Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mosquitos in Winter

I swallowed the last of my malaria pills yesterday, tossed the empty bottle into the recycling bin and then assembled my scattered belongings for a ride across town to the newest in a series of temporary dwelling places. It's scarf and winter coat weather here, in late-December Seattle. It's easy to forget that a short while ago in Uganda, the mosquitos were out and biting, and the medication might prove useful after all.

Since my plane landed a week ago, I've been feeling about as incongruous as a mosquito in a snowstorm. I took off almost immediately to Los Angeles and sat at my aunt's side for three days, until she finally stopped breathing on the eve of my scheduled return to Seattle. One of the hospice nurses, just making conversation, asked me what I like to cook, and I couldn't remember, since I barely made anything during the 15 months I've spent in Africa. I realized that I have no idea how much it costs to mail a letter in the U.S. these days. I'm feeling sick and sluggish and dazed; the Kampala half marathon was a month ago, and I haven't run since. I've been otherwise occupied with reports and goodbyes and planning the logistics of this transition back to the States.

Which I am so incredibly ready for. I'm finding immense gratification in tiny achievements, like navigating my way through town in a stick-shift truck on loan from a generous friend, buying oatmeal, recalling my long-neglected password at the ATM, spotting familiar mountains on the horizon during unexpected breaks in the typical grey drizzle of the northwest winter.  I'm surprisingly moved by the sight of weathered wood on old Victorian homes, of picture windows glowing golden in the early morning sunlight. I'm not usually this sentimental, but I can't help it. I feel like a long-lost northerner come home again.

I'm not by any means "done" with Africa, I'm just done for a while. I'm even plotting (with some seriousness) a trans-Africa bicycle trip, but that wouldn't happen for several more years at least. In the meantime, I'm planning to plant myself here long enough to begin to feel grounded again.

And so the blog ends here. Thank you for reading. The writing and readership have done a lot to help keep me sane in some pretty far-flung places surrounded by circumstances largely beyond my control. I'm taking back some of that control now. And so this chapter ends, and I don my winter coat and step out into the next.

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