toward the ledge:

changing the world thru loving and serving others. without agenda


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reflections on an african year….

how did it get so late so soon? it’s night before it’s afternoon. december is here before it’s june. my goodness how the time has flewn. how did it get so late so soon?
~dr.seuss ~

sept 29, 7:45 pm marked the 1 year anniversary of my re-entry to tanzania.  i remember wondering how i would manage living here for 1 years; yet the 12 months have passed so quickly that it feels almost like yesterday that i stepped off the plane.  for sure, this chapter of my journey has been incredible.  i am, however, reminded that journeys rarely proceed in a  progressively straight forward path. but they are winding, a bit rocky in patches. sometimes it is a gorgeous sunny day with a light breeze.  sometimes you have to back track to keep on the path. and sometimes it’s dark ahead so that you can only see what is directly ahead of you with your flash light.  my journey here in africa is exactly like that.   it is however my journey and i’m totally confident i am on the right path.  it just doesn’t make it simple nor smooth at all times.

looking back on the year – some random musings and reflections on my year, in no particular order or priority.

  • i have met and worked with nearly 100 volunteers from malaysia, united kingdom, australia, south africa, sweden, norway, usa, ireland, germany, spain, canada. they have inspired me, made me laugh, become my friends, taught me new things, and joined me in making a difference through foot2afrika.
  • i have observed (in the lives of the many volunteers i have met) the life changing impact that volunteering in africa makes.  it ranges from minimal to life changing  as some make relationship, career, and personal changes as a result of their time here.  others are busy planning their return trips, some to stay longer term.
  • through my frustration of not being able to give of my own depleting resources, God has used me to be a connector/bridge (and believe me, He has made it clear to me my role several times when i was lamenting haha) to connect those who have to those who have not. while dollars is what speaks the loudest often (in terms of survival) most definitely the currency of love,  the heart, and time given also matters.  in connecting, i am blessed each day.
  • i have learned a new language. although i still suck at it and i’m still a long way from being fluent but each day i can speak a bit more and understand a bit more.  i have learned to celebrate the small victories of learning a new phrase or that i can converse just a bit more in daily life.
  • i love this land, and the people.  during one of my meditative/zen moments  during serengeti safari was that ‘i am home’.  i cannot explain that to any point, just that i ‘heard’ that and felt it in my heart.  and still feel totally at peace here.  that doesn’t mean it’s perfect and that i don’t have ‘moments’.  but it is part of ‘knowing’ that i am where i should be for now.
  • i haven’t had a ‘bath’ in a year, and in fact haven’t had what i call a proper shower (in terms of temperature and water pressure) either.  sometimes it’s out of a bucket or bottle.  sometimes it is cold.  but honestly, although i might appreciate a nice long strong warm shower….it has no great importance to me at this time, when i consider that many of the people i work with do not have running water, and drink or use unsafe water.
  • i have accepted situations where toilet paper is not available (but a bucket of water next to the hole in the floor is).  but it (t.p.) is still the preferred method.  🙂  haha.  things that we take for granted and deem as critical and important….are really not.
  • based upon my first trip’s results in weight loss, i had a vision (fantasy apparently ) that by the end of a year here, i would be at size 0,or at least size 6.  well, i have lost weight, i’m much healthier, and in better condition but still have a ways to go.  the ‘evil’  stinkin’ camera doesn’t ‘show’ the changes that my loose clothing seem to indicate.  and why is it that i still care about this?
  • it has been a year since i’ve driven a car.   i have perched on the back of a piki piki (motorbike) more in the past few months than in my whole life (and i love it).  and yes i understand the risks, and no i don’t have a helmet, and yes i say a prayer and call for travel angels each and every time.  otherwise, i walk  mostly, or use public transportation, sitting cheek to cheek, marveling at how many people they can cram into one vehicle, shifting to avoid bruises from the metal parts of the seats, sharing body odor in close quarters for 300 tsh (about 20 cents).
  • i never tolerated being dirty and sweaty back  ‘home’.  here i am rarely NOT dirty and sweaty.  and i’m just perfectly fine with that.  in fact, i have learned to appreciate  that i live in a free sauna.  just without redwood and eucalyptus.  and one must remain fully clothed.  okay so there are nuances of differences, but think of the toxins that are being flushed out the sweat glands!
  • i haven’t watched TV in a year and i have no longings for it.  however, reading the fb posts about the new season of modern family made me a bit jealous for that.  i miss some good laughs over the humor in that show.  otherwise, nah, don’t need it!
  • i have survived two different dental appointments, which was one of my ‘fears’ initially -having dental problems here.  well, as usual we worry about things unnecessary.  it wasn’t fun to have a broken tooth (former root canal) but in the process, with the help of friends, we have discovered some excellent (and affordable) dentists.
  • it seems that i am  more likely to be happy with less ‘stuff’, with less security, but with more purposeful living.  and it seems that people here are more generous and giving, even though they live in poverty.  we have always heard money doesn’t buy happiness and having lived on two sides of the coin (although neither was extreme wealth or poverty) i can say that it is true for me, and seems to be true for the majority.
  • i have learned to be more patient, to let go of anal retentive ways, that it doesn’t matter if things do (or don’t) happen on time , that people and situations are more important than the details that surround them. my heart continues to be opened, i continue to work to be out of ‘my head’ more and listen/be present from my heart center more.  as much as i know to do this, it still isn’t that easy.  old habits die hard, as they say.
  • there is more ‘same-ness’ in people around the world, regardless of our race, culture, income level, etc than there is ‘diversity’.  we have just been fed too much of the diversity line and have allowed ourselves to believe it.  everywhere, there  are families that wish to provide love, hope, and education to their children.  there are men and women who simply wish for opportunity to work and make an income.  there are people of all ages that wish access to affordable health care.  there are spiritual individuals who wish to worship  God in freedom.  there are intelligent children, women and men who wish for true integrity, wisdom, and leadership in their countries.  they brush their teeth, smile, laugh, wash their hair, put on their clothing, transport to work, laugh at jokes, cry at loss, rage at inequities.  just as we do.  i am reminded daily how true the concept of one village, how connected we all truly are. we are not isolated, truly we are not.  none of us are better than the others simply by merit of where we were born.

