Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Chronicles of Sarita's Longest Time It's Ever Taken To Plan A Trip--Take One

I thought about putting my blog in pink, since red wasn't available and it'll probably take
me about a month to figure out how to change my settings or I might mooch off a computer nerd.
I felt the pressure to try and come up with something witty for my title, but let's be honest, sometimes it just looks like people are trying too hard.

It's amazing to me that something like blogs exist anyway and how far we go to connect with
one another and possibly random people we don't know. I realized the other month that I wasn't
with the program. At least I haven't signed up for my space--which I don't completely understand,
or why on God's green earth is everyone trying to get me to sign up for it as their friend. Do we
really need that many friends?

I digress...

You're probably wondering why today, on this day, I decided to join the computer savvy, umbilical
cord connected super-highway of bloggers who probably think too much and write too much, if
there is any such thing.

Today was a great day. I mean miracle, Jesus turning the water into wine (yum) kind of day and I want to remember it. And as in all super-nova occurrences in our lives, I want to share it with others. You're thinking right now, "what the heck does this have to do with Africa."
Fair enough.

For the past, feels like a life-time months, my sole goal in life has been to get to Africa.
But why? It's hot. Really hot. Dusty. You're not allowed to drink the water for fear of chronic
diarrhea, have to get a lot of shots that hurt (and I'm no baby), war rebels with machetes and big, huge guns, does the word "Sudan" mean anything to you, AIDS riddled Africa. Exactly.

My friend Austin (shout out) sent me this quote:

At no time are we ever in such complete possession of a journey, down
to its last nook and cranny, as when we are busy with preparations for it.
After that, there remains only the journey itself, which is nothing but
the process through which we lose our ownership of it.
--Yukio Mishima,
(Confessions of a Mask)

I sort of thought that sounded nice at first. Be in possession of your journey, find your true inner self, yada yada, but it might be a load of crap. I just want to get the heck over there and be done with the planning. Then the journey can possess me all it wants. (no offense, Austin--I still like the way he says it and your glorious musical emails)

So I'm not excited about the snakes or visions of cat-sized mosquitoes attacking me in the night, but there is something about Africa that feels like coming home. A home you can't turn your back on. A home that needs your help as small and as senseless as it may seem. It has a hypnotic, drawing quality that is fashioned from raw pain and buffered by resilience. Neely Tucker says it better in his memoir, Love in the Driest Season:

"there was a higher form of truth to be found in the
world's most impoverished and violent places, a rough-hewn honesty that could
not be found anywhere else. Life had a tautness to it there, a sheen that seemed
to say something about the way the world was, not how anyone wanted it to
be. That was what seemed true and honest and that was what I tried hardest to write about."

Many people go to Africa for the safaris, for the untamed animals, the hunting, the wild desert plains. Africa is exotic and expendable. We are all complicent in watching black children die.

And then there are the many Aid workers, the missionaries, the college students with a camcorder who really see and whose lives are never the same.

Africa built a mountain in my heart. Insurmountable, but the only thing worth climbing. The land, yes, but mostly the people.

African people have a philosophy called "Abuntu" which literally means "I exist the grace of you" and vice versa. Abuntu is the African philosophy that gave rise to the reconciliation movement of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It is the belief that all human destinies are all tied together. The freedom of one is inextricably tied to the freedom of the other. We cannot walk alone.

Horrible things are happening that require my mercy and that is why I am going. And selfishly because it's like a dream come true.

My trip is in typical Sarita-fashion--fairly disorganized, with room for spontaneity, but with a passion to change things. Most of you know I'll be teaching English to former war abductees, working at a night commuter shelter, and working with a trauma counselor in Uganda, and various other difficult things in Rwanda, Kenya and S. Africa. Who knows what other messes I could get myself into :)

**if you have no idea what a night commuter shelter is STOP right now and visit http://www.invisiblechildren.com and


Perhaps the gravest thing you will see this year.

But today, finally after endless hours in coffee shops borrowing their wireless internet off a $1.80 cup of coffee, meetings trying to convince my church I'm not crazy, and listening to one more safety advice from my parents on "wearing long sleeves," and "not putting on perfume lest being attacked by wild boar or (again) giant mosquitoes," I have the DINERO I need to go! Everything, even acts of compassion, take money.

I prayed and I got a $3,000 check. Talk about miracle. Now that doesn't mean you're off the
hook :-) The additional money I raise will be going to the efforts of the existing agencies I'm volunteering with and Invisible Children. And in the same day got 5 poems accepted into a poetry journal. I know, what did I do right? Tomorrow I'm praying for a digital video camera to record my travels so all ya'll wonderful folks back home can be jealous.

Plans are still a-brewin but it's looking like early April. Maybe sooner. More later.

Pray for me. I still have to get more shots.