I shuffled slowly towards the door marked X-ray, delicately holding my right arm as pain radiated through my body. A few painful moments later, the technician turned to me, saying “It’s broken.”
Thoughts began flying through my head as fear and pain overtook my senses. What was broken? What would happen now? I couldn’t form the words as the technician left, leaving me to slowly shuffle back to my room.
That moment an X-ray room in a small town in South Africa changed the course of my life. I would later find out that the neck of my humerus had broken, and the next day I would be rushed to the capital to have surgery. A few weeks later, I would be med-evac’d from my service in the Peace Corps, leaving behind projects, friends, and a life I loved in South Africa. A mere two hours (max) of packing up and saying goodbye was not enough to wrap up 29 months of service.
I’ve been back in the States for 5 months now, and I’m still readjusting. I still pause to figure out which side of the car I need to get into, and I often choke back words of Setswana, Xitsonga, Zulu, or Afrikaans. Measurements in the metric system squeeze past my lips, and I quickly restate in imperial measurements. And these are only the surface things. What I value, the importance I place on things, and how I mentally respond to “first world problems” are the tip of the iceberg in things that have changed in me. Some things will readjust, but others are a part of who I am now.
That day in the X-ray left me questioning a lot, especially how I could possibly return to my village after such an injury. Little did I know that I wouldn’t return to live there, and all the hope I had for my projects disappeared, which still hurts. But I also hope that something I did had an impact on someone, and that people won’t remember me as the person who left, but as the person who tried to help.