I have been home for just over a month now, and have been fully engaged moving back into my house, visiting with friends and family and re-adjusting to life in Canada. It is all a little overwhelming, and I often find myself wishing for the simple, slow paced lifestyle I left back in Sierra Leone. I also really miss the people that I lived and worked with, and realize that they will always have a piece of my heart.
I was ill for the week before I travelled home, and have only just started to feel better. The residual exhaustion of malaria/typhoid/headcold combined with 24 hours of travel, a time change and a change of climate and altitude really knocked me for a loop! I was sad to leave the life I had in Salone, but happy to be back at home, and especially to see my daughter. But nothing prepared me for how hard it would be to adjust. Reverse culture shock is much harder than adjusting to life in Sierra Leone was.
There is just so much of everything here. The basic amenities - continuous power, hot and cold running water, refrigeration - seem amazing after a year of living without them (but it has been quite easy to adapt to having those again). Drinking water that doesn't have to be boiled and filtered! The variety of food available, all of the choices in the grocery stores, the very fact that there are huge stores full of food, seemed more overwhelming at first than they should. It is hard to comprehend the need for so much, and hard to reconcile that with the poverty and need I saw in Sierra Leone.
Secondly, there is some guilt for having so much. I find myself converting what I am spending into Leones and realizing just how expensive it is to live here, and how much more I could buy in Sierra Leone with that money. I am grateful to have everything I need and want, and will try never again to take my good life for granted.
With all that said, I am enjoying a healthier diet, and have pretty much recovered from my last bout of illness. I have resumed my walking habit this week, and have discovered that I am definitely not as fit as I was when I left, so it is back to square one. I can still manage 5-6km in an hour, but it is not as easy as I remember it to be!
Thank goodness for technology. I have been able to email, text, Skype, Facebook and therefore stay in touch with the people I left behind. For that I am grateful. It makes it easier to be back.
I thought I'd share a few perceptions of Canadian life that are different for me now:
1. Traffic is very orderly here. (I used to curse the bad drivers and the occasional pothole...lol.)
2. There is no garbage anywhere other than in the trash bins where it should be. (Canadians really are good at trash management and recycling!)
3. The dogs are pudgy.
4. People are very well fed.
5. Although my city is quite diverse, it is still primarily white in my neighbourhood.
6. It's darn cold! Even on warm days! (Not sure what I am going to do when it gets really cold)
7. I have a lot of stuff....even though I gave away/sold at least half of it before I left last year! (My house is less cluttered than it used to be, but I still have a truckload of belongings)
8. We eat for pleasure, for entertainment, for comfort, in fact for far more reasons than just because we are hungry, and the portions are huge. (I can't finish a full entree when we go out to eat, so tend to order just an appetizer).
9. People spend far too much time working and worrying about work than enjoying the fruits of their labour and the people that they have around them. (We really need to take time to enjoy our family and friends, to spend time with them while we have them around)
10. Police, fire department and EMS sevice and personnel are awesome! Help is only a 911 call away.
11. Our healthcare rocks and we should be grateful for the wonderful access we have and the high quality of the care we get!
12. I am wondering why people here drink so much bottled water when we have clean cold water right out of the tap.
13. It is quiet here....no call to prayer at 5am, no roosters crowing, no dogs barking all night, no frogs "singing" in the rain.
14. Canadians really are friendly and polite!
15. Things start and end on time and people are rarely more than 15 minutes late for anything.
That's all for now, and likely my last post until I go back to Sierra Leone in January (assuming that I do get a contract to go back).
This past year has helped me to learn a lot more about myself as I learned to live with strangers who have become family and friends. Please accept that I am very much a different person than I was a year ago, and that even though my Canadian home is where my heart is, there is a piece of my heart, and a home in Sierra Leone!