Along the Unpaved Roads
I’ll admit I’m confused, am I eight months into my service or 19 away from returning home? Is today going to be one of those days where I itch for my board and mountain of snow under the blistering heat and everything that comes with it, or is the sweet scent of mangoes and starry nights going to pull me into Africa once more? There are many highs and lows throughout each day. Moments where I’m over 11,000 feet in the air after a trek to the highest point in Southern Africa in Lesotho, when my house mother brings me a fresh watermelon picked from the garden or an avocado that fell from the tree, when I can make a student smile because I sat down with them for a moment and we find a middle ground between our two languages that helps them comprehend whatever concept, or a 16 mile run which ends up in me sprinting away from a snake through the bush past warthogs, waterbuck, springbok, wildebeest to a dead stop five feet from a couple of giraffes. These are probably just a few of the moments I’ll look back on Africa on, but they don’t come without the more difficult challenges. Moments when I hear several cracks of a whip used in the staff room, when I walk into my classroom of close to sixty 6th grade students who speak Tsonga and not more than a chalkboard to help assist in a lesson on HIV/AIDS which seems to be the under discussed reason for the numerous funerals that take place on the weekends and possibly the underlying reason for the number of orphans in the village, lack of parental guidance, and debate on discipline.
As I begin each day I’m not really sure how it will end, but just as fast as I fall I’m picked up on my feet and the roller coaster begins again. I hope by the end of each day it’s all worth it. That we establish a presence beyond our own growth here, beyond learning a new language, one that measures into the two years we left home for. It’s not easy to find your way along these unpaved roads, choosing which battles are yours to fight, and which cultural lines you stop at, but you wouldn’t have those moments of high without those moments of low. So at the end of each day I just remember they are numbered so whether I’m struggling over the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro or through Long Tom Pass every moment and every mile counts. I’ve been here eight months and sometimes I see my presence and other times I wonder where my purpose is, but maybe it’s not about the library previously established by the last volunteer, but finding my own way. Perhaps there won’t be a gold medal at the end and I’ll have to settle with a participation ribbon, but if we measure ourselves in the number of gold medals we’ve received it’s easy to forget why we wanted them to begin with. It’s easy to forget about the ride that brought us here and remember it’s the means to the end that matters. Maybe Kant has a point and I’m bound to acquire a few more bruises before can write my name in the sandy roads of my village.
Along These Unpaved Roads