A new kind of life

It’s 9 a.m. I’ve already missed my first class as a teacher and, if things didn’t change soon, I could miss my second.

I know I shouldn’t be on phone so much and instead take in the scenery around me but I am uncomfortable. An hour earlier I arrived at the clinic that is an hour’s walk from my village to meet with the head nurse. I wanted to talk to her about facilitating the health workshop my villagers asked for and was instructed that she would only be available on weekdays. When I got there, the other nurses told me to wait in a side room from where they were taking blood and giving shots.

It’s not uncommon to wait for people or meetings to begin in Lesotho, or any other part of Africa I’ve been to. Other cultures don’t value time the way Americans do, so all I can do is adapt and find a way to be busy.

The side-room seemed appropriate to me until I realized the other room was reserved for blood count screenings, most likely for patients infected with HIV/AIDS. Nurse, patient and me. I ask the nurse if I should wait elsewhere and she said no. It was one of the few times I was thankful I don’t speak much Sesotho.

To appear not interested in the health of the stranger, I bury my attention on my phone, flipping between Facebook, Twitter and Google Reader. The most important things at home, judging by what people post on their social media accounts, are Newt Gingrich and the Super Bowl. I turn to blogs, mostly ones devoted to runners because I am hoping to do a race while in country. I read through 1200-word blog posts about splits and mileage and other things that keep runners happy, such as books and online shopping sprees. Instead of being annoyed at their ample free time, I’m envious of a 9-5 job that allows for training time and social engagements and puts money in the bank to support both activities.

I pull up my head and think. What if I had a regular job with a regular schedule in a regular place? I could finally train for a marathon and go to yoga class instead of using podcasts and books. My nights would be full of dinner and drinks appointments and I could go see a band or a play. I would spend lazy afternoons at my favorite coffee shop and browse through co-ops to stock my cupboards with only healthy ingredients. Maybe I would fall asleep to the local news or the Daily Show. Life could be normal, I dream.

It’s easy for me to forget that I had that. My first year at the Foundation, I had that life. Except for a two weeks a year, one in the spring and one in the fall, I worked 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. I went to yoga, biked to work and knew the organic section of the grocery store very well. At least four times a week, I met a friend for drinks, lunch or dinner. I even began training for a marathon.

But, I strived for more. I wanted something else. This life seemed like settlement and I didn’t want it, or at least not yet. Those lazy afternoons at the coffee shop were spent looking into graduate programs abroad, TEFL jobs and filling out my Peace Corps application.

My normal but nice life disappeared when I took on The Post. I hurt my knee and had to miss the marathon, but, with a 60+ hour work schedule, I didn’t have time for it anyway.  I wasn’t making anything at The Post and took a pay cut at the Foundation to do it so I didn’t have money for yoga or the slightly more expensive organic food. Drinking, though, I still did a lot of that.

Somehow, all of that lead to this. I look around the room. I don’t understand a single word being said and most of the people here are infected with one of world’s most dangerous diseases. I haven’t had a shower in more days than I care to admit and I would do just about anything for a cup of coffee that doesn’t come from the “instant” category. Or a glass of ice water.

“She is here,” one of the nurses say and I follow her into the office. The head nurse and I discuss the possibility of the health workshop and what needs to happen to make it work.

“I am so glad you are doing this. These villages really need to be educated,” she says.

We talk a bit more and agreed on the next step. I left the clinic and pop my headphones in for the hour-long walk back to my village, just in time for my next class.

I’ve been struggling with the idea that this is my life now. Maybe it’s because it is still new or maybe I am refraining from attachment because I fear of being yanked away again. Part of me feels like this is just a temporary visit and I cling to home because that is more comfortable.

Yet, that meeting today was a turning point. This is my life now, this is my work. I endured so very much to be in Lesotho today and I am no longer going to push it away with thoughts about a life in America, one I can most certainly have when I return in two years. For the next 23 months, I will establish a life here, one with running and yoga and whatever else I think that would make me happy. So, I can’t go to a play or a coffee shop, but I can enjoy the company in front of me. I know that if I were at home, living that American life, I would dream of this one. And I am not going to trade this one for anything.

3 thoughts on “A new kind of life

  1. Heather, you’ve perfectly captured the the “here vs. there” thing we all struggle with. It’s so difficult to remain “present,” especially knowing that a few years down the road, we’ll probably regret all the time we spent thinking about home, not fully embracing what’s right in front of us. Sending good thoughts from Benin, Erin

  2. Pingback: Stability versus Uncertainty | a story

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