As I pulled into Khula Village my eyes welled with tears. I don’t know if it was out of nervousness, happiness or a combination of both, but whatever the cause I couldn’t make them stop. It had been over a year since I lived in Khula and now that I was seconds away from arriving I tensed up. I grabbed the hand of my host brother, who fetched me from town, looking for reassurance, but to no avail. It wasn’t until I heard a child yell, “Miss Piccinini” at the top of her lungs that I knew I was home. The greetings didn’t stop there. Everywhere I walked kids and adults alike called my name. Many of my old students ran up to me in tears, smothering me with tight hugs, while uttering phrases like: “is it really you?” “I never thought I would see you again.” “Please don’t leave us this time.” My fears of being forgotten and feeling out of place were immediately dispelled.
Within a few days I was back to my “old life” of sleeping in my hut, bathing with a bucket, fetching water and washing my clothes by hand. I would be lying if I said it was an easy transition back. I had completely forgotten how difficult life was in the village. While living in Khula for my two years of Peace Corps I got used to things like carrying buckets of water and hand-washing my clothes, but after a year in America those commonplace chores of my past now seemed near impossible. For my first few days in the village I needed the assistance of my host brothers to carry my water buckets and my first batch of laundry ended not only with semi-clean clothes, but also with bloody hands. On top of that, the severe humidity and sand-filled roads had me longing for a shower! I often found myself thinking, “how did I do this for TWO years?” Well, the answer to that became clear when after a few days in Khula I had fully shed my American skin and was back to my village self!
These past few weeks back in the village I have embraced the days without electricity, the sound of chickens in the morning and frogs at night, and the numerous creatures who like to share my bathing area. I have remembered that cleanliness is only relative and even if I bathed in the morning it is okay that after my 20min walk to school, under the beating sun and through the deep sand, that I feel like a hot sticky mess. I have enjoyed the constant stream of visitors to my door and the taste of fresh avocados from the trees outside my hut. All of these simple things I took for granted when I lived in Khula now seemed so special.
Looking back on the time spend in the village so far I can say without reservation that I am exactly where I need to be right now and I feel so privileged to be able to return to my second home. During one of the leadership conferences I organized at the high school the guest speaker said, “One thing that God gave all of us equally was time. No matter who we are or where we live we all have 24hours in a day. What differs is what how much we accomplish in those 24hours.” I know that it is my days spent in Khula that I am making the most of my 24hours and the bonus is that I am loving every minute of it!