After spending nearly 24 hours traveling from Malawi to South Africa to Senegal to New York, I pretty much slept for the next three days. I let those closest to me know that I was home in one piece. Then for a few days, I roamed around the Lower East Side of Manhattan feeling out of sorts. I spent hours looking out over the East River wondering who I was, where I was, what in the world had I done to my life. I honestly thought when my priest gave the advice to take it easy upon returning to the US, that it didn’t really apply to me. I’m a go-getter and can adapt pretty easily to most circumstances, at least on the surface level. Boy, was I in for a shock!
My first Saturday back, I woke at 7am. No morning breakfast with friends, no bright and smiling Agnes (the waitress who joyfully brought me, the only traveler to drink soda at breakfast, my wonderfully chilled Coke in a bottle), no loading up my backpack for the day’s journey. Saddened, I fell back asleep. A few hours later I awoke to the same empty feeling. I decided to get dressed and venture out into the world if nothing else but to get some food. The feeling of separateness persisted and even after purchasing my favorite things, pens and a new journal, I couldn’t shake this disconnected feeling. I was alone before I left for Africa much of the time and dealt with it pretty well, but after experiencing such a wonderful feeling of connectedness to others, strangers and fellow travelers, I was very sad.
A friend of mine who traveled abroad earlier that year had described similar feelings to me, so I decided to give him a call. He listened attentively as he always does and recommended a book to read. Mutant Message Down Under by Margo Morgan. The local bookstore didn’t have it. But he was so insistent that I read it that I thought, ‘What the heck?’ and hopped the train to the city in search of the book. I found it and sat in Union Square Park for hours reading. I finished it in one sitting. I am so grateful to Marlo Morgan for writing this book and my friend for feeling my sadness and telling me about the book. In the wee hours of Sunday morning, I had the feeling I was back in Africa. I felt a wash of calm and peacefulness come over me recalling how I felt cradled and comforted by the warm smiles and excited hugs of the villagers we met. One of the lessons I learned from the tribes we visited is learning to honor our grieving process. Leaving Africa behind and coming back to America is a loss. A loss I need to grieve in order to move forward. Not just in terms of coming back from this trip but my life as a whole. I feel small and fragile right now. So, be patient with me as I take time to try and make sense of a few things in my life.
(Thank you in Chichewe)
Update: So, this is the last entry for my Africa blog. I’m glad I finished it up this time. Only took me 5 years! But I think I was ready to finally look at some of the things that scared me back then. 🙂