Every 9 weeks (63 days to be precise), expats who work with my organization in Iraq are given 10 days of rest and relaxation. My second R&R begins on Saturday. In the last 60 some days I've written two grant proposals, traveled to Baghdad twice and Amman and Erbil once each, designed and delivered a training on Positive Discipline (aka don't beat your children until they bleed), compiled several reports, conducted two trips to communities and one focus group discussion and generally made myself useful around the office. So, I'm ready for a break. This time, I'm traveling back to the US to see my family and attend the wedding of two wonderful friends. I'm in what we call the red zone right now, which means it's less than 10 days before my scheduled R&R and I'm on an emotional rollercoaster that no amount of chocolate can alleviate.
I've got a list going of the food I want to eat, people to see, business to be taken care of (dentist, ugh) and things to bring back with me, which largely consists of books and cooking supplies - can't find vanilla extract ANYWHERE in KRG. I'm fantasizing about bacon and shoe stores and happily counting down the days until I go home. However, I'm also finding the idea of going home strangely intimidating.
My friends have been slowly pairing off for years, and I forsee numerous wedding in my immediate future. I can't wait to see everyone, but I'm dreading the awkward, "So, how IS Iraq" conversations with people who know me. I'm already dreading answering the painful, "What do you do" questions from people I don't know. I love my job, but it is so hard to explain what I do and why I do it. It's also hard to go home and face the fact that while my professional life has been growing in leaps and bounds, my personal life has fallen by the wayside. I also know that the normalcy of home will highlight all the bizarre things about my life here that go unnoticed while you're immersed in the insanity. And thinking about all of this makes me kind of wish I was taking my R&R on a desert island somewhere (preferably with Johnny Dep and a stash of rum nearby).
I am also dreading telling my family that I am slated to move to Baghdad in July. In spite of my last blog post, I'm feeling okay about making the move. Things have calmed down a lot, and at this point I think the biggest risk is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I'm looking forward to moving out of the burbs (Kurdistan) and into a real field post. I am NOT looking forward to the joys of compound living, but the challenge of helping to move and grow the office will be great experience for me. My job will still require that I travel to the south and north frequently, so I won't be trapped in the Baghdad office like some of colleagues. I'm looking forward to it - hell, I volunteered to be in the first wave moving back to Baghdad - but it's not going to be a pleasant conversation with my mother.