Last Sunday I was in the air most of the day, so I chose to wait to give a full report of my last week out of Germany and my first week back.
After Jorie left me in Gold Coast two Sundays ago, I spent an incredible albeit wet week in Australia working with specialists at a place called Making Strides. The crew there worked me hard during five days of intensive physio sessions and a couple hours hooked up to their FES machine to get electrode stimulation. I had a blast with the crew there, and I was aching all over by the end of day two.
The bonus of stopping through this facility on my way home was that the team at Making Strides works especially with spinal cord injuries, so they were familiar with a lot of the quirks of my recovery that other people aren't. Even my weird tan lines from my KFOs didn't faze them. Just like the intensive week I had in Oregon a few years ago, this experience helped me to target some muscles that need to catch up, and I've got some new strategies and things to pay attention to in my ongoing walking practice to improve my form.
By the end of the week, though, I was ready for the long journey back home to sleep in my own bed for the first time in 366 days. With relatively minor hiccups at each check in, I made it onto both flights, and my wheelchair survived upon arrival and each airport along the way as well. Chris had agreed to pick me up in Zurich so I didn't have to worry about taking the train to Basel for a shorter car ride, and I felt immediately at home again. Actually, I felt at home the moment I heard the melodic Swiss German coming from the airport employees, but I simultaneously felt like the foreigner again.
I had a lot of confused looks from Aussies during my short visit there as they asked where I was from and I responded with "I live in Germany but just spent a year in New Zealand," in an American accent. I was ready to be back in a community where that made sense, and in the first four days of being home, six different students with various passports and cultural backgrounds came over to either help me unpack or have a cup of tea or just say hello. I love my job.
I love so much about the richness of working with students and living in Germany, but I already miss my home in Christchurch. I miss the language fluency, I miss the convenience of having everything available at a mall a few minutes away, and I miss my RCC family. It's the same feeling as when I first left Portland, and I still miss the proximity to Powell's Books, the coffee shops on every corner (primarily Insomnia, Black Rock, and Dutch Bros because I have standards when I'm in the PNW), and my Westport family. Also, I live pretty far from my biological family. I have super cute nephews who are growing up on a different continent from me.
All this to say, I still love my job, and I am incredibly grateful for the people who prayed over me and sent me out to this community where I live and work. This past week, my neighbors welcomed me home with meals and catch up chats, and I had dozens of people recognize me at church this morning and comment how quickly a year had gone by since they'd seen me.
It really did feel like a blink that I was in Christchurch, but it was the best possible place for me to be during my sabbatical, and I'm so thankful for the learning and growth that happened there. I'm eager to start back up with life and work in Kandern now, and part of that life is heading out the door in a couple minutes to binge the rest of Stranger Things season 3 with my adopted family.