52 days from now I will fly across the ocean.
I’ll sit in a plane full of strangers, all going different places. For me, it will be going home. I’ll bounce my daughter on my lap and hold her close as we land. I’ll step into the airport and walk right back into everything familiar and normal about life. I’ll hear English all around me and I won’t have to think twice about what to ask for on the menu for lunch. My lungs will fill with sweet southern air and the late June humidity will cling to my skin, a familiar thing.
I’ll stay up late, talking with my mama and listening to the crickets sing. I’ll have steaks for supper at my daddy’s house and wake up in my old bed. In 52 days, I’ll travel to the states for two months and have two months of “normal.”
But tonight, normal for me is going to my friend’s house and having the supper that her mom cooked on their free standing gas burners, because there is no stove. Tonight I will use the bathroom that has no running water and no flushing toilet and no knobs on the sink. And somehow in the past 16 months of living in Peru, that has become normal. I will feel at home as I sit on the bed in the back room where all of the siblings sleep. And I will feel at home, walking to our car parked in the streets of the ghetto. I will wave to the lady weaving between cars at the traffic light, selling drinks from a bag that hangs from her neck, and she will sell me a soda. I’ll turn the coin in my hand before I give it to her, because the currency here in Peru has somehow become mine. Just like somewhere along the way, these people became my people.
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that it all happened. Maybe it was the first time I stood beside a friend in the kitchen as she cut the head off of the chicken and taught me how to cook its foot in soup. Maybe it was the 4th or 5th time I drove here, weaving in and out of lanes that don’t exist, motioning the man selling vegetables on his tricycle to go in front of me. I can’t remember the exact moment when asking for rice by the kilo became normal or when I didn’t stutter or feel shy when I called the gas delivery person and had to tell them our whole long, crazy address in Spanish.
But somewhere along the way, this became my normal. And so tonight I will sit cross legged on the floor of my friend’s house, the one at the end of the long alley way. The neighbors will hang their heads out of the door and ask where the white doll baby is, and I will bring Jubilee outside to give them a big smile. The children will giggle and whisper to one another about us, and I will smile and feel comfortable beneath their stares, because this is my place.
And 52 days from now, I will go and visit my other home, my first home, the one where I grew and became and where all of these wild, crazy dreams all began. I will wash my dishes in the dish washer and dry my clothes in the dryer and that will be normal for me.
I have come to realize that there are different versions of normal, just like there are different versions of me. There is the me who buys white fish at the market and knows if the old man behind the counter is cheating me an extra few cents. There’s the me who asks for the heads too so that I can use them to make Peruvian soup later. And there’s the me who goes on date nights at Longhorn’s in the states with my husband and the me who swims in the pond at my daddy’s house and drives the four-wheeler with my sister to Tommy’s store and wakes up early to go yard-saling with my grandma.
I have changed so much since moving overseas, and I have done things I never thought I would be able to! Like driving in Peruvian traffic or ordering Pizza on the phone in Spanish! And I’ve realized that normal is the strangest concept and that you can have two distinct versions of normal that are worlds apart!!
What about you? What are your “versions of normal” in your host country and back at home? I would love to hear from you!