Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mighty flip flops and other tales from Africa

Its a funny thing, this blogging. I sit to write, but can't find words despite the noise that all of them are making while flying around my head.
As with most of my time in Africa, I feel conflicted in some way tonight. Today is different though, today while I still struggle with how life is for Africans, I also struggle with the thought of leaving tomorrow.
It snuck up on me, I wasn't thinking about it. And then it happened. The travel agent dude re-booked our tickets and the date stared back at me in black and white. I realized we leave tomorrow. Tomorrow night I will load my over-stuffed two bags onto the scale which will surely diplay a digital number far greater then my allowance. Tomorrow night I will suck in my last breaths of the crisp cool air here in South Africa. Tomorrow I will still be trying to process what the HECK just happened and how two years went by so so fast.

There is so much I want to say, but how does one wrap up an experience so extensive, so life altering, so intense?

On the lighter side, first a lesson in how to be a missionary, as told by Suzanne Zickell.

-When you pack your anti-malarials, go ahead and pack the sunscreen next to it. The only thing worse then being in the extreme heat of the African sun is to do so with a chemically-induced sunburn.
-Those nalgene water bottles are cool and trendy and all, but they are worthless when driving anywhere in Africa. Plan to go thirsty or get wet. Still bring it though, but remember to only put water in it. It seems like a good idea to put in tea or coffee, but if you forget about it and the milk goes funky you will never, I mean never, be able to forget the stench that once came out of that plastic bottle.
-Bring your nailpolish ladies, having fresh paint on your fingers and toes can lift those 'I feel sweaty, disgusting, and just plain gross' days
-Buy old navy flip flops and forget about any other pair you are thinking of bringing. No other article of clothing in my life has ever impressed me the way those baby's do. They're cheap, comfortable (once you convince your feet to get used to them as they will be in them everyday), and can be de-skunked by simply giving them a good scrub after an especially sweaty-footed day.
-Also bring a nail brush. Even after a horrible, painful hike made 100 times worse due to intense vomitting and near black outs, clean nails and a washed face can make it all melt away.
-Oh, and don't go for horrible, painful hikes while trying to recover from a 3 week stomach bug, your body will go into full revolt. But then at least you'll have your nailbrush to make you feel better...
-If you have to pee and you are approaching a border check point, don't hold it and fool yourself into thinking going there will be your best option. It never is. I promise.
-Take note of all signs that make you laugh, they'll keep on doing it everytime you're reminded of them. There's a place down the street selling life chickens, as an example.
-Look around always, take it all in. Be overwhelmed, don't avoid frustration, and always try something new. These will be the things you always carry with you, memories that get stored up and will someday be reflected back upon in scenarios such as....'this traffic is nothing, I remember the time I was in a hatchback taxi with 6 other adults and a child on the hottest day ever in the history of the world. And I had to pee. And we were at a border control point'

haha, oh this is kinda fun.

While driving these past weeks, I kept thinking about how hard it is to explain Africa. It doesn't matter how many different words or stories I use to describe this place, I'll never capture Africa and her beauty the way I see it. The red earth and green bush are so vivid and brilliant, even the sight of that never ceases to amaze me.
The skies here go on forever with no lights to interfere with your vision. The people, oh, the people. They can make you furious and hot with anger, and in a minutes time you are in awe of the potential and strength of Africans. Their capacity to love and have joy in the face of despair is beyond description. While picking apart their flaws, you eventually come back to yourself and see how imperfect you are too. It unites you and makes you strive to be a better person. Africa pushes you to the extreme limits in every way, and then calls you back for more.

I came to Africa and like many was shocked at the human condition here. The shock turned into understanding, the understanding led to me realizing I actually know almost nothing and understand even less, that led to appreciation for the incredible culture here, and lastly Africa became a state of mind, part of who I am. It influences every fiber of your being, how you think and feel and your desire for what you want to change in the world.

To say I will miss it here is a silly understatement. My life is about to radically change in the sense that what I have known as home, a place so foreign to me just 2 years ago, is no longer going to be where I lay my head. To be honest, I'm a little freaked out. Yes, yes, I know it will be ok, its time, [insert other words of comfort], but it doesn't cut it tonight. I want to go outside and dig my fingers into the dirt. I want to do more here, although if you asked me what exactly I would do, I couldn't tell you. God has the next steps planned out and I am desperate to figure out what they are, but knowing God, I don't get to know quite yet. So back to my freak out and slightly juvenile way of dealing with this transition...for now at least.

So please excuse me if I continue to process via the internet. I have a feeling there will be a slight backlash of emotion in the weeks to come. It's all part of the healing and reconciliation from what I've learned.

Tomorrow and in the days to come I'm sure my heart will ache to see the dusty bare feet of children as they walk down the road. My eyes will burn with tears when the memories flood back of all the lives who have touched mine. My heart will screem at the injustice I know happens here everyday. My arms will long for the beautiful brown babies who now consume my every thought. My mind will swim with ideas and ideals, frustrations and triumphs, love and hate, for all of the things I have seen here.

My hair will lose its humidity frizz, my old navy flip flops will be packed away tightly, and the fresh un-stained pages of a new journal will be filled as I start this next transition tomorrow.
That is, if they can get me onto the plane...

Maybe I'll go get the half slab of chocolate sitting in the fridge and watch Out of Africa or something cliché like that.

(the spelling and grammar within this post are purely my own. I am typing on a laptop programmed in Dutch and therefore every word I have written has red squiggly lines underneath it. The truth is out, I am an average speller)

1 comment:

Jorid said...

I love your description of Africa, how it gets under your skin! It is so true! Hope your transition back to the Western world is going well, Suzanne :-)