This winter I am struggling to keep my ballance as I live in Canada, without the usual term in Africa. Readers know the factors that required us to delay our return to the Sub-Sahara Africa.
Being in Canada this winter has re-opened my eyes to a few realities that get sidelined by my wintery African tunnel vision.
At times I forget that the folks back home pay a price, even if they do so willingly, for me to serve overseas. (I have never, ever, not even once heard a disparaging comment from them). They do everything from looking after our house, seeing that bills are paid, needed repairs undertaken, that snow is removed from the roof and steps, that vehicles are maintained, that my sons are doing ok, the list goes on and on.
The commercial fishing gear upkeep that my father shouldered while I was in Africa was serious work. Now I am the Captain, he is retired, so, my new responsibilities have seriously increased.
It has been refreshing to reconnect with the wintery Canadian traditions surrounding christmas, the new year, and digging out those long since unused mittens to shovel snow. Enjoying working in the fishing workshop as I build Lobster Traps with my son, and follow up the African projects from this side of the ocean. Enjoying reconnecting with my family, friends, the culture, customs and rhythms of my home community with a larger span of unbroken time.
Yet, with my hands gestured in the air, I humbly confess I don’t understand the rhythms of my community or my tribe, anymore.
I am finding myself in the same position here as I was in West Africa back in 1995. Learning, in this case relearning, everything about a life invested here in Canada without an africa time inserted in the middle.
I feel hesitant. Afraid of becoming consumed by this life in Canada.
It would be so easy, so reasonable, so rational even, to stay put and chose not to return to Africa this year. It would not only be easy, but also very acceptable, approved by most, if we chose to stay put in Canada and invest everything we have into our jobs, home, cars, boats, motorcycle, preparing for retirement, sons, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, nieces and nefews, and especially aging and slowly failing parents.
It would be startlingly easy to say to my family, friends and community, “Enough! I am not going to ask you to cover for me while I am in Africa anymore. Now it’s my turn to give back to you.”
I do not know how to do this full-time Prince Edward Island life any more, but I have been tossed into it this winter because of the Mali situation.
So, here we are, empty handed people relearning how to do life in Canada, while at the same time resisting the canada life vortex that tries to keep us here all year round.
How do you fully invest in life here, when this is not your whole life? How deeply can you pour into the deep riches and relationships of this life in front of you in Canada, without ripping up roots from the other in Africa?
So, I must ask for one more thing while I am here with you in Canada. I ask for your patience.
Though I am here, parts of my being are still “from away”(*), and I’m trying to get the more helpful parts of me back here, for now, without the Invisible Humanitarian giving up on Africa.
(* “From Away” – term Prince Edward Island people use for people living on PEI, but not native born residents of PEI, having only move here from another place)