Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Earth to Schrocks...Earth to Schrocks..."

Sorry it has taken so long for us to update our blog. I’m sure going this long is the best way to lose blog readers! We’ve had a rather tumultuous three weeks since leaving Kaabong, so in the midst of all the changes, the blog suffered. Let me just recount a short narrative of the last three weeks.

Our last week in Kaabong was a little crazy as we tried to tie up loose ends before our return to the States. I (Terrill) spent 8-10 hours a day typing up the Ik words we had collected during the previous couple of months. In the end, I typed just under 12,000 words and their English definitions. My preoccupation with that job left Amber with seeing last-minute visitors and seeing that various logistical issues were sorted out. God gave us both patience and endurance to finish out the week without any major breakdowns.

On the 21st of November we piled into our truck with Ron & Beth and Kristin (our Karamojong friend and employee) and headed south. We took a longer way down, lengthwise through much of Karamoja, admiring the beautiful scenery. That night, we and the Moes stayed at the Kingfisher resort along the Nile River, to celebrate our hard work and thank the Moes for their contributions.

The following week in Kampala and Entebbe was taken up by running errands, spending time with friends, and trying to rest a bit. I would say we got most the items on our checklist taken care of, and we certainly had a wonderful time with our expatriate and Ugandan friends. Unfortunately, we had trouble getting good sleep, so we didn’t get as much rest as we would have liked. On Thursday, all the American staff at our SIL office in Entebbe cooked up a magnificent feast for our American holiday of Thanksgiving. We invited all our staff (besides American, they would have been mostly British and Ugandan) to join in the festivities and share with the group one person or group of people they are thankful for. Amber and I agreed beforehand that we wouldn’t choose each other as the person we’re thankful for, because that goes without saying! We chose to express thanks for a couple of Karamojong friends. For me, it was Luka Onek, the pastor in Kaabong who has faithfully been our friend and advisor in the work among the Ik. For Amber, it was Sister Mary, her dear Christian shop-keeper friend from Kaabong who gives friendship without asking anything in return.

Friday night at 12:35 we took off from Entebbe. We had an eight hour layover in London and then reached Jacksonville, Florida, late Saturday evening. Both flights were long but comfortable. No screaming babies. No hijacking. Only good food, lots of movie choices, more leg room than I remembered ever having, and the excitement of going home. During our layover in Heathrow airport, I entered the first phase of cultural readjustment. I was just in awe of the architecture of the terminals and wondered how humankind managed to make something so impressive, when I had just spent six months struggling to bring a couple of huts into existence. I was also in awe of the food and drink choices, and how wonderful everything tasted. And I just sat there transfixed by all the white people! I hadn’t seen that many of my ‘tribe’ for two years! These were all good feelings. I realized how deprived we had been, sensorially and culturally for two years.

Amber’s mother, sister, and grandmother kindly picked us up from the airport and drove us to Tallahassee Saturday night. We slept till almost noon the next day and were then awakened by Josh (Amber’s brother) and his wife Amanda, who had waited long enough for Amber to see her nephew Christian for the first time! That day was a blur. We were still exhausted and culturally disoriented and were planning to drive to Orlando early Monday morning. I drove a bit that evening but was very disoriented. Doug, Amber’s dad, said I was driving like a grandma (all you grandmas out there, what do you have to say about that?!)

Monday morning we drove to Cape Canaveral, Florida to board our cruise to the Bahamas. Someone had graciously paid for us to go on this cruise with Amber’s family, and we had looked forward to it for a couple of months. It was supposed to be a sacred time of resting before trying to reenter American life. As it turned out, Amber was prevented from boarding because she had answered honestly on the health questionnaire that she had had diarrhea in the last 36 hours. When the nurse told us that, we were just shocked. It was so unreal that my first reaction was to just laugh. I think I thought that somehow it was going to be okay. But, they really didn’t let us on. On top of that, we had to wait two hours for them to find our luggage which had already been loaded on the ship. Mildly traumatized, we watched the rest of the family disappear down the gangway. That evening we tried very hard not to ask the ‘why’ questions and instead ask the ‘what now’ questions. We decided to just get a hotel and spend a couple of days sleeping, eating, walking on the beach, reading, and passing time. That was relaxing. After two days, we drove down to Sarasota and spent three days with Amber’s paternal grandparents, Vernon and Donna. That was also relaxing, and we had wanted to visit them anyway. In the end, a cruise to the Bahamas, with all the decadence and frivolity, probably wouldn’t have been the best way to deal with culture shock.

Two weeks ago, my uncle Gary Troyer was diagnosed with liver cancer. He passed away this past Tuesday morning. The suddenness of his sickness and death have cast a strange mood on our first couple of weeks here. We are all reminded of our physical mortality and the preciousness of time. I have many fond memories of uncle Gary. He was a joyful, passionate, and caring man, a great pastor and missionary. The time of his passing required us to reorganize our schedule for December, as we planned to attend his funeral in South Carolina today. However, also on Tuesday, I started to come down with a nasty sore throat that worsened throughout the week. Yesterday, despite not feeling well, we decided to go to the funeral anyway. We really wanted to be there and see family. Three hours into our trip, I lost my voice (due to the flu) and we turned around. After a lunch of good ol’ southern barbecue, shopping for shoes, and one flat tire, we made it back to Tallahassee. By then my illness had developed into a full-blown case of the flu.

So that’s where we’re at. I’m recovering from the flu. Amber basically has it too, but she’s managed to suppress it up to now. So far, our time in the US has been…weird. We’ve felt, and been told, that we need to rest a lot, but getting sleep and rest has been difficult. Both Amber and I have been more sick in the last three weeks than in our entire two years abroad. We are very much enjoying the food here; I’ve gained ten pounds in two weeks! It’s also been wonderful to see family and friends, to be with people who actually like us for who we are, not just for what we can give them. Speaking engagements and visits with people are lining up for the end of December, January, and February. For the next two weeks, we want to just spend time with our immediate families while celebrating Christmas. Thanks for reading, praying, and keeping up with our story.