Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Sort of Homecoming

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Photo by Matthew Kirkland via Flickr
Two days ago my body arrived in Virginia but my body's clock stayed in Ethiopia, 7 hours ahead. We arrived home at 10am on Sunday but I was fast asleep by 2pm and slept until midnight. For the next five hours I finished writing my last paper for a summer class. At 5am I went back to bed for a 2-hour nap, then it was off to the office after a month away. An overflowing inbox was calling and I need to start making money again.

Yesterday and last night, it seems as if my body's clock was somewhere over the Atlantic. We crashed around 9pm last night but just after 4am this morning, my eyes shot open and I was ready for action. Because our month in Ethiopia was such a radical break from routine and class consumed so much energy, my wife and I ended up not exercising at all while we were there. So this morning I took my first jog in over a month in the pre-dawn hours. In the last two weeks, we had all experienced some disruption to our digestive system and never completely shook it off for the remainder of July; I lost weight and hadn't felt 100% for most of that time. So I was a little nervous setting off on a run this morning, but it was just what the doctor ordered. The air was warm and the ground was dry and my body not only held up but rejoiced at the exercise.

For the past three years, I've made use of a strange wooden structure at the top of the hill on the campus of Eastern Mennonite University. It looked kind of like a box-shaped gallows, and while I never had any clue of its original intent, for me it functioned as a pull-up bar at the end of my runs. As I reached the top of the hill this morning, dawn's light just beginning to chase away the darkness, I made my way toward the structure. Even in the darkness, I sensed something was wrong, out of place. Or rather simply not there. The EMU Physical Plant guys had torn down my pull-up bar! Nothing but a dirt mound remained where I used to salute the morning sun, say a prayer of thanksgiving for such a beautiful valley over which the hill looks, and crank off some pull-ups. For some time I knew the mysterious structure was not long for this world, so I simply did some push-ups and dips on the nearby bench before making my way down to the prayer labyrinth near our home.

At about 5:30am I crept back into the house to get cleaned up. While I was at work yesterday, my wife went and picked up a few groceries to get us by for the next few days, getting some food into our barren refrigerator. The weight I lost offends her greatly and it's become her mission to thicken me up again. So there was a half-gallon of whole milk waiting in the fridge. We hadn't had milk all month, and now here was the crème de la crème, Shenandoah's Pride! Maybe the most delicious bowl of cereal I've ever inhaled.

Why am I not talking about our time Ethiopia, after having been there for a month and only posting here twice during that time? No pictures? No stories? Well, there certainly are plenty of both and over the coming weeks I'll have more than enough to say here about our trip. But first it seems right to say how overwhelmingly good it feels to be home in Virginia. For as much time as I spend criticizing American society for various things, from my sometimes-grouchy neo-Anabaptist perspective, it's times like these that I want to crank some Lee Greenwood, no questions asked. (I did chortle a little, though, at Dulles in the customs line when the overhead P.A. announced, "U.S. citizens: Welcome home to the United States.")

Furthermore, finishing that paper the other night signaled the first time in three years that I haven't had homework hanging over my head during the summer (or winter) break. For the next month I'll work at the office, read books because I want to (and not take notes), and Re. Lax. Next week we'll be at the beach for a week with my wife's family, so the leisure needle will be pegged. This is sabbath time and I couldn't be more thrilled and grateful.

So pretty soon pictures and stories from Ethiopia will begin making their way on here, but for now I'm enjoying a sort of homecoming.

Okay, now watch the video for the amazing song which I lifted for the title of this post...

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