I didn’t think I was someone who struggled with change—if you’ve heard anything about my (Natasha’s) family, you know that we were involved with foster care and adoption from when I was ten years old. Dealing with change was an absolute necessity and I thought I had gotten pretty good at adjusting.
However, as the school year came to a close and our time to visit ‘home’ in the U.S. approached, I found myself feeling both excited to see family and friends (and of course to eat as much ice cream and cheese as humanly possible!), but also feeling nervous about leaving Rwanda.
In many ways, I am glad that I wasn’t totally amped about leaving my new home in Kigali. It seems like a sign that we are truly settling in and planting ourselves. But is also felt strange to feel a bit nervous about returning to my home culture. I found myself wondering, what if everyone has moved on without me? Or, what if it actually doesn’t feel like any time has passed and I feel too comfortable? What if this and what if that…a lot of inexpressible worries that came out of a gut feeling.
Thankfully, many of my fears were quickly put to rest as friends welcomed us with open arms. In Illinois, we were greeted by friends who loaned us their cars, opened up their homes, asked meaningful questions, and let us enter back into their lives as though no time had passed at all (or perhaps, I realized we hadn’t left their lives at all, even if it is different now). I am truly thankful!
During our visit to the Chicagoland and Twin Cities areas, we were able to be part of some really special moments and events. To share a few of the many highlights: we were able to stay with our godson as his parents headed to the hospital for the birth of their second child, we attended a family wedding, went to Grandma Carlson’s 90th birthday party, met our new nephew (Zander), saw our friends’ new baby for the first time (Willow), spent time with our niece (Adley), and stayed with our other nephew (Soren) in the old family farm house that Ethan’s brother and sister-in-law recently purchased. And of course, what visit to the US would be complete without going to a rodeo, which turned out to be extra exciting as TWO cowboys were thrown off their horses straight into the crowd (don’t worry, they were okay)!
Living cross-culturally is difficult for many reasons; straddling different worlds isn’t easy. Feeling at home in different places is a real struggle, but being where God has called us to be is worth it. Our visit to the States could be a reminder all of the things I am missing, but I think this trip reminded me how rich our lives really are. Our trip was another affirmation that we are in the right place. We have amazing friends, an incredible church behind us, and two families who love us and support us, even when it is super hard for them too!
Now that I am back home in Kigali, I’ve felt the weight of all of this—there’s no way around how hard it is to leave people you love—but even as I write, I feel grateful and loved. Thank you to everyone who traveled with us (Zosia & Alec), met with us, ate with us, and showed us how much you care. And thank you to everyone in Kigali who has welcomed us back. I look forward to all that God has in store for us in our second year, as we learn and live together in our new home.