EWB House, Toronto - Early Evening, August 31st, 2011
One by one they are leaving. The first JFs that head to the bus station or airport I say goodbye to before the reality of the situation hits me. By the end it is harder; I realize it is coming to a close. I wish I could share exactly what it is. The summer we were put in a completely foreign environment and told to fix stuff, research stuff, or implement stuff? No, it was more than simply that. A lot of personal dimensions were grown: adaptability, self-awareness, etc, etc. But, I think the thing that still amazes me are the relationships that were made. At the end of 4 months you find yourself surrounded by people you could have sworn you’d known your entire life. It was a summer that in moments revealed true, stripped down, authentic, character; and the circumstances we found ourselves in created bonds between those authentic selves. I think the beauty in something as unique as this summer is that it can never be fully explained. It’s like a mountain climber who takes a photo of the magnificent mountain she just summited. As beautiful as the photograph is, it’s still only 2-dimensional, it is only a snippet. You still have no sense of the mountain air smell, the emotion of conquering a challenging goal, the feel of frostbitten fingers, what the thoughts are running through her head – there are always dimensions missing that can’t be captured. Like the photograph, it’s going to be impossible to capture the summer in its entirety, but will I be able to share more than 2-dimensional snippets?
I just finished my exchange of goodbye hugs and promises to keep in touch with the last group of JFs leaving today. There are only a handful of us left at the EWB house who are leaving tomorrow morning.
I go upstairs to try and scrub the last bits of African dirt out from under my fingernails. I pause at the edge of the sink. It’s silly, but these little grains of sand are the last physical parts of me that are Zambian. At the end of the day, when the last grains of dirt are scrubbed from my hands, all that will remain are some blog posts, a couple meaningless wood carvings bought from a street vendor, who in hinsight probably didn’t even carve them himself, and my memories, which have a bad tendency of feeling like dreams.
There are a lot of things I don’t want to forget, a lot of questions I still want to ask, and a lot of people I don’t want to lose touch with; and I’m scared that the summer that was significant and tangible will spin into something fleeting and dream-like, just like the dirt is spinning down the drain in front of me.
But, I’m determined to keep the summer from fading, and I think the best way to do that is to share the experience, keep re-living those moments, and as hard as it is try to explain this summer with as many dimensions as possible; but, sometimes it’s just impossible to know where to start. So ask me about it.
Ask me about the time I biked to the village with Morgan. Ask me how frustrating it can be to constantly be called a Mzungu (white man), and how I had fun with it. Ask me what my favorite moments were, what my least favorite moments where. Ask me how good intentions are doing bad things in Chinjala Village. Ask me how ridiculous I seemed to rural farmers, what my nicknames were in the market, and why I can say with certainty that I’m not a vegetarian. The time I felt most foreign. The time I felt most at home. All the times I was so frustrated I wanted to jump off a bridge, then the time I actually did. Ask me about the cycle of poverty some Zambians are faced with, and ask me what is so uplifting about working with them. Ask me how difficult it is to explain evolution by candle light. Ask me about the office, and the prophecy that delayed my work by a week. Ask me my record for marriage proposals in one day. Ask me about the time I almost shit my pants, and the time I wish I shit my pants. Ask me anything. Honestly, ask me anything.
From a heart that has grown a country in size, and a head that’s bursting to share – Thanks for following my summer,