they took a roundabout way on their return.
on a day stopover in addis ababa they see a city that kigali, where they just left, could be like in twenty years – and in some ways already is; bursting with people and aching with new construction.
next, to jerusalem. an old friend – groomsman-in-their-wedding kind of friend – studies there, shows them the sights between study groups and finals. they get a tour of the holy sites and a tour of the active oppression. they process eastern african living with one living in an epicenter of middle eastern tension, draw connections, and everyone learns.
and then to europe. they meet his parents in zurich and travel with them for a few days, crossing and re-crossing the rhine, through the black forest and alsace, into cute little country towns and castle ruins, and dodging other tourists. they part ways; the parents continue their adventure, the couple sees zurich’s spring festival, complete with parades and an exploding snowman. all in the pouring rain.
another plane trip. after a whirlwind tour of london, where they glean inspiration from shakespeare and dickens, they stay with friends in oxford, and glean more inspiration from other loved authors. then a train up the coast, the first time seeing open water in a long time, and over to glasgow. they dream of what it might be like to live in that old, burdened city. they meet friends of friends, explore parks and shops, get a feel for it all. and there are meetings with university people, helping them visualize what his master’s program would be, and what they need to do to get a visa and stay there. every detail of the program described touches on topics he has been stewing around in his brain for months or years, and gets pumped to address these things in a setting that stresses action as a part of learning theory.
and at the end of three weeks of travel he looks at her and thinks, what an awesome lady to do all this while so pregnant.
and just like that, another routine plane flight, and they’re back in their home country. the united states. it is incredibly strange to be back in places so familiar, the last two years seeming to fade into a dream world, where they have to remind themselves that those years actually existed, and that they didn’t just sleep all of a long weekend filled with a thousand strange dreams to confuse them when they awake.
in a place that actively creates systems to lose sight of distant problems, they attempt to live in such a way that honors those years, the experiences, the places, the friends. yet it is easy, incredibly so, to slip back into american ways, easy to eat too much of the flavors they’ve missed from their favorite restaurants – and easy, thus, to add some extra weight. and in places like costco they marvel at the mountains of food and materials and wonder what their friends in kiziba would think of it all. and so each day becomes a new exercise in wondering if living this kind of life is actually ok and not unjust, knowing that so many in the world do not have access to so much. and he wonders also if this american opulence is actually to be desired for all the world. he thinks back upon the world of international aid and development; and grows in his belief that aid organizations, especially christian ones, should be very clear about their goals and practices, to ensure that their goals are not entwined with the goals of economic empires, but rather with the kingdom of God.
in some way the return feels like an awkward conversation with an old acquaintance, or an unexpected disappointment. there is waiting, with undertones of aimlessness. and then there is the realization of rest. they take time doing this or that, they read and talk about being parents, they visit doctors, they play music together, honored to play soon in a wedding of friends.
he carves out space in the general basement clutter for an ‘office’ and defends his daily writing time. this work keeps him connected to the now distant friends living as refugees. though location has changed, nothing in the heart has.
many of his thoughts now are of their impending parenthood. being finished with all the madness of wrapping up things in rwanda and planning a multi-week trip, he has a lot more time, happily, to think about being a father. she takes a nap and he lays down and places his hand upon her belly, feels the child kicking and rolling inside. and he thinks, this is the first time he has hung out just he and their daughter. it is a wonderful moment.
and so in the waiting, in the subtle, creeping busy-ness, they dream and plan – for the baby, for the move, for school again. much is up in the air as to the future, but they have their ideas and their prayers and time will tell.