If anyone’s been keeping up with the photos on Face Book, I’m sure it looks like I am living the vacationers life. And most days I find myself taken like a tourist with something unique that would slip past the eye of someone who walks past the same thing every day. (Ex: See photo of pepper.) I have to do that to keep things interesting, to keep my mind stimulated.
But when I started walking toward the stone bridge to get to the other side and didn’t think to stop and take another picture--“the light looks different today,” I usually think--then I know something has changed.
I found myself wondering what I am doing here. Don’t misunderstand me. I used to ask myself that question most days when I was here for Peace Corps and the English teachers at work told me I was doing fine when I was doing nothing but keeping out of their way. But now the emphasis is different. Not exactly on I or doing, and not on here. Here is wherever you are and I definitely chose here. Here cannot be avoided--you are always somewhere. But people ask if I am working here or whatever. At first I said “vacation.” But how did that explain the language? “I used to work here.” And immediately whoever I was in conversation with could tell I loved the place enough to return, especially after so many years.
Before I left the US, before work had let out for the summer, Anton had said, “Wow, so you’re like, going to be living there.” And after a week, I am not on a vacation anymore. Not a typical vacation anyway. I am on my second antiperspirant, my fourth bar of soap, my third carton of orange juice, and am wondering why I haven’t bought more groceries. I think that’s all a sign of living somewhere and not just visiting or sight seeing. Right?
There is still an urge to “use” my time and go out and see things that a tourist should see, and there’s a slight anxiety that I’ll get back to the US and have to explain how I didn’t go to Ohrid or how I didn’t walk ten miles everyday. Indeed, I think my photo taking is slowing down, and I am not completely entranced every time I walk by a skara and smell kebapi grilling. Am I starting to live here? My time will definitely be too long to just be a tourist on vacation, but also too short to be a resident.
What am I doing here? Emphasis on am, not on here, or I, or doing. I know I am writing and rewriting. I know I used to be a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kochani for dve godini...i uchev Makedonski za tri meseci vo Skopje, but I am not exactly a Volunteer anymore. Certainly that is in my DNA like my hair color or my fingerprints, but can I still claim that status? When I say I am writing, I say that I am kind of a writer, but people ask about being published--because that validates a person as a serious, recognized writer and not some kind of hobbyist--I have no good answer. I guess I am just here. I have to be somewhere. The transcendentalist side of me wants to be alright with that, for that to be enough. Maybe for now, I will have to accept that and wait to see what emerges next.