Monday, August 25, 2008

It is the condition of most people in this world to go where they don't belong
Sorry, I couldn't help it. Btw, LOVE the random rant by the old guy in the middle.

Just got back to Juba today after a week of Cornish Headlands and Devon Cream Tea. With more than a few Bulmer's Ciders thrown in for good measure. England was fantastic, and just what I needed for a break. With Beatrice and her Beau we wandered around London and South West England where among other things we visited Tintagel, the claimed birthplace of King Arthur (people, read Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley NOW!!!) and got my art fix (as well as positively OD'd on Cream Tea. MMMMMMM). Every time I go to an art museum I immediately head for the impressionists and post-impressionists. Van Gogh, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Manet, Seurat, Pissaro, Renoir, Cezanne, Monet. I realized while imagining I could see the wind blow through Van Gogh's Cyprus trees in room 41 (or was it 43?) of the National Gallery that the company of these paintings makes me feel at home. There's no other way to describe it - the reason why I feel anxious if I take too much time in between visits, the reason why I immediately feel relaxed and exhale a sigh of relief when among their thick strokes of paint. No matter if these works of art hang in New York, St. Louis, London, Tokyo, or Paris, I feel the same way.

There is a quote from Thoreau that impressed a former colleague of mine that says "It is the condition of most people in this world to go where they don't belong." I feel as if I belong in places where I can experience art, history, beauty, and enjoy the sea, green hills, and a drink with friends in a pub otherwise filled with strangers. However, I don't "belong" in the 1860's, 70's and 80's when these movements flourished (along with the music and literature - I adore playing works by Debussy on the piano and two of my favorite authors are Baudelaire and Virginia Woolf) any more than I "belong" in Sudan at the moment.

The halfway mark of my time in Sudan is looming just ahead, 2 weeks away, and I feel it acutely. Sometimes I can be objective about my whole experience, but in the weeks leading up to my most recent R&R I kept thinking "I can't believe I have been here a year, and I don't know how I am going to get through the next one!" It also didn't help that Simba was sick and until today I have only seen him for 2 days in the last 5 weeks. I miss him when we're not together, he soothes my anxious mind and at the same time makes me feel like I have what it takes to take on the world. Plus it's hard to stay stressed when I am with someone about whom I can't help grinning just at the thought of.

What to do next it on my mind more and more, as is the feeling that I "should" start making plans and concrete goals for the next step in my career so I can start working towards them. But still, everything feels unsettled back here in Juba and I am not quite ready to leave - my department's program are trucking along, but there are still many elements to be fixed, the incredible opportunity from a donor to re-examine our entire approach to our work and build a cohesive and (hopefully) sustainable program for HIV prevention, and research to be done to evaluate the effectiveness of our programs. I am still in my tent, but slated to move into a more permanent place - same site, but a stone cottage with A/C, a kitchenette, hot water shower, and even a tv. It sounds unreal at this point compared to my current diggs, but insha'allah will happen sometime in September. It's a bit difficult to start planning this far in advance and still "be here, now" so I will inevitably put it off until later.

Until that as-yet-undetermined time, as a result of my break I have a new lease on life in Sudan, which should last me until my next R&R in late October: I bought loads of fancy-schmancy bath products (like conditioners and body washes) and a hair dryer, have a resolve to wear more makeup (to change things up a bit - have only worn makeup literally 3 times total in the past year, including New Years in DC!), and dyed my hair with blonde highlights. No, it's not the heinous abomination that you're thinking, just a few chunks UNDERNEATH the top layer that peek through the middle. It looks good, I promise, Beatrice can vouch. I'm not having a mid-post crisis, just trying to take better care of myself to make the second year in Sudan easier than the first. This has been the biggest roller coaster year of my life, and I want to slow the pace of year 2 down a bit to maybe that of a fun house - things won't be as they seem, and I will get tussled around a bit, but it won't throw me completely upside down leaving me disoriented and exhausted. Well, at least I can dream :)


1 comment:

Beatrice said...

I certainly can vouch for Petunia's highlights. They're subtle and lovely. And it was soooo great to have you here! Though I clearly don't go through the same things you do everyday, it was a "break" for me too. :)