Posted tagged ‘homesickness’

“What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.”

November 15, 2014

The day has a pretty start with a blue sky and sunshine though it is chilly. My bird feeder is getting lots of attention. I saw house and gold finches, titmice, my friends the chickadees, a woodpecker at the suet, nuthatches and the other day a flicker. My kitchen window gives me a perfect view of the two large feeders. This morning I chased away the red spawn. It hadn’t been around for a while. I think maybe now it knows I have emptied and put away the hose. I’m definitely thinking potato gun.

My backyard, Gracie’s realm, is still filled with trees, still wild. When she goes out, I can keep track of her by the sounds her feet make as she trots on the dead leaves. The other day, our last warm day, Gracie was out for long stretches. Now, with the cold, she is out and back inside quickly. Today she has another test at the vets to check those irregular heartbeats. Right now it is morning nap time for Gracie, Fern and Maddie, each in her special spot.

I have lived alone in this house since I bought it thirty-eight years ago. The first time I ever lived alone was in Ghana, and it took me a while to be comfortable. I missed people. I was homesick and wanted to leave so many times those first few months, but I didn’t. I learned to enjoy the solitude of my house, to sit outside at night and listen to the sounds from the dormitories and the compounds behind my house. In the morning, as I sat on my front porch drinking coffee, I heard the familiar sounds of the different languages of the various tribes as the students talked to one another, the sound of water and metal as students filled their buckets for morning baths and the sounds of students sweeping the grounds with their short handle-less brooms.

I love living alone though there are times I wish for company. I admit I talk out loud to myself and to the animals. Gracie understands more than the cats, but they do come when I call their names. I love doing what I want when I want. I sometimes eat odd choices for meals. This morning I ate leftover pizza. It had sausage, a breakfast food.

“alone doesn’t mean lonely. It just means alone. It just means that for now, you’re on your own, and that’s not a terrible thing.”

August 30, 2013

Somewhere off in the far distance, I can hear a dog bark, barely hear that dog bark, but Gracie feels it is her responsibility to respond. That she is standing on the deck directly under my window is of little importance. A dog does what a dog wants to do.

Last night was so chilly I shut my downstairs windows. My feet were even cold. Yesterday was fall. I don’t care that it is still August. Fall drops in now and then to get the lay of the land and last night was one of those visits. Today isn’t much better. It’s still chilly and damp. School should start on a day like today.

My friends are leaving for Ireland on Tuesday. My other friends are going to Ghana in the middle of September. I feel like the poor relation. I haven’t even been to Hyannis lately.

I called Rose Atiah, one of my students, this morning. I needed a Ghana fix, and Rose is always good for a conversation. She said it was getting ready to rain, and I could picture exactly what Bolga looks like with an impending storm. Rose said she was doing nothing, and I told her I was doing nothing as well. We chatted a bit more, and Rose said she would pass along my greetings to Agatha, Francisca and Bea. Hearing a Ghanaian accent always gives me a bit of a lift, and I love that Ghanaians pass along greetings.

Sometimes I feel like a bit of a hermit. With no reason to go out, I don’t bother to get dressed. I make my bed, brush my teeth, do a cursory wash of hands and face and then let the day while by me. Today could easily be one of those days, but I have no choice but to go out to the pharmacy. Gracie gets to come because it will be cool enough in the car for her.

When I finally got to my house in Ghana, I was living alone for the first time in my life, and it was a difficult transition. During Peace Corps training, we had been herded and kept in large groups, and we had each other, but now I had no one to talk to about how I felt, no one who understood what I was going through. I was homesick, doing a rotten job in the classroom and an object of curiosity for my students and just about everyone in town. I fled to books and checked for mail every day at least a couple of times. I was starved for conversation and companionship. I was miserable. I don’t know when that began to change, when I knew I was home, but change it did. I loved living alone. It was fun going into town and to the market. People greeted me all the time, and I returned their greetings. I was madam, a teacher at the school, and that was all.

Talking to Rose today brought a lot of that back. She still calls me madam.

“As long as we know in our hearts what Christmas ought to be, Christmas is.”

December 18, 2012

As I was walking downstairs this morning, I could smell the Christmas tree. I smiled. I love that smell and can’t think of no better way to greet the morning. Right away I went over and turned on the tree lights. They brightened the room and chased away the clouds and the rain.

