I’ve researched Sierra Leone as much as possible - documentaries, wikipedia, news articles, and multiple papers on their reproductive health policy. I’ve looked up charities, tourist attractions, transportation system notes, maps, and read all about the organization I’ll be working for (but none of it is sticking). I finish my typhoid pills today and have my malaria and ciprofloxin pills ready. I am yellow fever certified and every other shot is up to date. I had a dentist apt, eye apt, physical, and gynecology exam. I have hiking boots, waterproof tennis shoes and jacket, a mosquito net and coils, and enough clothes for 2 weeks laundry-free and enough toiletries and meds to last more than a month. I have books for the flight. I had a going away party and bought my first DSLR. I have money in my bag, and family and friends that support me all the way.
and yet I feel so.not.ready.
it’s not so long! when I get back to ohio
- bartend for a month, get my diploma, speak to undergrads
- real job (for a year? doing health shit?)
- volunteer twice a month somewhere
- belly dancing classes, hula hoop lessons
- french lessons
- figuring out if I should move to Turkey, Thailand, or somewhere else
In 13 days, I will leave Cincinnati and fly to JFK airport (the closest I’ve come to visiting NYC. this must change). Hopefully a friend will meet me and take me for a drink during my 7 hour stay. From there I fly to Heathrow and get a glorious 12 hours in London. Not even sure about sights and sounds that are near enough the airport. From London, I fly through the night and arrive at Lungi International Airport at 4 a.m. local time. I meet someone from the organization and take a ferry (lasting from 3 to 8 hours) over to Freetown’s harbor, the third largest in the world. I exchange money, buy an international SIM card, and scrawl a quick email to the world letting them know I’ve arrived. We then take a taxi to the bottom of a hill, and I carry my 2 suitcases all the way to the top, to 7 Kapu Drive Goedrich, Freetown, Sierra Leone, which is near the beautiful (I hear) River No. 2 Beach. I throw down my things, get a quick orientation to the house, and then fall into my mosquito-net covered bed completely exhausted and wondering what the hell I’ve gotten myself into. I will not have running water (no real showers for three months) and electricity is sparse. Internet is available and paid for by the hour at cafes and I’ll be able to buy international minutes and call home at times.
And then at some point, I start work, a mere 30 minute walk from the house (I mapped it). Work will be manning the teen clinic, doing STD, HIV, and pregnancy testing and counseling. While there I will be researching opinions and attitudes on contraception (not widely used) the high maternal mortality rate (1 in 112) and upcoming generational likelihood of female genital mutilation, of which Sierra Leone has a 90% prevalence rate.
During this trip I will be detoxing. I think that too many times, I say yes to alcohol because it’s my norm, and I’ve never truly tried to take a break. Not only do I want to be in a more meditative place while in Africa, I also do not want to consume anything that could make me sick and dehydrated. It’s bound to happen, even with the arsenal of pills I am armed with, and I don’t want to make anything worse.
Barring some upheaval of political conflict, I do not fear crime or violence. The interns who are currently living in the house have said that the city is welcoming and safe. I will practice the same precautions I have always practiced while traveling. I will learn Krio, which is very similar to Creole, and I will go to the market and the beach and the NGOs and the museums and I will try to learn whatever I can inwardly and outwardly.
here is a tribe in Africa where the birth date of a child is counted not from when they were born, nor from when they are conceived but from the day that the child was a thought in its mother’s mind. And when a woman decides that she will have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child that wants to come. And after she’s heard the song of this child, she comes back to the man who will be the child’s father, and teaches it to him. And then, when they make love to physically conceive the child, some of that time they sing the song of the child, as a way to invite it.
And then, when the mother is pregnant, the mother teaches that child’s song to the midwives and the old women of the village, so that when the child is born, the old women and the people around her sing the child’s song to welcome it. And then, as the child grows up, the other villagers are taught the child’s song. If the child falls, or hurts its knee, someone picks it up and sings its song to it. Or perhaps the child does something wonderful, or goes through the rites of puberty, then as a way of honoring this person, the people of the village sing his or her song.
In the African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them.
The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.
And it goes this way through their life. In marriage, the songs are sung, together. And finally, when this child is lying in bed, ready to die, all the villagers know his or her song, and they sing—for the last time—the song to that person.
