A friend shared this today.
I’ve come to realize that longing is ok as long as it does not paralyze, as long as I slowly continue to embrace the life that has been given at this time, at this moment.
(Marilyn R Gardner “Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging”)
Since 2000, I’ve lived many days longing. That was the year that marked the end of a life of full time living in Africa.
This story was written 2006, just after a month long return visit (one of many) to my old stomping grounds in Abengourou, Ivory Coast, West Africa.
The Malian security guard comes to the house every night to discourage robbers and thieves. He arrives at dark and stays until sunrise.
When I was in the town of Abengourou (Ivory Coast West Africa), it was just me and the night guard. I did not have much to do to pass the evenings while in town because my friends were on home assignment in the US, and graciously let me use their place to crash. So when not out in the village, I was alone in this big old empty house, though it was nice and quiet, except for the evening crickets. In the village there were always people around, and things to do. The evenings always passed quickly.
Anyway, I knew Nouhou from years back when I was living in Abenourou with my family. He was now working for my friends. Nouhou and I talked a lot over that month. We would pick up achekkie and smoked fish from a street side vendor and have a great feast while laying on a mat on the drive way. We would eat and talk about his family in Ivory Coast, and his family up north near Timbuktu, Mali.
He and his brothers were in Ivory Coast for the sole purpose of making money to send home for the support of their families in northern Mali, who were terribly poor. He shared about how a drought had killed many of their families cattle the year before, and explained how the family up north had little left. He shared the frustration and discouragement he and his brothers face as they try to convince their family to leave their home and move further south away from the Sahara Desert, because it is simply to difficult to live there anymore. But you know how it is, how could the old people and chief and village leaders ever agree to the idea of abandoning their home of centuries?
When I was returned from the village on other evenings I would came out with an arm load of bananas and oranges and we would roll out the mats and lady down under the stars and eat like pigs and talk and laugh. You know that is the part of life I miss so desperately. When was the last time I laid out and looked at the stars in Canada?
In Africa people are so open to relationships. They take time for each other. Here in Canada we have to work so hard just to try and break into people’s lives. Often it is just seen as an intrusion, unless they initiated it. In Africa one has greater freedom to initiate things. There are days Africa and the people’s demands can suck the life right out of you. However, there are the times when they seem so patient with us and so eager to just “BE”- and BE with us.
I miss being so free to spend time with people who really want to spend time. I miss hanging in the hammock at night in the village just “being” and chatting. I miss our Malian guards and the time I spent under the stars with them.
Since first writing this story, I am now working as an invisible humanitarian, a community development worker in Nouhou’s country, Mali, 4-5 months each year. But little has changed about human nature over these ten years. No matter where we find ourselves in life, no matter what we are doing in life for a career, I think the thing we desire most in any place we find ourselves is a few friends to chat with, to hang in hammocks with, to be honest and true with, and twenty years later we still love them, and they still love us.
We have become people who have walked something together, over time.