Home – Where is that again?

Tired eyes slide open, drawn to the brightest object in the room. The digital clock. 5:30 a.m. My brain registers the room, the hum of the air conditioning, the soft pillows, the dog sleeping on the floor next to me.
A dream has left traces in the fog of my mind. A dream of sweat and endless sunshine, of oceans and unmarred starlight, of broken roads and overcrowded taxies, of banana trees and loud music and mosquitoes, of a thousand people talking to me in a language I don’t understand. A dream of struggle and beauty and satisfaction and friendship and homesickness.
The fog clears. 5:31 a.m. It was not a dream and my body is telling me it’s actually 12:31 p.m. and I’ve missed breakfast and lunch.
I left my village five days earlier Monday, Sept. 26. Three taxi rides, five airplanes, one car ride and 112 hours later I arrive in Richmond, back for my sister’s wedding.
They told us in Peace Corps training that at the end of two years, many of us would feel guilty for leaving our villages and returning to our comfortable lives in the States. They did not tell me coming back would confuse me as to which place was now home – Comoros or America. Sometime during the past four months Comoros did start to feel like home.
I know it didn’t happen during our two months of training, which was stressful and exhausting. I know it didn’t happen during the swearing in ceremony when all 20 of us officially became volunteers, as pivotal as that moment may have been.
It didn’t happen when I packed up my room at my host family’s house, said goodbye to the village I had been living in and boarded a plane with eight of the other volunteers to head to our island, Anjouan.
Nor did Comoros start to feel like home when my counterpart dropped my off at my two-room house in Harembo, only to turn around and catch the next bus right back out of town leaving me alone with a village full of strangers. But stranger status doesn’t last long in Comoros. I met too many people to count that first evening, and my neighbor girls came over and cooked for me on my back porch, knowing I had no stove, dishes, or food. We ended that first terrifying night sitting around the bowl of chicken and rice sharing food and company, even if we couldn’t share words.
It didn’t start to feel like home during my first week at sight either, as I reconnected with people I had met during site visit, and when I learned how comforting and intrusive Comorian hospitality can be. Before leaving, my counterpart told me I would never be alone in Harembo. He was correct. Whether it is help figuring out where to buy forks or hauling water to wash my clothes, my village always wants to help.
Walks around Harembo resulted in invitations into many homes where I was always asked to sit and eat. It didn’t take long to identify several homes where I was sure to be fed if I dropped by.
My favorite of these is the home of two sisters, Nusrati and Zoomrati. They have eight children between the two of them and all live in three little rooms in back of a little shop Nusrati runs.
These women offered the type of kindness that made it easy to slip into a friendship that will last for long after I leave Comoros. I knew we would be good friends when I discovered how much they enjoy good food, and how much they enjoy sharing said good food.
On one of my first visits we were stumbling though conversation in my broken Shinzwani when I mentioned that I loved Comorian chicken wings, known as mabawa. Nusrati leapt up, ran to her shop’s freezer, and produced some raw chicken. 30 minutes later she put a huge plate of chicken and fried bananas in front of me. Instant friend for life.
Six weeks later they still feed me regularly, but now they are teaching me how to cook Comorian dishes. Every time I go they sit me down to help prepare a different recipe.
The morning I left to come home I stopped to visit them and we made doughnuts. Right before leaving, Zoomrati packaged up most of them and handed them to me with instructions to deliver them to my mother in America. Their hospitality knows no boundaries, including international borders.
So now sitting here in the States, doughnuts having been delivered to my mother, I’m still not sure when Comoros started to feel like home. I do know when I go back after the wedding I’ll wake up in my bed that first morning, feeling as if I have awoken from a dream – a dream of greasy food and sisters, of traffic lights and grocery stores, of fall breezes and WIFI and hot coffee, of a thousand strangers passing by who will all remain strangers. A dream of comfort and mundaneness and family and memories and musings of far off places. And it will be good to wake up and be home.

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One thought on “Home – Where is that again?

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  1. Hi! Your blog is so intriguing and you use such wonderful feelings in your words! I actually just got accepted to Comoros and plan to depart in June 2017, wondering if I could connect with you or if you could email me when you have a chance, wifi, etc. My email is ejtschida@csbsju.edu

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