In Ethiopia a favourite phrase at work was “we need to change this into the Ethiopian context”. And yes indeed, we did! To ease my re-entry to life in Canada and decrease the jet lag, I decided to spend 8 days “in the English context” catching up with some VSO friends and seeing my cousin. It was great decision.
Arriving at 7:30 AM I found my hotel room was not yet available so when it was suggested I upgrade to deluxe what could I do but say yes! After a breakfast buffet binge, deep soak in the bathtub (had not seen one of these since September 2012) and a short nap, I indulged in a massage, room service, Food Network TV and an early deep long sleep on a king sized bed with an awesome mattress.
Yes, one does appreciate what one once took for granted after a period of basic living! Thanks to a suggestion from my friend Judy, I spent the next day exploring Kew gardens, a perfect antidote to the culture shock of London’s Heathrow hustle and bustle.
Two days of pampered decadence was sufficient though and on Sunday, I headed off to meet up with friends I knew in Ethiopia and who are now officially classified as “RVs”. No, they are not recreational vehicles, but “returned volunteers”, a label I now will also carry for the rest of my days. I left my two heavy bags at the hotel, packed a small one and took the tube in to London proper to meet Terry for a sunny afternoon and a classic pub lunch of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.
Terry has been home for several months but plans to return to Ethiopia for a final 6 months in September to complete her work with an NGO in Asosa. It was good to talk about our experiences, how to adjust to life back home and share thoughts on development and where things are heading in the world.
Later that afternoon, I caught a coach to Nottingham to spend a few days with Shelgah and Steve. Shelagh and I had shared the Woldia house and classroom in 2010-2011 and had lots to catch up on.
Shelagh introduced me to the ancient tradition of “well dressing” that is a church art special to this region
Visited the grounds and exquisite gardens of Hardwick Hall
Brenda came home late afternoon and after a walk about their village to see the highlights (wind mills, very contented large fat sheep and an ancient mud wall) we enjoyed a delicious dinner topped off by meringues with berries and clotted cream!
It is helpful to talk to others who have been home for awhile to hear how they have adjusted to the home culture and to “debrief” together what we learned from Ethiopia and from volunteering. I find it interesting how many people imagine themselves volunteering again, despite the many ups and downs we have all experienced. The kind of people who are selected to volunteer possess an admirable resilience I think, and an ability to re-frame things positively. For me though, three years is enough and I do not see myself heading off any time soon, at least for a long term assignment!
Later that day Eileen and I took a bus into Leicester to have a reunion with her daughter Bethan. I had not seen them since 1999 so this was a great chance to catch up and see what a lovely young woman Bethan has become…and she said I had inspired her to travel!
I spent my final night at the hotel near the airport and headed off early to Heathrow Airport to catch my 9-hour Air Canada flight back to Vancouver, happy that I had had this small interlude to ease back in to my next life!
That night my sister and I sat on her Vancouver balcony enjoying a glass of wine and I was re-assured by the art installation on the roof of a nearby building…yes indeed it will be good to adjust back to my home city of Vancouver, Canada!
Now it’s time to get myself back into the “Canadian context” as I spend time with friends and family and reflect on what I have learned over the past three years!