You may not have grown up in an African tribe that sings your song to you at crucial life transitions, but life is always reminding you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not. When you feel good, what you are doing matches your song, and when you feel awful, it doesn’t. In the end, we shall all recognize our song and sing it well. You may feel a little warbly at the moment, but so have all the great singers. Just keep singing and you’ll find your way home.
This is so sweet.
I am a 25 year old woman. And I want to remember everything.
I love sleeping. I sleep next to the wall, with a knee up close to me, and with a blanket no matter the temperature. I can be touching you, but I can’t be wrapped up. Bears and elephants are my favorite animals because their illustrations look amazing. This is the first apartment I’ve ever gotten alone, and therefore, the first I’ve let a boyfriend move into. I have a dog who’s ten, and he can be a dick sometimes because he wasn’t trained and I think he had a yard before. I’m sorry Papi, you’ll have to make due. That’s what they tell us. I think that a dog has changed my life because I have to be less selfish and stick to some kind of routine. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t. My favorite paintings or art are portraits of exotic women and shapes and colors and angles. I like a good strong beer. I really only like drinking wine when I am about to read or write poetry. I can drink coffee black, or with half cream. I’m sad about all the things and events and happenings I’ll miss in Cincinnati over the summer months. I am going to miss my family, and Rodney, and my friends, but probably I’ll miss comfort most of all, which should upset me. I’ll miss food, and clean water, and clothes, and air conditioning, and driving. It’s the way of America.
Do you realize that there are so many barriers? When did life become about creating barriers for others to get ahead or even keep up? I have so many fucking privileges that I have taken for granted - parents that took me to the doctor and the dentist: a bank account: a cell phone plan: health insurance, for another year:. I am grateful for this apartment, this job, this degree, this dog, this car, this boyfriend, this ability to make girlfriends, these cabinets of food, these healthy habits that were enforced without even realizing it, this work ethic, this sense of wonder that I can still capture at times. When I can meditate above it all and understand that the true world that is out there is much more intuitive and my life will be grand, I swear it.
The things I know I love in men: black hair, beards, has a motorcycle of some sort, has travelled, likes reading, can communicate in writing, wants and loves children, wants and cares about justice and science, gets along with my friends and family, practices equality, gives me space, has friends, creates, likes to sleep, introduces me to new things, great in bed, cooks, good sense of direction, wants to live outside the united states.
Things I want to learn the most right now: Spanish and French, dance routines, more vegetarian food recipes with the time and money to make them, how to get published in the literary world and in the academic world, guitar, stick shift, how to keep passion in a relationship when there’s monogamy, beer brewing, grant writing, sewing my own clothes, how to ride a motorcycle.
What I worry about: where I really truly want to live and how much I dislike America most of the time but love Cincinnati at other times, whether or not I can or should have children at some point and where in the world I would raise them, how to stop the trafficking of people, how to stop ignorance but still allow animalistic expression, how to accept people I believe to be wrong, how to keep up with technology, how to escape paperwork and bills and live off land and joy
Travel goals: still the same, backpack europe, balloon ride over egypt, angkor wat, galapagos, costa rica, great wall, road to santiago
Let others be petty. Live a beautiful life.
At some point, grad school and Africa will be behind me….
And I’ll be more than $30,000 in debt. But hey, there’s always 10 years of public service in order to get loan forgiveness. Or making lots of money and not worrying about it. Or living in another country and quietly paying the minimum the rest of my life. Whew. relaxing is hard right now.
Before I get too tired and must sleep. I need to do so many things in the next 5 weeks. And it doesn’t seem possible.
The ides of March.
You lie on the couch, your sweat soaking through the blankets and filling the room with a sickness you won’t acknowledge. I leave a love note near your head. I can’t sleep next to someone on fire.
My feet ache. Boots for bartending, for stomping on snow, for kicking empty cans down an emptier street. The radiators are so goddamn loud, like the wind lives in them, like a baby in a bathtub sloshing water about. At least I’m not cold. I should be grateful.
Half eaten food fills the tiny counter space and I swear tomorrow I’ll wash these dishes and the bedding and get some sleep and take books back to the library and take care of you and finish graduate school and go see the world. tomorrow.
In 30 days I am 25. I am already highly anticipating 30. Like my plans will be realized, or I’ll stop caring.