Monday, October 18, 2010
After a six week trip, we are back in Jozi.
This is what native Johanneburg residents call the city we live in: Jozi. People who visit shorten it to Joburg...but to its own, the fun girl's name defines the multi-faceted place we live. We are now calling it home. I'll get back to that point- that loaded word.
The trip itself was long, and we're still jet lagged. We arrived back on Friday night, picked up at the airport by a young friend who is one of the coolest guys we know-- he's now 100% cooler for driving through traffic at 5:00 p.m. on a Friday night in South Africa.
People here have the most amazing questions: How is your family? How was the 50th Anniversary party? How is Harmony? How was the 1st Birthday party? Vince? Your Siblings? Did you eat Mexican food? The questions are amazing because they are spoken (asked) by people who know us now...know us like family. This is amazing, since we always have thought of our friends here as "new" friends who could never know us like our friends "back home" (I'll get to that). The questions are as amazing as our experiences.
First was Mongolia: a relating church on the far reaches of Asia. The church, led by friends of ours, sang beautiful, worshipful songs in a foreign language I didn't have to understand to know was worshipful. The language was unimportant: our hearts were joined by Jesus. We presented a marriage course there that we have "authored" (a synopsis of all the best marriage courses we have ever attended) translated by Ganji, the lead elder's wife. The translation was perfect--and the Mongolians drew from the truths we have learned from as if they had grown up next door to us. Boldo (the lead elder) assured us everyday with words and friendship that reminded me of my American (biological) brother, Steve. The whole thing was a blast...and we left part of our hearts there.
Next came a small vacation in China (Beijing). We absolutely loved it...as we expected we would. We saw the Great Wall (and walked part of it), Tienemen Square, the Forbidden City and whirring lighted rockets during the Moon Cake Festival in the People's square. I bought a little red book (Mao's teachings) for Vince and a perfect knock-off Chanel bag for Alicia.
We landed in our beloved San Francisco on the 24th of September. We were picked up at the airport by Dave, our best man, who proceded to prove the theory that real friends can be apart for years and when they get back together it's as if no time has passed. Mexican food for dinner, then a quick sleep before driving to Chico, where Alicia stays with her beloved (Brian) and their daughter (our granddaughter) Harmony. Can I say that name again? Harmony. Harmony. Harmony. I never thought I'd love a name more than my own children's. More than Mario's. She has stolen my heart.
Her first birthday party was amazing, hosted by Alicia (already a seasoned mother) at her in-laws' house. I kept watching in disbelief and gratitude...was I really here? Is this really our daughters' daughter I was holding? I spent the day in a fog of happiness. Happiness. For the first time in a year I had a Bar-b-cued hot dog. I almost cried.
Three more days in Chico sucking up Alicia's company and learning her life...learning her daughter's life. I was amazed at her growth and grieving all I had missed (and will miss).
The day we drove to Tracy my parents were at the opera in San Francisco. In my mind's eye, I saw myself exiting the car, my mom opening the door welcoming me in as she always did: with contained, (yet overjoyed) affection. Instead, we arrived and unloaded our serious luggage into the guest room (Steve's room) to make room for Vince and his new girlfriend in the Jeep. They were scheduled to ride into town at 6 p.m. via Greyhound.
I entered the home in awe. I was home for the first time in a year.
Instead of our planned rendezvous with Vince, we got word that his transportation was delayed and set him back hours. Mario ended up driving to Modesto, unable to wait to be reunited. By the time my parents arrived home (in glamorous and formal clothing, Mario, Vince and Rikki Jo were 20 minutes behind them.
We had a beautiful dinner at midnight -- roast beef and potatoes (my mom had cooked for us earlier in the day) and we caught up for hours before we all finally gave up and went to bed. We all were aware how precious the whole visit was.
The following day Mario went with Vince and Alicia and Brian to San Francisco to see the Giants play. I hung out with Harmony, Rikki Jo, Mom, my sister, Colleen and my assorted nieces and nephews -- heaven.
The 50th anniversary was from a fairy tale. I reunited with my brothers and sisters, my family from all over and even my old teachers--all to celebrate my parents' incredible marriage over 50 years- the most amazing party I have ever been to, let alone hosted. It was incredible. Months of preparation culminated in a day of celebration that went off without a hitch. Tears came to my eyes as I saw my parents renew their vows--all the while holding Harmony and seeing my brothers and sisters...their children, and our children. To think back, my heart is so full...
The rest of the week was spent visiting with friends. Church at our beloved CCCI; visiting family and friends. We said goodbye to Vince and Alicia -- and Harmony -- before we boarded a plane to Arizona.
Picking us up from the airport was Anthony and Shirley, Mario's brother and sister-in-law. Our visit was rich, finally meeting Renee's new husband and seeing Evan for the first time in years. It was an incredible, rich time.
More Mexican food. More visiting. More shopping. Amazing.
On to New York City, we visited two precious days with Alice, Mario's step-mother (words cannot explain the relationship--I have stopped trying!). In Riverdale, we loved all over pizza, bagels, coffee...ahhh.... and each other's company.
This is what leads me to now. In the whole time, we were on 9 planes, crossed 11 time zones and had 2 days off. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
So...here's the word. Home. I now tell people we are home. When we went to church yesterday my friend greeted me and said "I thought you were in California!!"
I said, "What made you think that?"
He said, "Your facebook status said you were home." He honestly meant it...and it made me think.
I never considered how the term would not only define our location; it would define us. Here's the key: we are not home. We are strangers in a strange land. We are sojourners without a place to rest our heads. As I peck away at a keyboard on our computer in our office, I know I am not here for good. I am nowhere thant anyone calls anywhere for good. I am a citizen of heaven, and until I get there I am permanently a transient.
One day I will be home.
Until then, I am in Jozi. Jozi...Jozi. Never thought I'd call this place my home, but it is for now.
Posted by Janet Rodriguez at 11:34 PM