Tuesday, May 4, 2010

All the kings horses

I'm often struck a bit dumb by the reality of the last few years in my life. Most often by the blessings and the experiences, sometimes by a level of overwhelmed I can't really even convey. Last week I took advantage of a crazy cheap ticket to have an extended time in Addis Ababa during our District 9200 Rotary Conference. I saved $300 by flying at 4:30 a.m. last Sunday and coming back at 12:30 a.m. this morning. It meant I had almost 9 days in a totally fascinating city and country - 9 days of which I planned to be working consistently on my project while seeing some sites during the day. That plan was scratched at approximately 9:00 p.m. on the 24th when I spilled an entire glass of milk onto my laptop right as I sat down to finally synthesize my notes into a long-overdue and long-promised draft proposal. Remedy? Box your comp up in rice and say a prayer that it dries out over the next nine days (this post is evidence that it worked!). What that meant was my travels to Ethiopia suddenly turned into more of a vacation than a work trip. "Let the impending guilt begin," I thought as the plane took off early last Sunday morning.


Turns out I needed a vacation. And not because I don't get to take amazing trips or see amazing sites all the time here - I do! If you take the projects and groups I've gotten to know and throw in visits by two of my best friends, this year has been especially full of incredible experiences and sites. But it has also been full of a lot of packing and unpacking, sweaty clothing, bumpy roads and a mixture of beauty and poverty that I'll never fully wrap my head around.

Ethiopia had the latter, but none of the former. I was hosted by a friend of a friend of a friend in a lovely four bedroom apartment with an incredible DVD collection. The apartment was insanely quiet. Quiet in a way I had no idea I needed or missed. My house in Nairobi never has less than three people in it (even at night) and during the day it averages around 6 and up to around 13. It is not conducive to any sort of quiet workspace, and if you mix in my predisposition to multi-tasking (or should I just call it A.D.D?) it's a recipe for disaster in relation to getting my work done. What I do get done is everything else. Rotary? Check. Boy's home in Nakuru? Check. Daniel's new hand? Check. Visit from my favorite baby Christabel? Check. Proposal? Ummm....

So I spent some time in Addis feeling guilty. Wondering why I could think so clearly (and why I needed so much sleep) and then realizing that my phone wasn't ringing with situations that make me panic. And my house wasn't full of people who knew exactly when I woke up or went to sleep, when I got something to eat or left the house (and all the parents out there say BIG DEAL). I wasn't being woken up by slamming doors or fits of giggles or someone asking me for money to go buy soap or milk or bread or matches. A full house is definitely not a bad thing - especially when you love the people that are in it (and when half of them are there to take care of it!). But I don't think I've ever fully conceptualized just how much I miss having space to myself. This past summer I took advantage of amazingly generous and flexible friends and family to couch hop and house sit my way through three months at home. The logistics were insane - I think I drove at least seven cars (and 1 bike!), carried at least one bag of cat-pee stained clothes on the eBay shuttle to work one day, and had weekends where I slept in three different beds over three different nights. So personal space and an unfettered schedule has been in short supply over the last two years.

I'm feeling pretty great after this break, after some "me" time combined with some wonderful new friends in Addis and some additional perspective into the challenges facing East Africa. I'm also clearly home, as by 11:00 today I had:
a) heard from Daniel twice asking for money for his next month of training
b) received an email from a friend involved in one of the craft projects I support about how his life is being threatened as a result of some pretty horrific post-election events he was dragged into
c) received an unexpected visit from the manager of the Kipsongo Project I visited last month to pick up the Lifestraws donated last year (which upon opening we discovered had exploded and are all ruined - SO SAD)

So I'm definitely home. And I'm definitely up against the same things that remind me why I'm here, but also pose a serious challenge to finding the space (both physically and mentally) to get my work done. It seems so simple - go to the library, shut off your phone, knuckle down. I know this is what I need to do. But I find so much value in the relationships I've created here, they feel like why I came - and I just don't know how to make them a second priority. But I have to, and I'm hoping that the time and space of the last week will remind me that life goes on whether I'm in it or not, and being able to build on these relationships, experiences and the small opportunities to help people in need that I have found (and have been so incredibly supported in by my community) requires me to finish this degree and package myself in a more complete and effective way that I'm currently living being pulled in so many different directions. I think I make progress every day in setting boundaries and focusing my efforts, but at the end of the day I have a really important proposal to write and I need a little bit more of my Addis Ababa life and a little bit less of my Nairobi life in order to get it done.


Katie in Kenya said...

this is exactly what i needed to hear, thank you. i pray for you constantly and miss you even more! stay strong, and you can do this...if i can finish a 10 week online class in 4 days (which i'm attempting to do, major procrastination!) you can finish this proposal! love you, and cannot wait for our skype date :)

Megan said...

Thanks my dear - we will both do it and I so appreciate your prayers and friendship!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Megan for your welcome and all the encouragement.George Loris,kipsongo