This is my last blog post from Hawston, and I'm afraid that what I've written seems inadequate. I'm trying to convey something I'm feeling, and I fear that my language is failing me. In the words of Marilynne Robinson, “It all means more than I can tell you. So you must not judge what I know by what I find words for.” And please don't be turned off by my honesty. I think it's important to for you, the people who donated to make my mission possible, the people who have prayed for me, and also for the people in South Africa who have come to mean the whole world to me, to know this.
Still, at the end of that first week, even at the end of the first month, when I would say I was pretty settled, pretty happy, I didn't expect THIS. I didn't expect to love my job so much, to be accepted into a group of friends so completely, to feel rooted to this place so irreversibly. I really feel at home here. And that surprised me. Yeah, the Western Cape is a beautiful place, and I think anyone who visits would love it here. But it is so much more than that to me. On my way home from my trip to Kruger with Jacob, on a foggy and drizzly day (just like the day I first came to Hawston in August), when I drove over the last mountain pass and the view of the coastline opened up in front of me, the sun chose just that moment to poke through the clouds, and, believe it or not, there was a rainbow right over Hawston. I started crying. Now, I'm not much of a crier. The last time I cried was when I said goodbye to Goldielocks. But that day I almost had to pull off the road because I was suddenly sobbing. I don't mean like a pretty little tear on my cheek, I mean like red eyes, runny nose, hiccups and all sobbing because it was the last time I would truly come home to Hawston. I have come to feel that this is MY Hawston, MY Hermanus. But after this week, it won't be my Hawston anymore. That is to say, I know that I will never come back to South Africa. I don't mean I'll never visit, I certainly expect that I will at some point. In fact, I have plans to come back to Hermanus for a few days after Lesotho and before I fly home for good. What I mean is that, even if I visit, I will never really come back here, in any significant sense of the word. There is a big difference between visiting somewhere, even if it's somewhere you know and love, and living there. It's like going to a college reunion. Awesome, but not the same as being a student in college. If my life is a book, then the chapter about living in South Africa ends now, not in August.
There are things I'm excited about. I'm totally psyched about going to Lesotho. This is a great opportunity, and I can't wait to get started. I get to go to two countries this year, make an impact in two places. How amazing is that? And I'm excited to go home in August. I miss my family, my dog, my house, my city, my friends, my car, Mexican food, craft beer, trees, porches, sports I understand, TV shows, fast and reliable internet, and a host of other things. I really miss my very patient and understanding husband. Not only was he willing to allow his wife to leave him for a year, but he also listens to me complain about how I don't want to go home to him. A lesser man would find that insulting, but not Jacob. Jacob tries his best to understand what I'm feeling and support me any way he can, even if he doesn't like it. I wish every woman in the world could find a guy as amazing as my husband.
So it comes down to this: I feel at home in two very different places, on two very different continents, with two different groups of people, with a different job, a different lifestyle. And if I love Virginia and South Africa, then I am doomed to always miss one or the other because I cannot be in two places at once. But I have decided that this is a great gift. Not only did I have an awesome life in Richmond with a loving family and great friends and a good job, but now I have a second place where I feel like I belong. Lots of people would kill to have one place like that. And I get two. Yeah, I fell in love with Hawston. And yeah, it sucks to leave, and it sucks even more to leave early. But it is actually a privilege to be so sad about leaving, because it means that I was so happy here. In the end, even if I never come back, even if I'm leaving a part of myself behind, I get to have a second home, and that makes me one of the luckiest people I know.