It is now less than 10 days until I set foot on American soil again. I have spent the last 98 days based in Portugal. It has been an eventful 98 days of adventure, of meeting new people, of trying new foods, of exploring new places. I wouldn’t give back a single moment of it. But, now, I face the reality that I will have to give up a lot within the next 10 days. I will have to say goodbye to so many people that have made this experience worth it, some that I may see again, some that I may not. I will be saying goodbye to places that have become part of my routine. I will also be saying goodbye to some things I won’t really miss. Nevertheless, no matter who or what I am saying goodbye to, it doesn’t make any of these goodbyes any easier. Goodbyes hurt.
Despite all the pains of saying goodbye, that pain is lightened slightly by the joy I will experience upon returning home. The 15 hours it will take to get from Lisbon Portela Airport to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will feel longer than they should. But, at the end of the runway will be my family, a family I have only been able to see through grainy screens for the past 14 weeks. I have missed them dearly, and am excited to be home just in time for Christmas! There are so many things that I have taken for granted throughout my life that I will also be excited to see upon arrival. The first time Mt. Rainier grants her presence from behind the omnipresent impenetrable layer of clouds will be a treat. In general, seeing mountains and dynamic topography will be a treat! Being able to drive again will be a treat! As much as Lisbon’s public transportation gets the job done quite efficiently (well, at least most of the time) I have missed the convenience of driving. I will be happy to be back in a country that has a higher variety of cuisine! Until this past Tuesday, at a farewell dinner hosted by API, I haven’t really had Portuguese cuisines I’ve enjoyed other than the Francesinha and the numerous delectable pastries. It will be nice be able to shop at places like Trader Joe’s and Fred Meyers again, which could easily hold 2 or 3 of the small grocery store I normally shop in. Naturally, I am also looking forward to the home cooking I will receive for the 2 weeks before I head back up to school. But, even with all these things I have to look forward to, I still feel apprehension. It’s only natural. Just as culture shock is a real thing, so is reverse culture shock. Just as I have certainly evolved and matured over my 98 days here, I know my friends and family back home have as well. I will have to learn to adjust to their new personas, as they will likewise, and that adjustment can lead to the same sorts of issues I encountered while trying to navigate a foreign country. It’s weird to think of them this way, but my friends and family will be the new foreigners. They will never be able to understand my experiences in the same way I have, and that will lead to some dissonance. But, I know I need to have no fear. I need to jump right back into my normal life. With my family, I have ideas in my head on how I can bond with each of Mom, Dad, and Daniel on an individual level (sorry, I cannot say my ideas here, as I know they are reading!). I also know I need to get involved on campus as much as I can. I plan on joining the Global Ambassadors club to continue to build on my international experiences on campus. I also know I need to spend as much time with my friends and roommates re-creating the bonds we had before I left. Hopefully, that will not take too long. But, it will not be easy to integrate myself back into my “normal” life. So quickly, my “normal” life changed, and it will not change back in a Thanos-like manner (kudos to you if you get the reference). Hellos can hurt too.
There is a leaden weight in my heart currently. Lisbon has become my home now, and one cannot leave home without feeling bittersweet. I have already said some tough goodbyes earlier this week, and the toughest have yet to come. Saying goodbye to Julius, my best friend here, will not be easy. He will be thousands of miles away from me in Germany, and just as all my friends in the US have been relegated to being seen by screen, so will Julius. It is people like him that motivate me to come back to Europe to either travel or study within the next 5 years. It will also be hard to say goodbye to my amazing flatmates. These five lovely ladies immediately shattered the misconceptions and fears I had about living as the sole male in an apartment, making me feel welcome and integrated from the beginning, and becoming my friends. They will be a little easier to see in the future, although most of them live on the east coast. But, I will have to become accustomed to not seeing them every day and having the casual conversations I have learned to love more than I thought possible. Goodbyes hurt.
And its not just goodbyes to people in my n
ew home that hurt. I will miss the amazing international network here that has opened up my mind to new perspectives. I have been able to explore new countries through vivid tales of shenanigans in villages and cities alike, and have repainted my conceptions of certain nationalities through observations of their mannerisms, whether in the form of body language, slang, or even humor. All the countries I have forever poured over on maps and learn every detail about have become realities right in front of me. I will miss how happy, cheerful and kind everyone is here. I will miss the beautiful weather. I will miss the colorful streets that brightened even my darkest days with their murals and tile-work. I will miss the drinks I shared with friends at bars whilst mingling with the locals. The list goes on. All of those have become my home. But, despite my going home, I will stay at home as well. All these memories will forever stay with me, and the lessons I have learned on this trip will manifest into what I hope is good back home. Home will stay with me as I finally return home. I will make sure of it! I will continue to speak the languages I have learned! I will continue to keep in contact with this network of international friends I have built! I will continue to stay aware of international issues by continuing to take international studies courses at Western! I will continue to stay engaged! I cannot let my home leave me. I cannot say goodbye to that home. Goodbyes hurt.
Thank you for reading through my commiserating. There’s just this air of
bittersweet melancholy that is permeating even the simplest interaction right now. There are so many things I have done for the last time in the last couple of weeks. So many goodbyes. And, I have learned one thing throughout all these goodbyes. Goodbyes hurt. Until next time,