst of warmth when you walk out of a cold wintry day into a warm building is a beautiful thing. For that matter, walking out into the cold isn't so bad for the first few moments. Bare tree branches against a clear sky, and everyone sipping their warm beverages.
And the whole thing is such an amazing cycle. Death, resurrection, death, resurrection. I'm guessing that the dry and rainy seasons could create the same thing for Africa, but it doesn't hit me the same way (probably because I'm not farming. And I'm an American). But every spring feels like the first spring. Like, even though the season has never failed to come, part of me didn't believe it would come this year. That, this year, it would just stay gray and cold. But it doesn't. And so, if we're wise, we're continually celebrating the season that is before us, because it hasn't been here long, and it won't be long before it's gone again.
It's a beautiful image, both for what it is, and also for what it can teach us.