If there was an April 31 then today would be three months to the day from which I’ll get on the plane in San Francisco and fly to LA, and then to Fiji where it will be three in the morning. A week after that I’ll get on another plane and arrive in Auckland, where it will be late at night. I can’t tell you what will happen after that.
I’ve been saying, almost since I knew I could go, that the trip doesn’t really feel real. It was something I was researching and for which I was planning but it was hard to internalize the real facts of leaving for a year, since July 31 feels very far from December 7. I’ve sometimes wondered if I’ve made the right decision by waiting so long between getting the go-ahead and getting on the plane, because the weird pause of the past four months has been a little unnerving. My dear friend Katherine found out about two weeks ago that she’s going to spend a year studying at the University of Ghana and she leaves three days before I do; when we were on the phone last night we talked about how different our experiences have been, in terms of anticipation. It’s been BAM! CRASH! BANG! for her, orientations and malaria pills and proposals for independent study, one right after the other and no sign of its letting up until it’s time to leave. Me, I’ve been kind of doodling along, talking to my cousin about maybe storing some stuff at his place, getting my visa in when I have a spare weekend, taking it pretty easy. La la la, doo dee doo.
April, I think, has been the last month where that’s been true. Now that I’m three months out I feel myself shifting into slightly higher gear. I did put the second part of my visa application in two weeks ago and should get the paperwork back in about a month if all goes well. I just got my very first pair of prescription sunglasses and I’ve had the tickets and my huge pack and various other accoutrements for months. I spoke to the recruiter I’m working with last week and we talked more concretely about where I would like to live and what kind of work I might like to do. My bosses have sent out various referrals for me and we’ve started interviewing people for my job, which is truly a strange experience. After the first candidate the coworker with whom I was doing the interview said, “Okay, I just have to remember, the new person is…not going to be you.” I was out doing errands with Treasa yesterday and she told me that she’s going to miss having me at home, and last week at bellydance my teacher told me she’s going to miss me too.
This has really been the first week it’s hit me. I’ve been really loving Seattle lately and it’s very strange to think I won’t be here for a long time, and that long time is going to start fairly soon. We were talking about berry season over lunch at work the other day, and someone said that it’s strawberries that come first, and blueberries are in later in the summer, around the middle of July. The middle of July? I’ll probably be in the Bay Area by then, crashing at the ABL and spending as much time as I can with my various friends around there before my mom and sister come out to meet me and take a road trip with me before I get on the plane. I’m not going to be going to the market every week for a full flat of organic berries by the time they’re ready; I’ll be laying on the beach in Fiji and trying to figure out Auckland and hucking my pack around the North Island for most of August. And then I’ll have to find a job and a place to live and places to have hot chocolate and friends to drink it with, and maybe for the first time in eight months I am a little scared.
I feel fairly certain that I’ll be able to do all those things, somehow…I just can’t imagine what doing them will be like. How different can it be, though, right? I have someone already who’s going to help me find work and even though they don’t really use craigslist over there certainly they use the internet to find “flat” mates just like everyone else. I’ve been getting better at doing things by myself and I feel pretty confident that I’ll enjoy being alone for a while, although I’m happy to say that it turns out I have readers in New Zealand, if you can imagine such a thing, and that I have tentative plans to meet up with at least two of them when I arrive. In general I make friends pretty easily but there is a little part of me that wonders if the coriolis effect will somehow reverse my personality as well as the way the water goes down the drain, will make me shy and introverted just when it would be really useful to be outgoing.
When I write it all out like that it doesn’t seem like there’s much to feel scared about. I still am, a little. I’m going to be really far away for at least a year. Added to the fear of what it will be like to be on the other side of the planet, away from everyone and everything I know and love, is the fear of what it will be like to come back again. Part of me wonders if the time I’ll be gone is going to be enough for people to forget me, a little, and whether there will be a place for me to come back to. And then an even smaller and tighter part of me wonders if I will ever come back at all.