I'm back in my own country, wearing my dresses and my heels as if I’d never left: having been used to flip-flop and flat sandals for nine-and-a-half months, my feet are now suffering!
It's strange to come back after such a long time; you feel both as if you had been away for an eternity and as if you had never left!
Nothing and everything
Nothing has changed around you, but many things have changed within you, and in your relationships with those around you.
And even if you expect it, you always have the impact of knowing, for example, that you are no longer part of the daily lives of those you love, that they have new rituals and new habits and of course it takes time on both sides to readjust to the other.
You leave bits of yourself everywhere with the people who you meet and the countries that you have loved...
It's certainly liberating, but sometimes it's also frustrating because, in a way, in your heart, you want certain things to resume in the same way.
Since my return, among the questions I’ve had, there was "So what is it like to come home? ". And the answer to this question is always complicated, because how do you explain that this "at home" becomes strange to say when you travel often and that you leave bits of yourself everywhere with the people who you met and the countries that you have loved, and that the whole world becomes a kind of "home"?!
Goodness is everywhere
That's probably the price to pay when you live everywhere: to feel at home nowhere and to feel at home everywhere because you discover how vast the world is, that human beings are alike, that cultures, though they seem dissimilar, basically they are not dissimilar, that evil and especially goodness are everywhere!
It is a priceless wealth to be aware that the world is beautiful and that most human beings are good despite the presence of misery and war and that you must always keep your heart open facing the greatness of the universe!
We carry all these events that have marked us, the work and the different responsibilities that we have accomplished ... but we cannot describe actually what happened.
Returning after an assignment is always difficult because for months you’ve met several people who have given you a lot of love and saying goodbye is hard. Many people think that because we go to the forgotten corners of the world we give a lot of ourselves, but I think we get a lot more than what we give because that love offered by people we barely knew at the beginning and who in the end become our family, is unlimited!
The end of an assignment is also difficult because we carry all these stories that we have heard, these events that have marked us, the work and the different responsibilities that we have accomplished ... but we cannot describe actually what happened.
As far as I'm concerned, I'm often satisfied with answering the question "How did the nine months go? With "it went really well, but it was really hot" because nine months cannot be summed up in a few words and this answer is suitable for the non-curious!
The Democratic Republic of Congo and especially those Congolese who I had the chance to know will forever be engraved in my heart!
I remember the first night of my return, by reflex I asked my mother if we have hot water, she laughed and she told me that I had to go and heat the water. Then I ran to charge my phone because I had in mind that I would not have electricity after 22h!
Water, energy ... to have them seemed obvious to me before, but now my look at these things has changed and I recognize their value! For example, since I got back I haven’t been able to take a bath, because, after collecting rain water with the team to take a shower, losing so much water seems irresponsible!
A change in me
But it's not only that that has changed in me; I cannot change my phone with its broken screen because now I know that the mobile phone system often uses materials from the DRC and in the process of these materials being accessed, children and women have suffered many injustices and harassment ...
Similarly, I cannot be impressed by diamonds anymore, because I know that it has often taken a lot of blood and suffering to get them out of the mines!
The DRC has changed me, made me more responsible towards the world and taught me to value what deserves to be valued!
Returning "home" never means that we will forget this other "home". The Democratic Republic of Congo and especially those Congolese who I had the chance to know will forever be engraved in my heart!
I know that one day we will meet again!
But in the meantime, I'm dancing to the sub-Saharan music that has become my link with my life in the DRC, I'm wearing wax-print fabric bandanas that bring the sun back into my life, and the Swahili words that I sometimes let slip into my conversations are a kind of balm for my heart!
Asante sana Walikale-DRC. Nakupenda. (Thank you so much Walikale, DRC. I love you.)
*In the Swahili spoken in the east of the DRC, Muzungo is the word for a white person.