Friday, August 9, 2013

Wherever you go, there you are.

I contemplated calling this introductory Tanzania entry one of the following:

  • This Trip Brought to You by Bonine!
  • Meggie & Emily's 15 Night Sleepover
  • Big! Big, big, big. But, not so very big.
  • Seekers
But, I went with the old standby above. (And all the others will get explained.) Because while the trip was life changing, isn't everything life changing? Even the things we DON'T do change us (maybe they do especially). The little events and the big decisions have to change us, because if we're not changing, we're dead or dying. (Or I would be. And this is my blog, and my story.)

So now that we're home safe, sound and without any permanent physical scars, I'm breaking my promise to just re-type the journal entries as they were written, day by day, in Tanzania. It quickly turned out that I'd have time to capture either the What (happened) or the How (I reacted). So I began writing only the How, and thus I'll have to re-create the What for each entry that is to come.

Before the telling begins, I am writing these reflective words in Zurich, a brief lull between the third world and my everyday world. I built in about 48 hours worth of a layover here, knowing I'd land at 8:30 PM and have to be back at my desk by 8 AM the next morning. This is an example of Past Me outsmarting Future Me; I can't go to work - I'm in Zurich! I could have flown home and taken 48 hours for re-entry, but Past Me knows Future Me better than that. I'm going to my desk as soon as I can, because that's how I am. So now, in Zurich, I have some solo time to absorb and process, and at the end of 19 days away from regular life, there's been one thing conspicuously absent the whole time: rushing.

There has not been a single thing I've had to hurry up for (excepting the O'Hare Airport on the way overseas, International Terminal 5 be damned). Since then, every meal has been leisurely, every line accepted as long. The work we did in the village was done at a virtual turtle's pace by American standards - but to be fair, we would complete what we set out to start; it just wasn't ever measured by a clock. 

After dinner each night, reading or conversation came to end when it felt right, and the only frustration - in a Dar es Salaam traffic jam, at wi fi that was down the only day I went into town, in the customs line here in Zurich - was mine. There was no deadline in any of those cases - my little nurtured pieces of frustration were merely internalized Americanness, and not based on any need to get to any place, or to any person, at any certain time. There were no consequences for moving slowly, so slowly was how we moved. 

This is not to say there was no stress. Far from it!

As a group of mzungu in East Africa, known by sight for having American dollars and very weak stomachs, there was plenty of stress each day. But stress without urgency is a new experience for this list-maker, task-killer, time-effiency lover. Stress without urgency can be picked up carefully, examined from all sides, and handled thoughtfully until a full understanding emerges - and the stress is diffused. 

I know when I am back at my desk, within a few hours of firing up the computer, the pressures of busy and important men, and the pace of a hungry start-up company, will bring stress plus urgency back, waterfalling over me. So what can I take away from this? For that, stay tuned. For now, stay and hear the story. 

And remember that wherever you go, there you are. I expected to be knocked over the head with brand new thoughts, new realizations, new goals and entirely new philosophies. Instead, I discovered that this was not an experience I can box up with a pretty ribbon, and leave outside of my "normal" life. Nope. Instead, it contains threads and threads that are clearly connected to ideas I've had before, thoughts I've been mulling over, goals I've missed terribly and ones I still strive for. I didn't turn into a new person for 19 days (can you believe it!?). I was just this same person but in a new place, and the journey before it led me precisely to it, and already - just 15 hours out of Africa - it is making perfect sense that it came at this exact moment in my life. I forgot another of my personal mantras: the path is only linear in the rear view. 

Or, put another way: Leap. The net will appear.

1 comment:

  1. I am SO ENJOYING reading your musings, now that you are back safe & the title, it is always so apt. The 2 days to ease into your re-entry to 21st century pace made perfect sense to me.
    How much fruit have you eaten and what is your favorite? All of it?