And so starts home leave. For those of you that don’t know what home leave is, here’s a quick explanation. For employees of the U.S. Government doing extended tours overseas, home leave is congressionally mandated leave after an overseas tour. It’s designed to reorient and re-expose us to the United States. You know, so we remember what it’s like back here.
It’s easy to lose touch with lots of things. My first day back, I turned on the TV and saw a political ad – I don’t think I’d seen one in the last 2 years. It was a little strange. Getting used to the culture of customer service again is an adjustment as well. Belgians…well, let’s just say they aren’t known for their customer service skills. The dizzying array of choices here is overwhelming at times.
The more I serve overseas, the more I realize how important home leave is. When I look at the TV lineup and don’t recognize half the shows, I realize it. When I know what’s going on in the world because of my job, but I don’t know how Americans feel about it, or if they care, I realize it. When I hear myself saying thank you over and over, just because people are so nice and friendly, I realize it. It reminds me of what America means, for better and for worse.
Some people complain that it’s a hardship, as you’re required to be back in the states, but you’re also required to figure out where you’ll stay and how to pay for it. Home leave is paid time off and a plane ticket. Where you stay is up to you, personally and financially. While it can be difficult, it’s important to reconnect. Not only with the U.S., but with friends and family as well. I’m currently in Las Vegas, staying with my cousins. I haven’t seen them in two years; it’s wonderful to see them and just be around family. More relatives tonight, even more as I travel through the rest of my home leave. I look forward to all my time in the states, even as I look forward to my next adventure.