If you asked me what month it is – I wouldn’t know. I have faintly registered that it is now June – in a land far away where I used to belong that meant summer starting. It meant the end of spring flowers and the beginning of popsicles, humidity, long lazy days by the pool, going to the beach, and spending off days lost in bookstores. It means strawberries, blueberries, and red white and blue, blasting country music on winding country roads and watching dandelions poke their yellow heads through the crumble of the earth.
Now, June means the rains are beginning, it means the worst of the searing heat is behind me, it means a scorched dusting of spring that gets dissolved in the rain and the mud. It means I’ve been here almost 8 months…. It means I have 3 ½ months to go
I don’t even want to go anymore. I don’t want to leave Tchad – Adam and Mayline are leaving tomorrow morning, we said goodbye tonight – and I feel oddly sad about it – probably because Adam and I came on the same day, on the same plane, felt the cool green breeze of Ethiopia sweep our faces on the tarmac, boarded that last plane – destination NDJ – looked wide-eyed down at the tiny mottled carpet of rice fields that was going to be our home – pushed our way suspiciously through customs – guarding our heavy bags – fearfully exchanged thousands of dollars out of the window of a taxi in the middle of a crowded market place – endured the long bus ride to Béré that included wading across the flooded road and pushing the bus across the “lake.”
And now he is gone – and I’m not sad because I want to go to, I am sad because I want to stay.
It has taken me 8 months to love it here, to learn the culture, to learn the language, to be comfortable and confident in my job as a nurse in this setting – I have grown to love my family, my co-workers, even the other nasaras. And I’m supposed to just leave in 3 months? It isn’t natural.
There is something wrong with leaving just as you grow to love a place. Do you stay or do you go? Do you put down roots in a place such as this, or do you take your knowledge and move on to the next place, and the next, and the next….
I’m a tumble-weed, I could never just stay. But at the same time, I’m jealous of my friend Bronwyn. She is in Bendalay and is going to be running the nutrition center – this one is a tour de force – a whirlwind of pure competent woman – she rips apart sinks and re-plumbs them with her bare hands, rides her moto in terrible roads to remote villages to see women and malnourished babies, is learning the local Nangere language along with French, is basically putting down roots and building relationships for the long haul.
And I know that a long – term commitment is fraught with more hardships and struggles than I will ever understand – that it’s not easier – I just wish, almost for the first time in my life, that I was staying too.
But I won’t stay. I’ll go – I’ll find my niche, find a project to call my own – find a place in the farthest and worse corner of the earth – there isn’t much worse than Tchad – but I’ll find it. But if I found it, the place I really belonged – the place I was finally supposed to put roots down in, would I know it? Or would I spend a year and leave there too.
The journey is always bittersweet
But I would never trade it for all the comfort, stability, and love in the world –
Because there is something about facing new horizons, plunging into the unknown, the age-old magic of the open road and open mind – it’s intoxicating – and once you taste it – you will always go again
Once you taste freedom you will always be hungry
Once you grow wings you can never stay rooted
But before my next journey, I am still in this one. And I must leave with no regrets, with a job well done, with projects completed, with friendships made, with love shown at every opportunity – packing vitality and life into the present moment is the only thing that can make a future departure palatable
I love Tchad
I love Tchad
I can’t believe it – but I love Tchad – it’s in my blood like a glorious and festering parasite –
it will recur again and again –
this beautiful disease, tchad, Africa, drumming in my veins, and setting like a fiery orange sunset over the grasslands, its fine red dust settling into every inch of my soul
and I will be back again and again,
I will drink again and again from this spicy cup of tea and brimstone
I will feel my heart race as I come closer and closer, inexplicably knowing that I am coming home, home, back to the heart of the earth, back to where the stars are brightest, the moon is fullest, and life and death and color is most stark, back to where I am stripped down to only that which is necessary, back to where what matters is most obvious, back to the peace that sleeps with chaos, back to where I belong.
** Photo: Bronwyn and I
** Nasara: local speak for "white person"