I have attempted to write a post for weeks, but nothing seemed worthwhile to write about. Now, that doesn't mean nothing has been going on, but none of the topics at hand sparked my interest. As I sat and thought, I lacked inspiration. Writing about my struggles at site, my secondary projects, the recent (or was at the time) Mid-Service Conference, future travels, etc, didn't grab my attention. Therefore, this post has become far more delayed than I hoped (although I could also blame it on my internet going from horrible to worse than horrible- something I didn't think possible). However, a few emails I received today, got me thinking and I think I have found something worthy of writing on.
Yesterday morning I learned that my 1st grade teacher passed away the other night, after quite the battle with breast cancer. When I opened my mom's email and read those words, I was suddenly hit with an emotion I have never felt before and don't even know how to describe. It wasn't exactly sadness, emptiness, or any of the other words often associated with death, but rather this mysterious new feeling.
I feel now that I should backtrack a bit. Growing up in a small town with parents who were teachers, gave my teachers all through elementary, high school, and even college a much larger role in my life than many people experience. My teachers weren't just people I saw at school from 8:00-3:00, but rather they were in almost every aspect of my life. They were my parents' friends; I saw them not just at school, but at bonfires, birthday parties, and the dinner table. They were my extended family. Their children, the extra brothers, sisters, and cousins, that I had always longed for. Learning that one of these pseudo-relatives is gone is a very odd feeling.
While I hadn't seen Sandy for years and it has been 20 years since she was my teacher, I still remember many things from 1st grade very clearly. In the last few days, I know I am not the only student who is sitting back and thinking of memories of her.
I remember hiding in the school library after school with Megan Hughes working on part of our 100s project. We had been given a drawing of a dalmatian and our homework was to draw 100 spots on the dalmatian. I, accidentally, drew 101 and was so upset because I always wanted to do everything perfect and make Mrs. Marty happy. With tears in my eyes, Megan and I walked down to the classroom and she leapt up from her chair and asked me what was wrong. When I showed her and told her, she dried my tears, got out a white sticker, and placed it over one of my dots and told me that now my dalmatian was perfect.
I remember sitting on the floor around her chair for story time one winter day when we discovered that the corner behind her chair had a big crack and cold air from outside was coming in. That day at recess, a group of us built a snow fort around that corner to block the wind from blowing in and making Mrs. Marty cold.
And while I am 5000 miles away and unable to express my condolences to her family in person, I think they know just how many people are thinking of her now.
Death is one of those things that you hope you don't have to deal with while you are away from friends and family for 27 months, unfortunately, however, it has a way of finding you no matter where you are. Many of my fellow PCVs have had a loved one at home die or become sick while they have been over here. I am thankful that I have been able to dodge this obstacle for the most part as I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like.
I think the word that best describes my emotion from yesterday morning is disbelief. I came over here, was hit with all kinds of new and unique cultural experiences and suddenly, 18 months later, this is life and I have removed myself from so many aspects of “life” back in America. For one reason or another, I don't have very strong ties to what was “home”. I have some communication with my parents, sister, and a handful of friends, but nothing else. Therefore, news like this from home, throws me off and forces me to realize that life in America has continued to move on, just as my life here has. By withdrawing from life in America and focusing on life here in Macedonia, I, like many PCVs before me, forgot that life back in America doesn't just stop and stand still for 27 months. That realization is a weird one and until yesterday, wasn't something I had really thought about. Emails from family and friends back home have lead me to believe that everything just continues on- my parents continue to do their thing, my sister hers, and my friends theirs, but there haven't been too many big life changes. But despite all of that, life continues, even in America.