After twenty hours of traveling, 15 of which where in the air, we finally made it back to the United States of America. The trip on the whole was rather uneventful. The most excitement we had was when the Nadi Airport baggage handlers decided to save some time and load all the bags in the rear of the plane. The only problem was this makes the plane unbalanced. So we enjoyed an extra 45 minutes on the tarmac while the handlers balanced it out between front and rear. Despite the delay we made our connection to LA in Honolulu. From LA we ventured on to DFW. Our final leg of the journey was a detour to the nearest Mexican food restaurant for fajitas and cold beer. I was shocked when after placing our order a steaming plate of veggies and meat appeared no more than five minutes later. The server actually smiled and communicated with us via his mouth rather than eyebrows. Perhaps the most surreal moment was the schooner of ice cold Shiner sitting on my table. It looked so strange and foreign I almost couldn’t remember what this amber liquid was. It all came quickly back after the first gulp, though, and it was then I knew I was home. I was about to sing the Israelite Beer Song, but gathered my composure and celebrated privately. Yes, Beer is Biblical, look it up (Numbers 21:16).
Although it has only been a week since arriving back home it has felt like a year. It is puzzling how so much and little has changed over the last 15 months. I have also reflected many times on everything I took for granted before leaving to Fiji. Therefore it seems appropriate for future reflection to generate a list:
Things I Took For Granted Before Peace Corps:
1. Tap Water: This invention is amazing. Not only does it not give me parasites or running stomach for five days, but it has free fluoride in it and can be dispensed at a wide range of temperatures. I can find this scrumptious liquid anywhere I go and it’s available at all times of the day.
2. Queuing: The orderly nature of this simple activity makes my heart sing with quite joy. Like the natural instincts of a Canadian Snow Goose guiding its migratory flight with precision and efficiency the natural flow and harmony of queuing brings me great peace to waiting in line. No longer do I have to fear the Indo Fijian’s baggage trolly behind me severing my Achilles tendon while waiting for my Air Pacific Flight. Yes, I have shed blood in a Fijian line. The days of 3 inches of personal space at the Savusavu Post Office are over. Throwing elbows while wiggling through the 18” wide bus door need not ever happen again. And never again do I need to be concerned about the multiple sets of eyeballs suspiciously peering over my shoulder through the plastic ATM bubble at ANZ bank.
3. Refrigeration: Good-bye lukewarm Rewa powdered milk. I will not miss you. Nope, not even for a minute. I can also stop reading condiment labels for warnings.
4. Internet: When it worked, the speed in which our computers downloaded email clocked in at 2.3 to 2.5kbs. Now, it goes so fast I can hardly read the numbers. The last flash was in the neighborhood of +500kbs.
The enlightened observer might look upon the above list with suspicion quietly thinking to herself, “Well that man didn’t learn a thing in the third world and has gone back to all his Western habits.” Too her I say, “yup,” you are correct madam. Not only do I bask in A.C., take rides in gas guzzling SUVs, and sometimes let the water run when I brush my teeth, but I do so with a clear conscious. The founders of this nation had no more sophistication or intelligence than those in the developing world today. They simply made the decision to trust in a creator higher then himself, and join together in creating an environment where liberty is paramount, infrastructure works, innovation is rewarded, and hard work is a valued character trait. Today I am proud to enjoy the fruits of their labor and am unapologetic about joining in to make this nation even better.