Sunday, September 23, 2012

Red dust

In 12 hours, I'll be standing under the main Departures/Arrivals sign at SeaTac with my travel buddies, Kelli and Jane. In just 12 hours. I should go to bed now, right? Alas, dinner must still be cooked, kids tucked into bed at their regular time, and I will start my journey tomorrow with less than ideal sleep. C'est la vie!

I've packed within an inch of my life. Rather, I've gathered items. They're still sitting in a pile by my TV, waiting for my husband's magic touch. He knows how to make things fit where I do not- his brain is just wired for order, where mine... haha... is definitely not.

I've managed to rustle up a cold- the first one of the year I think, if I remember correctly - and of course it's the day before I leave. I'm not looking forward to being the one on the plane everyone worries about sitting next to but I do have chocolate, and movies, and hopefully that will distract people from my germs. Oh, and hand sanitizer.

Everyone asks with this look of, "Oh my god I can't even find the right words!"-- "How are you feeling?!?!?!?!?!" You can even see the question-mark-exclamation-point-question-mark-exclamation-point as they ask. "Are you so excited? Nervous? Excited?"

I dont' know what to say, because while I do feel those things, I feel like I'm on this giant spectrum of feelings that all rotate around the center where I just feel like I'm ready. That's the heart of it - I'm ready. The things I didn't get to, I've let go of. The things I've pulled toward me are tucked away in my luggage, or on my person, or in my heart. It now, officially, is what it is.

Randy asked a friend who had been to Uganda about things to bring, things to know- the first thing on the list was "bug spray". Oh, goodie. Well, I've got the commercial DEET spray that I will pour into a giant vat and dip myself into. I have mixed up some citronella and tea tree spray that I will douse my bed and mosquito net with before laying down to sleep. It's going to be in the upper 70's/low 80s so I'm not wearing jeans, but I'll keep my skirts long and try to keep my skin covered as best I can. I think that's all I can really do. I considered bringing duct tape and an extra mosquito net to cut up and cover the windows with so that I could sleep with them open- I hate sleeping in a closed up room and I imagine that shutting out the sounds of Africa will be hard to do, but I also don't want to get malaria. Or any other sort of bug-transmitted-funk. And I didn't want to buy another net, so I guess I'll close those windows anyway.

I know absolutely nothing about where we're staying. All I know is that it's called a guest house- and that I will sleep there. I don't know if it's a bed, or a palette on the floor, or if I will share a room, or have one of my own. I don't know if there are toilets, or showers. I don't know anything.

I don't know if I'll have much phone access, or much internet access. I don't know if I'll bother trying, I'm nervous about passwords and internet security and all that, but I also think it would be a blast to be able to blog, or post some photos while I'm there. I also secretly like the idea of a technology black out for 10 whole days.

One of the other things that Randy's friend said was to bring 'closed toe shoes, that red dust gets into everything'. I'm looking forward to that. I see myself walking down the road with the whole bottom of my long skirt painted red with Ugandan earth, red legs and feet - what footprints will I leave behind? Will they be ones that I will feel good about?

The prayer I have before leaving, the thing that I am holding most in my heart, is that I take the best of myself, and of what I do, and that I pour that out while I'm at Shanti. That my heart has room and openness to receive the best that they will have to offer me, and that the impact I leave behind enriches and doesn't damage.

I'm so schooled by the people in my life about cultural awareness, about ethnocentricity, and my own (very limited, but still existing) xenophobia - that I want to start from a place of curiosity.

For example, in Uganda it is illegal to be gay. People are put to death over this issue. While I am and always will be a fierce advocate for equal rights, I surrender to this flow because it is not the work I am there to do, and I absolutely have no right to enter into another culture, tell them they are wrong, and take zero responsibility for the impact of what I say and do while there. So I slip into the dusty road and tread the footsteps of those who came before me, praying for humility and the ability to hear without comparison or competition. I pray to be a listener, less than a talker.

In the meantime, I have to prepare the henna that I am bringing with me, henna myself, pack my things and lay in bed later in wonder that I won't see these walls again for such a long time- the longest I've ever been away. I write dreamy letters to my future-self, wondering who she is, what she'll know, what she'll have taken on, and what she'll have let go of.

How am I feeling? I feel ready. It's time! Let's do this.

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