first steps in the newfoundland of the USA

first steps in the newfoundland of the USA

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…AND i’m BACK!

this blog update is somewhat a big one, considering i have been putting it off for about four months now. as much as i have wanted to write and share some of my experiences in the past few months, i have also found it to be quite exhausting and emotionally draining when i even think about getting started. sound dramatic? well, it’s life. ūüôā

“what are you doing now crystal?” “where are you in the world?” “is it weird being back in the US again?”

so this is my attempt, my first step, if you will, to “get back into the game” and continue sharing some of my musings, epiphanies, realizations on this journey of life that i have been gifted with.

i recently got back from a “re-entry workshop” put on by From Mission to Mission, which is an organization that puts on workshops for returned volunteers and missioners who are now experiencing transition and re-entry back into the United States, their [our] homeland after serving overseas (workshops are also available for domestic volunteers!). in my case, i spent my workshop with ten other volunteers/missioners who served in zambia, bolivia, paraguay, india, guyana, just to name a few, and of course, i threw some asia flavor in there, having served in the philippines. more about that later, but basically, after a very powerful 3-day workshop out in chicago, i¬†am learning, and have learned, my¬†story must live on [no matter and wherever i go], and this blog may just be the very vessel in which it can be best expressed.

so here we go…!!!

[on transition]

upon leaving the US to venture off to mission in the Philippines, i participated in a program called MISO – Maryknoll International Service Orientation held in New York, where i attended different workshops with other volunteer/missioner programs who were preparing to send out volunteers/missioners for overseas mission. after leaving these fruitful workshops, i was so grateful for that opportunity to be “fully equipped” (as much as possible) with resources, good words of advice for the unfortunate times that i could expect, and with rich wisdom shared by the different presenters. during this orientation we also attended workshops on what some of the¬†issues, conflicts, or challenges¬†that overseas missioners/volunteers¬†may experience, including¬†how to or how not to handle romantic relationships abroad, how to stay physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy, and also, what it could be like upon re-entry back into the US. here’s one of the blog entries from that time: Sept. 2010
little did i know that “culture shock” upon re-entry back into the US would absolutely be that: SHOCK.

in other words, still four months later (after leaving the philippines, 2 months back in the US), i am finally getting used to using a microwave again, finally getting the hang of driving once again (still fearing that people will pop out of nowhere and decide to cross right in front of the car), teaching myself how to use the different social media tools out there (there are so many!), trying not to feel guilty about making more than 5 copies of one-sided handouts, and the list goes on.

and those are just some of the examples of external situations that i am trying to get used to.

on a deeper level…a lot can happen in two years. dang, a lot can happen in a month – in a week. life doesn’t stop, and people change. relationships change. i come back to the US, and i am not the same crystal. my friends are not¬†carbon copies of who they were when i last left them. it takes time to get used to relationships again. i come back to the US and some of my friends are married, my facebook is flooded with pictures of marriages and¬†couples with their 2nd and 3rd child. what? so beautiful! …but something to get used to. filling out applications, asking for my¬†“home address,” that question¬†resounds in my head. “home..” “home..” where is home? after living abroad for two years and experiencing an incredibly different life¬†over on an island¬†in the pacific, everything seems to have shaken¬†up the cells inside of me.

after leaving the philippines in july, i was home for a week, went to fatima, portugal for a week, went home again for a week, then left for two months to swaziland. i then came back for a day, packed all my clothes, and made a move out east that next morning. operating on auto-pilot, i basically re-packed all of my clothes from the philippines (since those were the clothes i was used to), stuffed ’em in two suitcases, with room to spare, and trekked over to¬†the east coast.

the problem? the weather on the east coast is NOT the tropical weather i have grown accustomed to in the philippines. what i realized is that¬†what i thought¬†was¬†“normal” daily clothing in the philippines, which was basically a clean t-shirt and jeans, does not necessarily suffice as typically appropriate attire for mass or an office job in the US. dang. that was a moment when i realized my mind was not fully here yet.

as i could still hear julie from “From Mission to Mission share from past experience, “my spirit has not caught up with me yet.”

this place of¬†“liminality”¬†if you will, is¬†quite uncomfortable.¬†it’s like trying to¬†fit into some new skin, in a new society¬†and goin’ with it, while also trying to be intentionally aware of¬†these changes that i am experiencing in¬†and all around me. it’s getting used to change on the surface level, but definitely experiencing transition on the internal level. all at the same time.¬†my opinions have changed, my frame of reference has changed, my¬†way¬†of seeing the world and understanding the global community has changed. and i would like to think, for the better.

sure, i’ve served abroad¬†every summer for 5 years in the philippines, but after living¬†there…it’s a whole ‘nother conversation.¬†¬†

i am now learning how to integrate what i have experienced and lived in the philippines, into where i am now in the USA. my homeland which used to be so familiar, is not so much easy of a space to live in anymore. the west coast is very different from the east coast. sure, the privileges are quite the same, but still, it’s different. i still recall many of the good times and the not-so-good times in my wonderland of the philippines, and now here i am, back in this country that used to be so familiar, the land that many immigrants try to make their way to, and i find myself discovering and exploring this newfoundland¬†of the US.¬†all the while, granting myself grace, patience, and gentleness during this time of transition, but dang. let me tell you. it. is.¬†difficult.

the grace? my life on mission in the philippines gave me a renewed heart which has permeated every part of me and i have a whole community on the other side of the world that i am now in solidarity with.

despite the difficulties in transition, the “re-entry” part i understand,¬†IS part of my mission in life. this mission was never simply something that only i would experience for an x amount of time, but rather, i believe it is my responsibilitiy to carry on the gifts and graces from the philippines and to share them with those i am now surrounded by.
so with that being said, here i am.
…i saw what i saw.
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