Africa

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(unedited) I know it has been a week or so. Think I was on strike. wrote a good post and it was lost by WordPress/ error. Normally it saves a draft as I go but unfortunately for me it did not. Least not that I can find anywhere. I’ll sift through the cache though I have little hope of finding it.

With Beatrice away I have been seeing Virgil these past two weeks. It is very much home for me. With our history and all the years it is just so comfortable even when it is uncomfortable. I think much about our years past and the journey. I am much different than where I began. If that is a good thing or bad thing I don’t know.

As session tailed off and wrapped up in small talk we talked about Ebola. Back when I first started with Virgil I left for a trip to Africa to do aid work. It seems like so long ago. Here I exist in this state of anxiety and panic over leaving this property yet I happily hopped on a plane and ventured 18 hours across the globe. It was a trip that really shifted my focus. I had just spent 6 months inpatient bitching and whining about my life. My miserable life. Africa showed me what misery truly is. I won’t sell myself short as suffering is suffering. Pain is pain. It was the scale. the scope of suffering that I was not prepared for. AIDS had run rampant in the villages we worked in. Decimating the population to just the oldest and youngest. Children carried water miles to care for their elders. Despite this each village greeted us as if we were kings. With little to offer they gave us song and praise. They butchered goats they could not really spare in a gesture of gratitude. I saw a different world.
Africa is like nowhere else. The sky seems to go forever. The horizon line so far away. It is paradise is so many ways yet the people suffer and they fight. Tribal warfare is a way of life. Danger is real. You don’t just wander and there is always the possibility of kidnapping or robbery. Incredibly sad that a place so beautiful can have such danger. The vast majority of people we met and cared for were kind and gracious even in their grief. I had never seen death. Not like that. I had never watched the wasting and the moment a person took a final breath. To see the ripple of grief move outward through the family present- the raw emotion- was unreal. Here we tend to be quiet and subtle in our grief. That does not exist in other countries. What you are seeing and hearing is a true reflection of the horror and pain that person’s heart and the hearts of those around them. I saw that for the first time. To me it was so foreign and amazing. Not that I would chose to watch death in an AIDS ward it was just for different than the world I had known up till that point. Africa helped me put my life in perspective and I think it was good for me. I would return in a heartbeat. Africa leaves an imprint on you. Many I know who have been echo that sentiment. I can only hope in this lifetime I can return again.
It did not change that I returned to the same life here and the same issues I struggled with when I left. If anything it made it harder to come back and work. In Africa it was about everyone else. It was about treating the sick and helping those with nothing. It was about doing what I was told by the doctors I was working with. It was about staying safe and not getting killed or lost. There wasn’t much time to consider my life. It was like hitting a pause button. My life was eclipsed by the pain and suffering and yes wonder of all that was around me.

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