Posted by: kristinej | July 20, 2010


Well, after 15 hours in the air and over 30 hours in total transit time, I am back home in Iowa.  It was an emotionally and physically exhausting few days leading up to and including the trip home, but I am excited to be back.

Even after having spent a year here, I was still learning new cultural customs up until the last day, this time with how people say goodbye.  In addition to having a goodbye/birthday dinner with my host family and the other volunteers, I also spent Friday and part of Saturday going around Yirimadjo and saying goodbye to women from our program and other people I know.  While in the US a goodbye is usually just composed of “I’ll miss you” and maybe a hug, here it is a little more involved.  Some observations:

–       It is appropriate for people to give you gifts when you are leaving.  I received a wooden wall hanging, sandals, and fabric. When someone gives you a gift, it is appropriate for your friends to thank the person on your behalf, even if they weren’t present when the gift was given.

–       While you would normally never shake hands with your left hand, when you are going away for a long time you offer each other your left hands as a way of saying that you hope you will see each other again.

–       Some blessings you might give or be given: You respected me, may God respect you; May God never make me ungrateful to you; May we continue to see each other; May there be peace behind me.

–       It is also appropriate for both parties to ask for forgiveness, sometimes through a third party.  Even the other day I was telling the boutique owner that I was leaving soon and he said, “Forgive me.”  I was thinking, “I don’t even know your name, but ok, you’re forgiven!”

Everyone kept asking me if I would be back, which was a hard question to answer, but I usually just told them that I didn’t know but that I hoped I would be able to come back sometime.

While I have already been immensely enjoying the comforts of American life, I know that I will definitely have moments of reverse culture-shock.  I think the hardest part will be getting used to the faster pace of life and all of the excesses in our society. At the same time, having lived a year without most of the things we are so used to having, I am that much more grateful for them.

Now that I’m back, this will most likely be my last post.  I’ve enjoyed writing this blog this past year, and thanks for reading!



  1. I am so glad you are home safely nad I will really miss you blogs. Maybe you can continue to write as you decide what to do and where to go. You are a gifted writer. Love you.

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