well, so what is next?   i believe God has more work for me to do here in tanzania and what i ‘hear’ this time is that i need to shift into a deeper level of work.  (i have enjoyed my time with f2a, working with so many organizations and people from around the world.  but i think it’s time to ‘get out of the office’ and ‘into the village’ so to speak.  that’s what i feel that the next part of the journey will be). and i also believe that there is more work to be done on me.   perhaps that makes some sense to you?  i hope so.

exactly what?  well, i don’t have all the answers.  it’s being revealed to me slowly (more lessons in trust and patience) but i have no doubt…..this – africa.  tanzania.  is my path.  i am where i am supposed to be. i just “know” that i am right where i should be.  as much as i miss my friends and family at home, i “know” that returning to life as it once was is not for me.  at least not at this moment in time.

and YES!  it IS uncomfortable not having the details or the answers of the next steps.  well, this morning, interestingly i found this article on fb (as most of you know, God often delivers messages that i need to hear via emails, fb, etc) – it was titled “when you don’t have the answers” and some of the writer’s comments include:

“this state- of wanting answers but not having them – of not knowing if your partner is right for you or if you should stay at your job – is where we need to become more comfortable. we need to hang out in these zones of incredible uncertainty without escaping, though every part of us wants to. there were no more mysteries to be solved, just a journey to continue. And continuing is most necessary when it’s hard. a lack of clarity cannot stop us from living, driving to work, cooking noodles, checking email, calling our mothers.  when we want answers, what we’re really looking for is the strength to live with questions. it’s a feeling of security we’re after, reassurance that we’ve made good choices and we’ll be okay. that’s much easier to take care of than demanding hard answers from life.”  (click here  if you want to read this article from fear.less magazine).

indeed.  and so back to my point.  while i feel certain that i’m here in africa for a reason, and i don’t have all the answers to my questions, i am breathing deeply to accept that in these moments i will try to be more settled in the ‘transition’ and be comforted with my choices that are sound and that i WILL be okay.  and that perhaps i don’t know all the details TODAY but eventually i will have more answers.  (um. but i know by then i will also have more questions, requiring more answers.)  and so.  it goes.

and for those that consider me a missionary – i suppose it’s all in the definition.  for me?  i am simply trying to serve where God calls me. i listen the best i can.  to use my talents, my resources, my heart to give, to uplift, to raise up, to feed, to clothe, to empower.  that’s my mission.   my only agenda is love.  one day stands out in my mind.  a woman (i have been a bridge to her group) said to me “deb, we see Jesus in you”.  and in that moment, i was not only humbled but any sacrifice or loss….was all worth it.  totally.  questions are stilled in such a moment.  believe me.  that is my calling.

oh! i hope you will enjoy this slideshow of a few random photos of the past year. it has been an amazing time.  and there’s more to come, this ain’t over yet.  i am truly blessed.

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and as always.  you know i love you.  and thank you for your love, encouragement, support, prayers, and atta girls.  for those of you back home in the USA, yes, i miss you too and i would love to see you and have our times together.

the journey between what you once were and who you are now becoming is where the dance of life really takes place…barbara deangelis

let your mind start a journey thru a strange new world. leave all thoughts of the world you knew before. let your soul take you where you long to be…close your eyes, let your spirit start to soar, and you’ll live as you’ve never lived before…erich fromm

true religion is the life we lead, not the creed we profess…louis nizer