Two years, 4 months, and two weeks ago, I arrived in Madagascar. It seems a little crazy to think that all of that time has passed and not once have a left the island. I remember my first few months here; I often wondered if I would be able to make it the two years. I didn’t know if I would even make it the first four months before we had our first In-Service Training. But here I am, two years later, still in Madagascar, and about to go through all of the same emotions I went through two years ago. Just this time, it’s all of the feelings for returning home.

A lot has happened on both ends. I feel that I’ve grown a lot as a person and that I’ve started to establish somewhat of a life here in Madagascar. As I’m about to go home to California, it makes me think about all of the things that have changed in the States while I’ve been gone.

These changes and others that I will encounter scare me. However, I think back to when I first came to Madagascar and how all of those changes scared me too. We must always adapt for the things we want in life. I love Madagascar, and I really enjoy my work here, but I’m ready to be home for a while. Besides, Peace Corps requires it.

So as I think about my fears I laugh a little because for the first few weeks I will really be a tourist in my home town/California. There will be so many things that will blow my mind that most people will just think, “Wow, Nick’s really lost it this time around.”

Here’s a list of a few things that I’ve already thought about:

Weather/Laundry: I will be happy to leave the cold, rainy winter of Andapa for the hot summer of California. However, whatever the weather is, it doesn’t really matter. I won’t be traveling by bicycle if I don’t want, other people will still leave their houses if it rains, and laundry, laundry best of all, could be started at midnight and then be dry the next day! Not to mention that I don’t have to worry about rats eating my clothing…unless that’s one of the changes that happened in the past two years.

Food: I really will be like a kid in a candy shop. I don’t think there is enough time for me to eat all of the food that I want to eat. On the other hand, it’s probably better that way because who knows how my stomach will react to the change. I might actually be full rather quickly once I’m not malnourished (that’s an overstatement by far, but my meals are rather simple and bland so most food in the States will be pretty rich for my taste buds and filling in other areas rather than just carbs). Then we get into food storage and microwaves. I will have all of this food just sitting in my house. Food that can be cooked/prepared in a matter of minutes – a be a meal! No more lighting the gas stove with the crappy little lighter they sell down the street. If I’m hungry, I just have to eat – a rather pleasant concept. The main concern with the food is the amount of time I’ll spend to exercise. I will need to stay on top of things so that my 30 days of home leave doesn’t turn into 30 pounds of home leave. Regardless, of my consumption or weight gain I’m sure that once I return to my diet of rice and vegetables, I’ll return to my normal weight.

Technology: I use to tell people of older generations that I was better at computers/electronics because it was part of my generation. Now I’m not so sure. I wouldn’t be surprised if those people who I once mocked are now more integrated into the technological world than I am. We must remember that I left the United States before the iPad ever came out. Tablets weren’t around. I’m pretty sure the iPhone was the only touch screen phone. I’m sure there are a ton of other things that I still don’t know about. I guess it’s time for my parents to get back at me…

Transportation: Not only will there be lots of cars, but I should be able to get anywhere I want to be in a rather minimal effort. I do need to renew my driver’s license, but I don’t anticipate that to be to difficult. Then if I go by any public transportation it will be on a schedule; a timed schedule! You just need to look at this schedule and it will tell you at what time the mode of transportation will leave and what time you will arrive, there will be a fixed price too! You don’t need to wait around until something fills up and argue about the price. It’s pretty dependable, almost certain.

Hygiene: It’s going to be really hot in California. But a hot shower everyday is going to be really nice. Not only will it be hot, but there will be real water pressure. Granted, I will just not think about the ridiculous amount of water consumption that happens in the United States every day, it’s my one month to enjoy being clean! I’ll still probably wash my feet more than I use to, but who knows how dirty my feet will really be. I can drink the tap water so it makes rinsing after brushing your teeth a lot easier – and there’s fluoride in the water! Water is my friend in California. Here in Madagascar, water can bring all kinds of parasites or bacteria if you aren’t careful. It will be nice to space out at the sink.

Anonymity: I will be able to walk down the street and nobody will notice me. You might have no idea how nice that will feel. I won’t enter a building and be stared at; or really be stared at anywhere. People won’t laugh if I start to speak English. I won’t be an outsider. I’m an American, so I’ll always be an individual, but I’ll definitely fade into the whole. No more Vazaha. Granted, some people will ask me for money, but sometimes they have a cause, and the others, they’re asking me for money because they are asking everyone – not just because I’m white. It will be nice to shed the celebrity that I never really asked for.

People: It will be nice to see all of the people that I love and care about. But, it could be difficult to see how all of these people have changed in the past two years. They’ve had their own work, hardships and personal experiences. I hope that how I’ve changed won’t clash with how they have changed. It’s nice to think that people can be away from each other for a long time and then just be reunited, like nothing ever happened, like I saw them yesterday. However, I know that won’t be the case and probably won’t be the case for most of my encounters. More than anything, if there are a lot of clashes or feelings of separation, I’ll have to start thinking about where home is. I must say that I will never include my family into this category. Granted they’ve changed and I’ve changed and we might clash, but they will always be my family and a huge part of my life. But, depending on how my home leave experience goes, in the future I might be saying that I’m going on vacation to California and coming home to Madagascar.

But for now, I’ll be home in California from July 18 through August 18th!