Saturday morning. I allowed myself to turn off the alarm the night before and sleep with no programmed awake time. When my eyes did open, I rolled over and pulled out a copy of the “The New Yorker”. The story – about an author who plagiarized a spy novel by pulling from several other novels – was only semi-fascinating and my mind wonder about the writer of the piece and her reporting methods along with word choice.
But the mornings of this specific day in the week often bring about self-reflection, or at least more than other days. Am where I should be to reach that ultimate goal, and, what exactly is that ultimate goal? The laziness and self-doubt had made me hungry, so I whipped up a brunch of eggs, potatoes, onions and tomatoes with too much Heinz. I washed it all away French-pressed coffee, a blank Word document and something indie on the speaker.
If I didn’t attach 2012 to this entry, a historian of my life could have picked this moment out from my post-college years in Brookings or the short stint in Sioux Falls. The routine is identical but the backdrop is practically on another planet.
On those days, between 2008-2010, after publishing a post I would wander downtown, Main Street or Philips Avenue, and pop into different shops, hoping they would transport me to somewhere else. Cottonwood for a mocha and then Brookings Library for a book that would be left unread until it was due a month later. The Market for a bottle of wine and then Zandbroz for lusting over accessories out of my price range. My restless thoughts would settle with no big event of the day to define it. Maybe I would join up with friends for drinks or Saturday Night Live later, but I would go to bed, call the day a resting one and fall asleep to the possibilities.
However, this Saturday, although equally as mundane, appears to be from generations ago. A mooing cow dominates the background music and bathroom breaks require a trip outside. Chores, such as washing dishes and cooking an evening meal, will take twice as long without the conveniences of modern technology.
To me, these mornings seem more alike than different—I have just moved locations. I am still the wondering, confused person I was two years ago, with a hint more clarity. As I reflect on April for a Year of Presence post, I see this as the theme, my true self settling into this life.
When I left the daily showers, turning on lights when I walk into a room and other luxuries of South Africa, I came back to site with a new sense of purpose. This feeling that at any moment I might be pulled out had slightly faded and I transitioned into a two-year focus, like a sprinter trading the 200-meter sprint for the marathon. Having passed the Niger evacuation benchmark in this service, I finally allowed myself to sink into my life here and think about it more than just something I did one time.
With that came comfort. Instantly, I was more comfortable in the classroom. Having acquired new techniques and ideas at Phase III training, I had a frank conversation with my students about how I could be a better teacher for them. Their answer: be happier. I mixed up lesson plans and almost felt like a real teacher.
That ease spilled over into my village life. As if there was a village meeting overnight, everyone seemed to know my name and greeted me with joy each day. My persona as a stranger vanished, or it appeared to it, and it revealed me. My silliness came out to create interactions when words couldn’t. Friends came knocking at the door when I wasn’t sure if I had any. And, the biggest improvement, the constant bashing from my inner voices eased up and a supporting one was more vocal.
A great example of this newfound comfort came later in that Saturday. I was out running and passed a group of gaping boys. Other times I would have yelled something at them to stop or been annoyed. Instead I smiled. They took it as invitation to join me, another action that brought great annoyance two months earlier. Yet, I embraced it. We danced and exchanged passes in Sesotho and I even included a short English lesson. It was a small moment, but left me feeling like I took the opportunity instead of trying to combat frustration.
For all the ups and downs I seemed to have in my first three months at site, the parts moved into place during month four and what came together was a large flashing sign that said, “Yes, this right.”
The whole point of this Year of Presence was to absorb every moment of this life, to leave here at the end of 2013 without a single regret. I am far from reaching that but April showed me that I could be in Lesotho as myself, not some modified version, and that crawling into bed with a large smile is the best kind of reassurance. But to have all that I needed to stop and embrace the moment while pulling in elements of myself. I am not prefect at this present living but I am getting better.