I cannot wait to see my family. A word of warning to anyone who happens to be in the Cedar Rapids Airport on the afternoon of July 19th. I will be running and I will knock you over. But on the other side of those awful 28 plus hours of traveling I will not be running as I board my first flight. I will be hugging and most likely crying as I am saying goodbye to my family.
It makes sense to think of family embracing me this year in every sense of the word embrace. They have supported me, pushed me, and picked me up. Coming into this year far from the family I have known all of my life I expected this. What I didn't expect was the family in South Africa embracing me in the same ways. I have always felt like I have had a larger family than my biological family; family friends were aunts and good friend's moms are my moms too. I loved that this is even more true in South Africa. I can never actually tell how someone is related to someone else my sister, mama, granny, cousin, any of those could mean they are actually how I understand the title or they could be someone who fills that role thus the title. I love it.
Now as my weeks and days here are dwindling and I am fast approaching my goodbyes to my family here. I see just how this new expanded understanding of family has affected me. I cannot explain in my western understanding of family my South African family. I have been welcome into homes so many times. I cannot imagine my life without these people who a year ago I did not even know. I grew into these relationships through the year. Now I am at home. I am spending weekends with my South African extended family these last few weeks. Traveling with my family to visit their families. It has been a wonderful way to start the process of saying goodbye. These trips are gifts of memories I know that will always travel with me.
There is another family I am apart of in South Africa. Well technically Southern African since one member now resides in Swaziland :) But they are my other YAGMs here. We make a family that is spread across this region. But we are always talking and checking in with each other. And while we are spread out here it will be odd when we are back in the United States and are much further spread out. They have been my brothers and sisters in so many ways. We have only been all together a few times this year but we have bounded in a way that is only possible when you are thrown into a complete unknown together as we were in August.
So in these weeks I am with my family. I am home and I am feeling so loved. I have learned that while I considered my family much more than the basics before it is now grown to a whole new level. I will be saying goodbye and hello all at once all to my family. I can't wait to see one part of my family while I don't want to leave the other part of my family.