"There is only one of you for all time. Fearlessly be yourself." -Anthony Rapp
September 30, 2009
We had a village wide discussion about how I am different than when I came. According to Stan, "I walk like if you touch me, I will kill you. But still somehow come off as friendly." Basically, according to my villagers I am pretty tough, which is good, because appearing fearless is something I work hard at.
I know I am not fearless at night. I have a re-occurring dream of loss. Usually I don't know who I am losing or how, but the few times I have known, it has been one of my parents and once a little white cat, known as Angel Baby. I wake up with a weight on my chest and unable to breath, a few times my own crying has woken me up. The sense of loss is so real and debilitating that I wonder how I will go on- the depression so crushing. And I wonder what is wrong with me that a grown woman wakes up crying in the night about nothing but an illusive dream. It occurs so often that I wonder what I am actually losing. The loneliness leaves an empty zone inside me that is there all the time now. And I wonder as I go fearlessly through my village life, what will fill it?
When I am not numbed by depression and my complete lack of ability to do anything to change the lives of people in Tanzania, I feel angry. Not at anyone in particular, just in general. I think of that bumper sticker in America that says, "If you are not outraged than you are not paying attention." I feel too greatly. I inherited this from my mom, who makes big changes in the world with small acts of love. We can't watch violence, we hurt for people and animals- probably the main reason why my whole family is vegetarian. But I thought that unlike my mom, I had learned like the Holocaust Museum says "Thou Shall Bear Witness", I felt like I was getting pretty good at that. That is more my Dad's approach, who is sensitive but able to detach himself. In Tanzania, I thought I had achieved this. It sounds stupid, but the first time I separated myself from the chickens and realized this is a different life- it was a big deal. (I still don't eat them or watch them get slaughtered, but I understand that they will be.) Now I realize that most of the time without realizing it there is a weight on my shoulders. If you know me well, you know I am sort of addicted to news radio, NPR was part of my daily life in America and BBC is here. I listen every morning to how many bombs have gone off, how many people have AIDS/Malaria and other weird tropical ailments, who is fighting who, which dictator is killing their country, how many people died... and I think about those people. Not as numbers or strangers, but people with eyes and voices, their own thoughts and ideas, their own dreams uncompleted.
Yesterday a baby died. It came too soon. I held her. She lived for a few moments, eyelids like tissue paper and a small mouth. Then she left this world. I pictured her using her tiny shoulder blades, like a baby bird's wings, to fly away from us. I named her Lark as I felt her spirit soar away. And I cried over her, until Jessica (my village nurse) finally asked me if I had lost a child because I was crying like a woman who had. No, I tell her. Why can't they understand me!?! Finally I pick myself up off the ground and say in English, which no one there understands, "I want my mom." Lark has already flown, and I think, like her, I might also be too afraid, too fragile for this world.