I scuff at the orange dust with my flip-flop and stare at our cinder-brick house. It’s all packed up—my life stowed in Tupperwares tied expertly to the top of our Land Rover.The whole village has come to see us off, and Na Nyima surveying our house doubtfully asks Daddy in Tanda if we really were coming back. Daddy laughs and assures her we will.
I turn to Renee and hug her. “See you in nine months.” When missionaries go on vacation, it takes a while.
We begin the five hour drive to Conakry, where we’ll be flying to the U.S. I memorize friends’ faces as they wave, the chocolate milk puddles, the Bang-bang Bridge, because in nine months everything’s going to be different. Renee’s going to look so much older.
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The Conakry Airport is humid and stinky as ever, but it’s worth the long, loud wait when we finally board the plane. We’re flying Air France so there are even TVs on the backs of the seats, but I’m excited about take-off. The plane purrs along the runway, turns, and begins to roar. It tears down its neon-lighted strip and launches wheel by wheel into the sky. My stomach jumps as we lift off, and out the window the lights of Conakry sprawl for miles.
We spend our ten hour lay-over in Paris sightseeing. We kids are too jetlagged to appreciate the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame; we focus on trying to sleep during our many metro rides between these world icons. Back on the plane at last, we eat a typical airplane breakfast of something that could be eggs or potatoes, and we sleep some more.
The first thing that strikes me as always when we enter the Washington Dulles International Airport is the cleanliness, and then the fact that everyone is speaking English. I clutch my carryon and stare around me with a dazed face, overwhelmed by the place that is technically my home country. Good old culture shock. Uncle Chris finds us in the waiting area and drives us back to his house where I enjoy my first American luxury: a long hot shower. I force myself to stay up until 8:00, or else the jetlag will just continue longer.
After a few days we pick up a minivan from one of Daddy and Mommy’s many friends and drive down to Maryland. The months are a blur of new places, new friends, and old friends who’ve become strangers since I’ve seen them three years ago. All the newness makes me far more happy than I should be when we pull into Grace Bible Church and find in unchanged.
We start taking advantage of America right away, scarfing sweet corn and strawberries, going to museums and beaches, eating dinner with everyone who invites us—which means at least three times a week. We fit in home-school wherever we can, but learn the hard way not to do math on the interstate after Stuart paints himself and the side of the car with puke.
I love America. Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Kansas, Arizona, Texas, Florida. We drive a huge circle around the U.S. visiting family and friends—but always leaving again. I feel like I’m leaving a trail of torn up roots every place I leave. Goodbyes never gets easier, especially when you know you’ll never see someone again. Still, there is always something to look forward to—new places to go—new people to see. All of life is a trip, and getting bogged down with goodbyes obscures the truly wonderful journey ahead.
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