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Monday, December 01, 2008

home



The first bird goes off like an alarm clock at about 5AM each morning, just as the sun begins to turn the sky from dense black to cool gray. Within minutes a chorus of other birds adds to the performance, in varying levels of harmony and discord. They're beyond exotic, sometimes other-worldly, ranging from melodious trilling warbles, to screeching catlike screams, to something like a cross between a crow and an insane duck, to another that sounds like the stereotypical "Tookie Tookie Bird" from the old George Of The Jungle cartoon. I lie in bed for a while, listening, until the sun offers enough light to find my clothes by, and then dress and go outside to see if I can identify the source of any of the strange calls. A day that begins like this has a very good chance of being filled with magic...

Every day we spent in Ethiopia was indeed filled with magic and wonder and discovery. I'll tell as much as I can, but I also know that you won't really know it or feel it until you go there yourself. Go there. I can't imagine anyone being disappointed in Africa, which is a funny thing for me to say, considering it was only two years ago that I loudly (and stupidly) proclaimed that I never wanted to go to Africa. It was nowhere on my list of places to see, and I feared that if I did accidentally go there, it would crush me, it would break my heart to a point where I would no longer be able to function, or be able to help. I was already doing my work for the HOPE Bracelet Project, and I really believed that my job began and ended here at home, and that there was no need to see for myself what my work was doing for people almost half the world away. What I didn't know then was that if my heart did happen to get broken, it would only be broken open, and then it would be filled in ways I could never have guessed.

The stories are still composting. It's too soon to tell them all. I'll do it little by little, and I'm so grateful that the internet just wouldn't work for me there, and that there never seemed to be spare "time to write" as it was happening. It would have been a very dull day-to-day account of things, and it deserves a better telling than that...

We're home now, and finding our way back to normal. But both "home" and "normal" will need to be redefined. Three weeks is not a very long time, but it feels like we've been through some sort of time warp. You could tell me I'd been gone one day and I'd believe you, or six months, and I'd believe that too. Three weeks was enough, and still, we would have stayed longer if we could have. We're already planning our next trip, and wanting to stay a month or more the next time we go. Dropping back in from Ethiopian Reality to American Christmastime is a jolt and a comfort and a confusing tangle of contradictions. Much of it seems ridiculous, excessive, embarrassing even, but then again, the light and festivity and Best Intentions of the season are something to help ease us through this re-entry phase. We saw so much need, and so much love. We saw hope and despair, trust and fear, beauty and tragedy. We saw a life and a world that we'd only read about, and couldn't begin to understand until we saw it for ourselves. Now we're only just beginning. I tried to go without expectations, but I know I had at least one. I thought I'd feel like I was on a different planet. Every day, as I walked outside, I reminded myself, I'm in Africa. And as absolutely different as it was from anything I'd ever imagined or experienced, I was always aware that I was standing there "on the world". The World. It remained the same world, round and solid and home. When we traveled back to the US, Washington DC felt like home, and then Denver felt like home, and I kept thinking how good it was to be home. Back in Taos yesterday evening, home was welcoming and pretty and clean and bigger than I'd remembered. And at the same time, remembering Africa, and the solidness of it beneath my dusty feet, I understood that home has expanded. No matter where I am, I'm still standing on The World. How will I ever narrow it down to one small place again? So much remains to be seen.

2 comments:

Francoise said...

Hi Kim! It's good to have you back, and I look forward to reading your stories - a little at a time, you,re right' is a much better way to describe the place, the people, the way they all touched your life and work. I'll be there, and I'm sure it will make me want to go there as well... One day, soon I hope.

Michelle said...

Hello Kim,
Welcome home !!! It's good to have you back !! You have had a wonderful adventure, I look forward to reading more of your stories of Africa as the days/weeks go by !
lots of love