I am the sales manager for a solar light distributor and it's part of my job to answer questions about our products. However, I'm fairly certain that the most common question I am asked these days is something to the effect of "How much longer do you think you'll stay in Africa/Uganda?" I get this question from family, friends, fellow RPCVs even people who themselves have been living here for a long time. My mom is certain that she will never reclaim her daughter from Africa, though every time I'm home she does her best to get me to commit to moving back.
The truth is that I'm not sure when and where I'll go next, but I am happy where I am, loving my job and comfortable in my skin. I miss my family and friends back in the US but I believe that each person has their own path to take and that this is mine.
I remember my urge to travel the world starting at some point during my college days at Iowa. I can remember walking along the Iowa River under an overcast sky, listening, through my headphones, to Joni Mitchell singing about far-off places and all the interesting people there are to meet out there, all the wonderful adventures there are to be had.
At that time I was limited by school and my swimming career, otherwise I might have participated in a study-abroad program. I had to settle for vacations being more or less centered on competitions or training but Joni's poetry never left me.
There is a bit of irony in the fact that my mom is the one who introduced me to Joni Mitchell's music, one of the things that inspired me to travel and live abroad. Her songs mentioning stamps of many countries and passport smiles, Paris, Rome and Grecian Isles and that "Urge for Going."
With this as well as a fascination I found in talking to people I met previously who had lived in other countries, spoke more languages than English pushed me on my way to where I am now. Now I have lived in three countries, speak three languages (ok, not fluently but I get by) and have visited 15% of the world's countries and when I think about returning to the states another of Joni's lines comes to mind: "Will you take me as I am?... Strung out on another man?" from her song "California." To me the line questions whether a readjustment to the US is ever fully possible.
Maybe I'll find out one day.