Medevac….Going Home

As I write this, I’m sitting in my bed back home in America at 4:30 in the morning. I’ve officially been medevac’d back to the USA for continuing treatment for my arm and to explore the options for another condition I was diagnosed with last week. Clearly, considering the time in America and the fact that I’m wide awake, I’m struggling with jet lag a bit. 😉

Medevac means I have 45 days in the USA to show enough improvement to go back to South Africa. If I am cleared medically sometime within that 45 days, Peace Corps will send me back to South Africa to finish out my third year. If I am not medically cleared by the end of 45 days, I will be medically separated, which means my service will officially end.

The decision was passed down from Washington DC last Wednesday, and after the Thanksgiving holiday (which PCSA staff gets off), I went up to site to say goodbye and pack anything I’d want to take home. I had to pack as if I’m not coming back, which is pretty stressful and emotional. I came back to Pretoria on Saturday afternoon, and flew out on Monday evening. After nearly 24 hours of solid travel and two delayed flights, I found myself hugging my Mom in the Des Moines airport, heading home for Christmas for the first time in two years. I flew with Delta, and considering my broken arm, they were wonderful the whole way, helping me preboard and stow luggage, get a seat where someone wouldn’t be bumping my arm, and helping navigate the Atlanta airport with two large checked bags. I was very thankful for all the help both Delta and random people gave me throughout the journey!

I’m home now, well, back in Iowa. It’s hard because I have a home in South Africa as well, and I’m not sure if I will be going back. It’s been an emotional week, after the decision was passed down, and I’m still trying to process everything. Once again, the readjustment is hard, made more difficult by the uncertainty of medevac and the cold Iowa winter. The first thing I did here in Iowa was buy a winter coat. It’s been nearly 3 years since I’ve dealt with an Iowa winter.

I will say that if I had to choose a time of year to be medevac’d, I nailed it. 🙂 I think only people who have lived abroad for an extended amount of time can understand what being home with family for the holidays means. Though I’ve celebrated holidays with friends and near-family back in SA, it also feels like I haven’t had a real holiday for two and a half years. I feel so blessed to be home for the holiday season, though the reason for me being back isn’t wonderful.

It’s still hard to believe I’m home though!
-Jen

There is a Robot in the Kitchen

I’m in America!

I left PTA around 2pm on Saturday, even though my flight didn’t leave until 8:30pm because I’ve heard more than one horror story from PCVs who have left too late and missed their flights, to their complete loss.  I took the Gautrain to JNB airport, which was nice, easy, and relatively cheap considering my other options.  When we flew in for PC last year, all 56 of us were herded through customs, luggage claim, and onto a bus in a foggy haze of exhaustion, so I was a little overwhelmed on entering the airport, and frustrated with its general African-like lack of useful signs.  But I found my way through check-in, rather lax security, and to my gate, and spent the next 4 hours or so talking with a few Americans and people watching (moving sidewalks….that’s all I need to say).  About an hour before the flight left, the told us to get into lines because they were doing another security check (just sayin’-good idea) and manually searched through every single carry-on of all of us.  I had fun stunning people when I spoke Setswana, and found my wondering aisle seat on the plane and started watching a movie before we even took off.

The flights went well, though it was pretty rough the entire time.  For almost the first 10 hours straight, we were told to remain in ours seats and keep out seatbelts on.  We kind of ignored that because in 10 hours, nearly everyone has to use the toilet.  It got a little better when we were over the Caribbean, but still, I felt like a bobble-head chihuahua dog the entire flight.  The food was good, I watched a lot of movies/tv shows, and slept maybe an hour or two.  The food was actually VERY good and made me very happy as I scarcely broke into my rather large stash of snacks for the plane. 🙂  Go Delta!

I had an hour and fifteen minute layover in ATL, so I rushed through customs, begged my way into the nice/first class/short security line, and was literally running through the terminal, to find my flight was delay 15 mins, then 15 mins, then some more.  We left over an hour later, so they issued  us all meal vouchers.  Again, go Delta!  The airport emergency security system alarms went off TWICE while i was in ATL airport, but we never ended up having to do anything.  I talked with more Americans for awhile then dozed on the 2 hour flight, which was again a little rough, but better than the international one.

I surprised my parents in the airport with my VERY African garb and jewelry, and we stopped at Ma and Pa’s Kettle in Cameron, MO on the way home from the aiport, where EVERYONE stared at me.  So much for being anonymous.  Maybe bringing only my very bright African skirts wasn’t the best idea.  I highly recommend the restaurant though, we I had real Pepsi, chicken strips, and ranch for the first time in a year.  We also stopped at Kum and Go where I got my first Cherry Pepsi in a year.

I’ve noticed a few problems….I keep wanting to yell at Mom or Dad to get on the “right” side of the road, so I will seriously not be driving while I’m here.  I freaked out a bit at the restaurant, which was very crowded, noisy, and the tables were smooshed together.  Not in a bad way, but a little hard for an American-turned-rural-PCV on my first restaurant encounter in America.  I again freaked out a little at Kum and Go when I saw allllll the varieties and flashy packages, etc.  I ended up staring at the ground, dashing to find my Cherry Pepsi, then finding Mom to get the heck out of there.  We’ll see how Walmart and a mall goes over the next week.  It is all very overwhelming right now though.

Mom and Dad have done a lot of major work on the house, including redecorating a few rooms, buying all new appliances and furniture, and reflooring/painting the stamping room, so the house was strange.  The bought a new fridge, which has an icemaker, and as I was sitting in the dining room eating Happy Joe’s Taco Pizza, I hearing a whizzing mecharical noise from the kitchen.  I look up at home with bugged eyes and said “There’s as Robot in the Kitchen”.

Needless to say, my parents are finding me to be an odd new thing and I think I’m entertaining them.  I know I was entertained when we turned off at the wrong place in Cameron and the GPS got mad.  Dad was very worried and chattering up a storm about how we would never find this place.  I just said “Chill.  There was a big sign on the highway, it’ll be on the main drag, just chill and we’ll find it or eat something else.”  Africa has definitely changed me.

-Jen