One year ago today, I was sitting on my sister’s living room floor with a suitcase in front of me and piles of stuff strewn across the room. A crumpled packing list I had been obsessing over for the past few weeks lay behind me, next to the scale waiting to way my luggage and make sure I was within the limits.
It seemed impossible to know what I would need. How could I know that the pile of granola bars would be the snack that would see me through Ramadan during the first month of training? The multi-purpose utility knife my friend gave me, heavy but small. I didn’t know I would use it regularly to pull the wicks in my gas stove up, or use it to pry open my electric meter when the electrician couldn’t get it open to repair my electricity.
And the book of photos and letters from family and friends? I figured I would use it on days I needed a reminder of the people at home who love me; I did not know I would use it to show my new family and friends what my life at home looked like.
The year of unknowns that stretched out in front of me that day is now a year of memories that seems as normal as my life in the States. I left for an adventure. I found a quiet life complete with a family that makes Comoros feel like my home.
The dictionary defines adventure as an exciting or very unusual experience. To any typical American, I am on an adventure. To any Comorian, I am just living.
My “adventure” thus far has been learning to cook in a different style, over little gas stoves and wood fires. It has been getting to know classrooms full of students, stumbling my way through their language while trying to teach them mine. It has been figuring how to stretch my phone battery to last for five days while praying the power turns back on. It has been long afternoons sitting on my family’s porch, teaching the kids how to count English, shucking corn cobs, and slowly building a bond that will last a lifetime.
The every-day adventure feeling wore off a long time ago, but there are still moments when I can’t help but step back and wonder at where I am. Like when I’m swimming in the Indian Ocean surf, watching a stunning show as the sun sets into the water. Or when I hike to the top of a mountain overlooking my village and I can see nearly to the end of the island. Or even when I leave my family’s house after dinner and realize we had an entire conversation about politics in a mix of English that I taught them and Shinzwani that they taught me.
When I think back to that day one year ago sitting on my sister’s floor, it seems both worlds and mere moments away. I feel like I can almost reach back through time and touch those moments. If I could, there are two things I would say to me from a year ago. First, everything you don’t want to leave will still be here in two years. It’s not going anywhere. Second, you will find people in Comoros who will love you every bit as much as the people you are about to say good bye to. There’s a lot more me from a year ago would want to know, but that’s all I really needed to know.
And now another year and some change stretches out in front of me. There are still unknowns, but not as many. I know my family will want to know where I’ve been and if I’m hungry every time I come over. I know my students will not do the homework I assign them but will still be excited about the new game I’ve invented to get them to remember the lesson. I know everyone on the street is going to ask me if I’ve been fasting for Ramadan and tell me they want to be my best friend so I can teach them English. I know the sunrises will still be stunning, the afternoons hot, and taxis will always be overstuffed. And I know now matter what, I will always have the kindness of the people of Comoros to rely on. Here’s to one more year.