The Bitter Taste of Joy

In case anyone reads this, I want to warn you that whatever else goes into this blog is simply the internal self-gratifying mental wanderings of the author.

So it turns out that five days of getting drunk, eating too much, and marinating in a hot tub is a bad way to transition from a village in Kazakhstan to the United States.

If life went as fictitiously scheduled, I would have just flown home from Almaty to a hot Minnesota summer. As it were, I’ve just returned from a week in the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area.

I am extremely blessed, blessed being the reluctantly used word describing a state of fortune that is due to something beyond my comprehension. Maybe fortunate is a better word, less weight. Whereas my experience in Central Asia didn’t end well, there is no other reality in which it would have ended differently, and it made me the man I am today.

Not much has changed on the surface, I’m still unsure of the world around me, let alone my place in it. I’m still enthralled by people and our ability to be beautiful and kind, and horrified at our capacity for evil. I’m still enchanted by women and wonder at their ability to be magical. However, somehow everything looks different, the world looks different. It’s filled out and dirtier, deeper, sadder, lovelier, more horrifying, funnier, but most of all more fascinating and deserving of a life well lived in service to others.

Every once in a while when I smell something like burning trash, or see the sunlight catch the edge of water in a way that reminds me of a river, I violently push memories into the recesses of my mind until they no longer turn my stomach. I’m much better when someone asks me about being in the Peace Corps, my stock of replies are more associated with telling stories than reality, and they’re easier for me to digest.

I wish it was only melodrama, but the truth is that I hate the fact that part of me was shaking with joy when I found out I was going home. I hate it because the second I felt it, it was a betrayal. It was a betrayal to the people I cared for and a place I was learning to build a life in, I was betrayed by my emotions at a time when I thought I was content with the life I was living.

Now it all feels like a dream, except for the bitter taste that joy left in my mouth.

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4 Responses to The Bitter Taste of Joy

  1. Jan Martland says:

    Your back at the writing and I’m loving it! Heard you were home and it sounds like you had some time to enjoy the Boundary Waters. Hope school is going well for you! Sorry i missed you but hopefully will catch up with you the next time you are in town!

  2. Sonia says:

    You weren’t the only one. My first though was that I would never have to feel helpless or be referred to as “childlike” again. Then i thought of all the other things I would never get to do again. And that just broke my heart.

  3. Carol Markham-Cousins says:

    I love the fact you are writing and that the BWCA was an experience that helped center you.
    Miss you too much,
    love you always,

  4. Mark Anthony says:

    Hey Collin,
    I’ve been thinking about South Africa lately and eventually made my way to your blog. I didn’t realise you were back home in the States! I hope all is well; we should catch up some time in the near future.
    Mark Anthony

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