It’s not hard to get caught up in my new life in Macedonia.
We have at least four hours of language classes each day. Those are often followed by sessions on teaching, medical care, safety or culture for several more hours.
When we get home, we’re still working to communicate with our host families and study.
And back home, my old American life is still moving along.
I got the news today that a former colleague and mentor, a man who had a hand in hiring me at the newspaper three years ago, passed away.
I was sitting in my room when I got the message. I was savoring a quiet moment, thinking about one of the backyards I walk by each day.
Every day, I notice something else I love about this yard. There is a wooden figurine painted like a giraffe under one of the fruit trees. There is another painted like a penguin at the other end.
These are my two favorite animals.
What are the odds that they are both living in the same backyard that I walk by each afternoon on my way home from school in Macedonia?
I was thinking about how much I loved that yard. There aren’t many yards here in the sense that I think of a yard. A yard has room to run, play, and build forts. It’s accented with flowers and hosts picnics. It welcomes a respite in the grass, searching for pictures in the clouds.
Here, the yards are more utilitarian. They are vegetable gardens that feed households. They are fruit trees and skinny driveways, just big enough to squeeze a car, if a family is so privileged. No space goes to waste.
This yard is one of few with space to enjoy. There are even a few upcycled planters. Old soda bottles have become a train, filled with flower passengers. A few more flowers peek out of a pair of old, black shoes.
That yard is a comfort to me, a sign that I am where I’m supposed to be right now.
But sometimes something, like the news today, jars me back to my U.S. home.
Earlier this afternoon, a close friend consulted to see if I would end my service in time for her wedding date. I have a feeling another dear friend may follow suit (even though I told him the longer he waits to propose, the better the ring he can buy).
I knew the language would be tough. More so, I knew leaving all the people I care about most would be my biggest personal challenge.
I know I’m going to miss things while I’m gone. Even though I made all my friends pinky promise not to have any major life events without me, it’s going to happen.
Today, I wish I could be there for my newspaper family. I also wish I could say for certain that I’ll be home for the next wedding. But I can’t.
It’s all part of the journey.