Before our two nights away, this is part two of my last evening of journaling in Pommern - after the first full week. I may be repeating myself a bit here, but it's as-written, knowing the next day I'd work a half day on the septic and then go... on a safari!
My companion Paul writes about how he believes all of rural and poor Africa - as well as much of urban and poor Africa - is smellier and dirtier than it used to be. I can't make a comparison but I can it is so dirty, and so smelly. Is a small pan of water heated over the fire, and one small rag, too much? Maybe it is. But this is days, even weeks, of not washing. Some people not changing clothes at all, not since we've been here. I can't get over it; our pal Moses from the construction site can literally be smelled across the house. Meggie and I exchange glances when we smell him headed to the fireside for a warm-up.
The self-imposed no-alcohol while working/in the village/actively on the journey - i.e., not till tomorrow when we are on safari! - was hard tonight. Smelling it tonight, at a meal with meat - with beef! (Edward had to go to town today for veterinary supplies for Joe's volunteer work; he picked up a slab for us. Delicious.) It's the old Weight Watchers hold-out-aaaaalmost all week, but now it is Thrusday. And I'm tired of holding out!
But then, in the universe's lessons, always present, if you want to look - there were folks who drank too much tonight. And that's a screaming baby on a plane for birth control. It was what I needed to remember why I'm choosing to abstain. Why the luxury of a pre-packaged experience is to be put to good use, the best use, with total attention paid, with my own feet held to the fire.
No escape, no relaxation, no cheating to numb out even a bit. If I've had to learn this week to set boundaries (again!), and if I've had to let go of my illusions about African education, I at least owe ruthless honesty to the Pommerini by paying full attention.
Does me experiencing this make the world better? I try down to my teeth to not infantilize the non-worldy people, try not to condescend about the simple, happiness-loving folk who really know what's important in life. I try to meet square in the eye - and be always realistic - and always be ruthless. That's my motto. I know it's never been easy to be one of my friends, but I intent to be as hard on myself as I am on those I care about. But what is emotionally ruthless here? And is it in too much supply already?
What should I take away, when I go? At the near-halfway point, I'd tell you today I am fine with never coming back to Africa, and I'm constantly haunted by feeling like no mzungu should be here at all, least of all me. The best and brightest minds welcome us - but why? For more money? For prestige? Is it truly from a sense of service? Or a love of many worlds, and wanting the good from our world to come into theirs? Can it be enough to connect with a person, or two or three, and call it good at that? Is that what tentatively being a Unitarian Universalist is for me? Is that what I say it is?
Days ago I felt that I owed the women of Tanzania a big reach back at home, to balance our worlds. I was so happy to feel an achievable responsibility of creating connection far and wide, to weigh against the few connections they'll get to make just due to duties of food, water, and fire. But tonight my fears feel real and I'm no longer there. I am in that place I dreaded - where all I ever want is a small family of my own, to care for, and no more. No wider world. No big shadow, no community of hundreds. I want... ah shit. I realize - I want control. Total control. Because I guess this is groundlessness. And it's really scary.