Maddie Burke, a CLC member, recently completed and returned home from a year of service in the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) program. Her assignment was in Mexico City. Below she writes about her experience of returning home after a transformational year of ministry abroad. You can read a blog about Maddie’s YAGM year here: http://maddieenmexico.blogspot.mx/
Vuelta-like many words in Spanish, this one can have a wide variety of translations: spin, lap, round, or turn, to name a few. However, one of the translations of this word has hung heavier on my heart recently: return. The phrase dar una vuelta, which would literally translate to “to give a turn”, is often used to say “go on a stroll/walk”. As in any language, there are multiple ways to express the same idea: caminar, andar, pasear are some of the different ways to express the idea of walking/strolling. However, the phrase dar una vuelta has always implied to me the idea of going out, but eventually returning back to the place where you began. Coming home.
My last few days in Mexico were spent with my fellow YAGM-Mexico volunteers and our country coordinators in the Lutheran Center in Mexico City-literally coming full circle and finishing our year where we first began. We spend our days reflecting on our year, processing our experiences, enjoying each other’s company, and thinking about how we wanted to carry what we have learned into our next experience. During this time, we talked about the concepts of “the homeland”, “the wonderland”, and “the newfoundland” (not to be confused with Newfoundland, Canada). “The homeland”, as Lindsay explained to us, is exactly that: home. The context, families, experiences, and cultures from which we come from. “The wonderland” is the new place, context, and culture to which we go, whether it is a new city, state, or country. “The newfoundland” is the place we return to eventually, as our time in “the wonderland” is not permanent. It would naturally be assumed that “the newfoundland” is the same as “the homeland”. However, as much as we would like it to be, our homelands will never be the same, because the people and places that make them have changed in our absence. To the same respect, “the newfoundland” can seem so jarringly different, because we have changed so dramatically and are not the same people we were when we left.
The YAGM staff have encouraged us to embrace this liminal space we find ourselves in-the feeling of being “betwixt and between”. I have been back in North Carolina for a little over two weeks, and feel stretched between two different worlds, communities and cultures, with one foot firmly planted in the rich, damp, North Carolina soil, and another back in the urban jungle of Mexico City. Although I am happy to be back with family and friends and there are things about my life in Mexico that I do not miss (the traffic, the smog, spending multiple hours a day in the metro), my heart physically aches thinking of my host dads, my church, my coworkers, the taste of tacos al pastor with a Coke in the street, the heat of a room filled with salsa dancers, the ebbs and flows of Spanish, and the small corner of the crazy city where God gave me a home. This ache is the price that is paid for having loved ones in places where you are not. Part of me knows this ache will fade, as time passes, life moves on, and memories become more distant.
Part of me hopes it doesn’t.