When the decision to Medevac me was handed down, for a moment I felt free.
I had been in Africa for 2.5 years, in the middle of a very difficult third year. My house was literally falling apart, my new host family was distant, my job was not as it had been described, I was lonely with few nearby volunteers, and I was seriously injured. I knew going home to the USA was the right decision, and really the only decision.
The thought of going back to my South African home, which gushed water inside when it rained, stripped of almost all physical ability in my right arm had been terrifying. Weeks ago, I had awoken from surgery in a South African hospital, after a terrible break in my upper arm. I had been through some pretty rough physical therapy, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do basic tasks if I returned to my site in rural South Africa.
I couldn’t haul my water from the yard tap into my house, nor could I carry groceries all around town, in and out of kombis, and down the road to my home. I wouldn’t be able to practically teach gardening for months. Heck, I wouldn’t even be able to hang my clothes of the line to dry. I knew I couldn’t do it physically.
I had been afraid they would tell me I had to stay (or quit), and figure out things like tying my shoes or dumping my bucket-bath water on my own. So, I wasn’t sorry to hear that I would be going home. When they said I would be going home, I felt a sense of freedom. I wasn’t sad; I was relieved.
Then I realized:
I would be leaving friends and almost-family behind.
I would leave projects half finished and new ones barely started.
I would be abandoning my host family and organization.
I would be leaving the preschool children before teaching them all their letters.
I would abandon all my plans for the coming year.
I would be leaving my South African life.
And I would have to figure out America again.
Pretty soon, that freedom turned to uncertainty, homesickness, and sadness for abandoning my life in South Africa. And what seemed to be an offer of freedom ended up breaking my heart.
(FYI, I’ll be writing more about the events that lead up to this sad realization and my Medevac throughout the week, so stay tuned.)