Yesterday Gracie and I went about doing a couple of errands. She got her nails trimmed, and while I waited, I bought her a few surprises for Christmas. I also stopped at a favorite bakery to get cookies to bring to the library for this week’s Christmas open house. The bakery owner, whom I see all the time, was there and asked what I was looking for. I told him about the open house and the library. He said he loved libraries and then he gave me three packages of his cookies as a gift to the library. How kind that was! How generous! I am forever thankful for the goodness in people.

I got a call from my friend Bill who had somehow managed to track down Patrick, another volunteer with whom we had served in Bolga. I had looked for Patrick for a while but never found him. Bill found a story in an Iowan newspaper about Patrick and send an e-mail last September asking if the Patrick he’d found was our Patrick, but Bill didn’t get an answer until now when Patrick called him. Pat’s memory is a bit fuzzy. He barely remembered Ghana let alone any of us. He asked Bill if there wasn’t also a gal in Bolga. I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone say gal. Bill told him I was that gal. I had to chuckle as did Bill. I have Patrick’s phone number and am aimin’ to give that galoot a call. I’ll introduce myself as a gal he knew from way back when.

I have a story I like to tell this time of year about my first Christmas in Ghana, my very first ever away from home. I was   homesick and sad. My mother tried to help so she sent me a small tree, ornaments from our family tree, brick crepe paper so I could make a fireplace and a small stocking to hang. I decorated my house but it didn’t help much. Besides, the weather was all wrong. It was the harmattan, the driest time of the year with a hot, dusty wind which blew each day and covered every surface in my house with sand. The heels of my feet cracked from the dryness, and I had to walk on tiptoes until the skin hardened. The only redeeming parts of the harmattan were the nights. They were cold, put a wool blanket on the bed cold. I’d leave all my windows open so I could snuggle under my blanket. It felt a bit like winter.

The nights in Bolga were quiet. They were bright with stars which seemed to blanket the sky. I was in bed trying to fall asleep on a night close to Christmas when I heard a small boy singing. His voice carried though the night air. It was the only sound I could hear. He sand We Three Kings, every verse. His voice was beautiful. I don’t know where he was. I guessed he lived in a compound near my house, but that didn’t really matter. He gave me one of the most beautiful gifts I have ever received. He gave Christmas.

“Visits always give pleasure – if not the arrival, the departure.”

June 30, 2011

The sky is a vibrant blue and the sun is warm. A slight breeze makes the day delightful. This morning my house is quiet. The routine of every day has returned because my company left last night. I miss them. Having company interrupts routine in the best possible way. We laugh, chat and enjoy being together. The house is filled with sounds different than every day when only the animals and I move about, and I’m the only voice. Gracie is sleeping on the couch which she does every morning except she didn’t for the last couple. She was intent on missing nothing and was our constant companion. The deck is empty and quiet. My sister should be out there reading her book and following the sun as it moves about the house. I need to get used to the quiet again.

I never lived alone until I was in Ghana. The house, where I grew up, was small, and there were six of us always bumping into each other. When we moved to the cape, I had my own room, but the house was never quiet. The kitchen, close to my bedroom, was the hubbub of activity. I didn’t mind. It had been the same all of my life. College was no different. I could fall asleep surrounded by people and noise.

I lived alone in Ghana, on one side of a duplex. It was the first time in my life I wasn’t surrounded by family or friends. I was depressed, lonely and homesick and had no one to talk to about it. I couldn’t tell my fellow staff members. It would sound a bit insulting. I did write to friends about it, and that was cathartic, but it was only a stop gap. The loneliness returned. I decided I would leave at the end of term one if nothing changed, but I was lucky. Everything changed.

I began to enjoy being alone, having time to myself. Ghana and my four rooms became home. At night, I’d sit outside under the most magnificent starlit sky with my mouth opened in awe then I’d go inside, read and listen to music. During the day I’d teach and in-between classes I’d go home and be by myself with my book and a cup of coffee until the next class. I enjoyed being alone and found company disruptive. I was at the polar opposite of where I had begun.

It took a while to find the middle, but I did. Company was welcomed. Being alone was never lonely. That’s still the way it is. I miss my recent company and their voices and their movements about the house, but I’m content to be alone.


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