So, how was Africa?
How. Was. Africa.
How was Africa?
and I’m using kind of a revolving platter of three responses:
Well, it was very African.
It was good.
It was an experience.
When I am walking down the path through the village to my hut I am always being greeted by the children.
They like to come bursting out of their compounds, hop up onto rock piles and low tree branches and start screaming,
“I am fine!!! I AM FINE!!! I AM FINE!!!!! I am fine!!!!!”
They think it’s a salutation instead of a secondary response.
I am fine
And I want to just go up to people and start screaming at them,
I am fine! I am fine!
I want to scream it in a mall, or stand up and pronounce it in a movie theater.
I want to shout it into a canyon until my voice is scratched and raw and the echoes reverberate and bounce like cannonball into my eardrums until the words explode into a million pieces, I want to be deaf but I can’t stop hearing
I AM FINE.
I AM FINE.
I am fine
But I’m not fine.
And its funny. And a little silly. And it’s a cute little breach of etiquette.
But how many times do we do that?
When absolutely everything in our day is wrong, how often do we smile and say,
I am fine.
I am fine.
Most of us are never just “fine.” Sometimes, we feel like dancing. We wish we could run around and hug everyone because life is so beautiful. Sometimes, we have just experienced small devastations or everything has gone wrong. We really want someone to ask us about it – to just tell them the whole story – bit we don’t. we say,
I am fine.
I wonder what life would be like if we all told the truth?
I think there would be more friendships, less suicides, fewer TVs sold, more writers.
It is strange to be back here.
And strange is a mild word for the almost mental haze
I cannot seem to slice through it.
I am more discontent about the fact that all the foods I dreamed of eating – crust less white bread sandwiches with Worthington smoked turkey and mild cheddar cheese, cut into beautiful perfectly sliced triangles, that soft perfect first bite – and I want crunchy saltines and real ice cream and giant genetically modified strawberries.
I want fresh yellow pineapple and a salad that is lush and green and rich and rainbow
And I want kettle korn and mango sorbet and perogies slathered in butter and onion and fresh garlic.
And somehow, I haven’t eaten any of those things
Things I have been desperately dreaming of the last four months
And I want to snap myself out of this smogbog and systematically start eating my way through the list – I feel like I will be so upset once I go back if I don’t.
But instead, what do I do? I make purple mush soup.
In case you want to make purple mush soup, well, just ask.
But purple cabbage and whole milk make a surprisingly buttery lavender.
I am fine.
It is somewhat my tendency to victimize myself when I think of all the “things I went through” in Africa.
It is easy to slip into this rut of feeling sorry for myself because of all the things I have seen.
It is easy to make this about me.
But I went, purposely, for the expressed intent of wanting to see.
To see to see to see and never look away
Its easy to construct my own little self-imposed tale of woe
But its not me who is dying in tchad.
It is me that got medi-vac and took a jet back to the US
It is not me who had to wait 6 hours to see a doctor,
It is me that saw one 20 minutes after I stepped off the plane.
It is not me that runs around with chronic jaundice and fatigue,
It is me that had an acute and now receding condition
When I first thought about coming back, I was so torn. I literally couldn’t figure out whether I was genuinely concerned for my health or whether I was just so hungry. Yes I had no appetite but all I could think about was food……..
And I also didn’t want to go because I felt so keenly the injustice of it all – the fact that the hospital is filled with people far sicker than I, people that need a more advanced level of care – people that don’t get to anywhere on an airplane with insurance paying the bill. People that will never have that option – people that are dying without that option.
But it was sternly pointed out to me that that was silly too. There was no sense to die because of some misguided sense of martyred solidarity. Oh please, they said. And they were right.
And yes, the suffering I have seen is not about me. But everything you see does in fact affect you. Whether you want to do mental gymnastics around that fact or not.
I can’t turn my brain off. They keep marching past my eyes. Sometimes they turn and look at me. And I remember all of them. All the ones I was brave enough to truly see anyway. The ones that got better, the ones that got worse, they are all there. Flashes of the living, playing with the dead. Soundtrack of screams.
I can’t go a single minute without having this movie playing in my mind. And it is only in a corner of my mind. And I am happy. And enjoying time with friends. And enjoying watching the Batchelorette and leisurely peeling perfect orange clementines. But they are still there. Kind of like a merry band of pranksters marching in and out of my thoughts, stopping to terrorize, stopping to laugh, mostly just stomping and jingling.
Why is it that we always romanticize the places that we are not? Every person has of course had this very epiphany a thousand times applying to a thousand scenarios, but just because its cliché doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
When I was in Africa, I was dreaming of this moment – here.
Now I am here, and I am dreaming of other moments – there.
And if you have never experienced this, cross your heart, drop to your knees, and thank your God he made you content and simple – and then don’t go looking for greener grass, in fact, move to a city where that isn’t even an issue.
Basically, I am fine.
I’m just sour and dour and sleepless
And I want to go back to where the road is clear, where right and wrong is brutally stark, where no matter the motive I have a purpose, and where I don’t have to hear about the antics of that decadent and evil bafoon, Mit Romney.
But this needs to stop being about me,
Because really, now that I have finished writing this – I am fine.