Sunday, July 30, 2006

I have about 8 months left in my time working in the refugee camp. The previous two + years have been . . . have been. Let’s leave it there. It’s a mix; it always is here. The highest highs and the lowest lows. That’s what continues to draw me back – 10 years, on and off, I’ve been working in West Africa. And I love it. But, these past 2 ½ have been supremely draining, exhausting, frustrating, and rewarding. And the first three adjectives are the most definitive.

I have about 8 months left. And I’m making a change. I’ve made a change in how I approach things. I’m slowing it down. I had been running – constantly, day after day – maybe 4 – 5 (at least) 12 hour (at least) days, followed by another 5 or 6 hour day, followed by a seventh day also of a few hours of work. For these last few months left to me here I’m beginning a different approach – a slower approach. I don’t want to leave Africa forgetting – not feeling – what it is I love so much about Africa – the mix, the aliveness of it – the feelings that all these pictures and so many other sensations here evoke in me. The past 2 ½ years haven’t quite been like that – mostly it’s been those first three adjectives that have dominated my feelings and emotions – and drained my spirit and energy.

Anyway, things have been nice lately. I’ve slowed things down. I do the 40-minute walk to the school on the camp, rather than driving. I get a chance to walk, to think, to be alone sometimes and with people other times, to see people on the way, to smell the smells (some fabulous, others . . . uh . . . YIKES!!), to see the sites (vibrantly colored birds and sunsets), and to sweat the sweat (this is the tropics, after all).

It’s been good.

I’m hoping and praying my love of Africa will completely return and be here in full force upon my departure in 8 months. I’m hoping and praying my recently renewed daily positive outlook will remain with me and even be strengthened. I’m hoping and praying that my faith will continue its evolution, only now in the positive direction to which it’s recently shifted. I’m hoping and praying that when I see people coming my way I will no longer cringe (inwardly and sometimes even, so very ashamed to say, outwardly), but will have a genuinely pleased smile on my face to see them.

And I’m hoping and praying that when I leave Africa early next year, I’ll have a renewed and stronger love for all of it, rather than the cynical, pessimistic outlook that has threatened to overtake me the past couple of years.

There can be a lot of crap – but life can be a lot of good when I allow myself to see it.


At 5:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve, You're headed in the right way. Along with the positive that you're doing to reconnect with Africa, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for not being able to help everyone, for not being able to work non-stop, for becoming frustrated, for being oh so human. I believe with the lesser work hours and more time to reflect you'll see much of the negative feelings were due to overwork and not being able to fix everything that needed fixing. It is so hard to be Africa and see the poverty and not be able to help so many people who truly need help. But, this is your journey. To help where you can and to not let the fact that so many can not be helped destroy you. Destruction is not always bombs and major events. Many times it is the slow eroding and deterioration of the self. You have seen this and now stopped it. You are back on setting a balance and seeing the good. The pictures are beautiful reminders of all the good. The landscape, the children, the people who laugh, love and enjoy life. You are making a positive impact in many people's lives. You are doing what you should be doing. You are very wise to realize what is happening to you and turn it around before leaving. I have faith that when it is time to go, you'll know and love Africa so much more. Since you have had this journey and negative experience, you'll be able to understand and appreciate the positive so much more. You'll also be better prepared for your time back in the states and your return to Africa. Thank-you for sharing your heart with us. It is a truly beautiful heart. The protective armor that was building around it, is falling away. Continue seeing, living and experiencing the joy and wonder of each day. May God Bless and protect you. --- Florence

At 6:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I love the pictures - and I miss Africa so much - it hurts. My only response to your words is that you are not only there to help - you're also there to learn. When we leave, we realize how much we were getting - (that's why we miss it so much.)

So sit down, and drink tea with your neighbors. Let them do the talking.

laura davis - rpcv

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