Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor

Have you ever been in a long term relationship that seemed perfectly fine, and then found yourself unwittingly, unexpectedly, in love with something/someone else? That is me. I am breaking that commandment that says, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor." My neighbor is misty, and smells of many people. My neighbor is made up of the darkest skin and the widest smiles, and huge leaves from banana trees, and smells of sweat and cooking fires and red dust. My neighbor, she tastes of pineapples and papaya, and cold Nile beer. In my deepest heart, I am aching for Uganda, aching and sad and grieving that I had to leave, reaching my heart across the American earth where we are free in so many ways that the Ugandan people are not, and conversely, bound and limited, too. I wake up and for a fraction of a second I feel relieved that I am home, in Uganda, that I will be sweaty and dirty at the end of the day, that a mosquito net hangs above my bed, that the sounds of the cows with giant horns will mark the morning alongside the roosters, alongside the giant loud monkey-birds, alongside the cooking fires, alongside the children moving in colorful groups toward the school buildings.

For a fraction of a second I know that my day will be spent with Sisters who understand the significance of touching a woman in labor, of having the right energy when we approach her. They'll know it without the trappings of all of the birth politics, it will just be daily life. I won't be barraged with marketing from the nearest fast-food joint, I won't have a million options to choose from in the grocery store. Life is stripped down to bare essentials and my heart blooms fully into my work, into my interactions with every person I come across. It's no longer a novel treat that I had a conversation with someone, it is built into the bricks that lay the path of my day. There is no step forward without touching each other, sharing each other, and caring for each other.

And then the fraction of a second is over and I feel a crushing grief and a huge sense of relief. I reach over and touch the warm skin under many blankets, rub my foot against my husband who has my heart and my soul. I get out of my soft, clean bed that is not draped with mosquito netting. I walk on the ground and see that there are no trails of ants to surprise me this morning. There is just dust from the day. I step into a warm shower and put on clean clothes that a machine washed and dried. I walk outside to my paved driveway and get into my new car and drive in an orderly fashion to where ever the day takes me.

I feel tremendous gratitude to have all of these things, and a deep confusion at the same time. I expect the ants to carve a trail across the floor and when they are not there, I am sad. Then I remember that here, that would be unwelcome, and unwanted, and we would poison them to make them go away. Which is not to say that wouldn't happen in Uganda too but when I was there, the ant trails were little visitors that reminded me that I was in Africa, and I let them be.

Even if I were to go back tomorrow it would not be the same, and I have to remember that. Because of the arrangement we had with Shanti, the money we spent covered our expenses for food, for a driver, for visits to restaurants (that were planned), and for our housing. I didn't have to think about anything, or worry about anything. I just had to figure out how to relax in a new environment, how to adjust to a shower that shocked me when I used it, to the music of Lugandan being spoken all around me at all hours, to the blanket of heat that greeted us every day. I adjusted so fast, that I actually miss every one of those things. The volunteers I fell in madly love with will be gone, new faces will replace them before long. My travel companions, save Jane, would be different.

I live in two places now, this is the new normal- and who am I now? I don't know. I don't know. It's going to arrive as it will.  I'm sitting in the place in-between-the-worlds of Africa and my home, and working on letting myself just be here, until I can just be there again, and being there, until I can just be here. No wonder I feel sad, and uncomfortable, and unsettled. I'm neither here, nor there.

When I arrived in Kasana I literally had to cut an energetic cord to home in order to let go, and fully be there. I can't bring myself to do that on this side.

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