I last saw Bevin one hot July weekend a week before she left for the Peace Corps. We met halfway at her brother’s house in Champaign to spend one last night together in what I like to call “the jungle room.”

She thrust a document and pen at me when I stepped out of my car. “Great, you’re here! I need you to sign my last living will and testament!”

That was eighteen months ago.

This week she is home for her first and only break from Africa. Noemi and I went to meet her yesterday at Bread Co.

“I’m starving!” she said. “My appetite is finally back after my giardia.”

“Gonorrhea?”

“Giardia. It’s an illness you get from eating poop.”

“You ate poop?”

“Well, you know. I was hungry and it was brown.”

The last couple weeks in Iowa consisted of:

1) Doug breaking out in a rash that he is convinced, after extensive Googling, is “Cat-scratch fever,” resulting from Ketos’s bites and scratches. Seriously. He thinks this.

2) Playing games at a friend’s house when a bullet (or BB?) got fired through their window, shattering the glass in a perfect bullet-shaped hole.

3) A child telling me he was pretending I was a robot speaking through a funnel.

4) Getting locked out of my student loan account after failing to correctly remember my password within three tries. Why such heightened security? If someone wants to break in and pay my loans, fine by me.

And then I came home to St. Louis to find my home decorated in wreaths made out of toilet plungers, Photoshopped pictures of the royal family holding paint rollers, and two blow-up dolls that still creep me the hell out whenever I walk into the rooms they’re in.

“I think the blow-up dolls are crossing a line,” Jenny told Dad.

“No,” Dad said. “As someone who had to shop for blow-up dolls, I can tell you what’s crossing the line. Crossing the line is when the store offers to deliver dolls to your house in unmarked white vans after sterilizing them.”

But that is surely another story.

Merry Christmas!