The other day, I had an expat family drop by on the way to Bamako.
I know their family had just decorated their place for Christmas, as I saw their beautiful pictures on FaceBook. When they arrived we were all chatting, but outside my office door one of the kids excitedly asked,
“Do you have a Christmas tree? Where are your decorations? It’s Christmas you know!”
I had to tell the poor kid that I do have a snoopy tree, two feet tall, in a box somewhere. Oh and I have string of lights too. But I have not bothered to dig them out yet.
I still haven’t. Yes, kind of pathetic.
The eel net episode continued today as im booked the rest if the week. I did many thousands of hand stitches today and got one net together, yet far from done with seven hoops to sew on yet.
I have been doing without a few other things since I arrived, besides the Christmas Tree.
For four and a half flipping weeks I could not find any nail clippers at the house, or on my trips through the market. So I resorted to trying to trim my toe nails with a tiny pair of scissors from a medical kit we had. They looked like a miniature version of those cheap paper scissors we used to have in school years ago. They were useless, and barely cut, but i used them. I finally found a pair of nail clippers, and oh what a comfort to have in your life. I immediate trimmed all my nails hands, and feet. It felt so flipping nice. The things we take for granted right? I don’t actually work, I’m here doing spa days with paper scissors.
I did not stop working on the eel nets until 2 AM Sunday morning. I went to have a shower, and as i brushed my teeth I looked at myself in the mirror and realized how old I am. I forget. I mean seriously, I forget. I sill think I am thirty. How did I get to be 49? I used to be a red head, or auburn. I am simply all grey now. Just look at this head… I snapped this pic in the mirror.
Well, since I did not have any real scissors in the place all long….. and now I had two pairs I bought Saturday for cutting out the nets. I looked at the bush on the top of my head, and I went and grabbed these babies.
Yep, the Tailoring sheers and I set to work on my grey, and rapidly thinning on top, head. I cut and slashed at the grey hair. The Grey, and in some cases white even, balls of hair fell in the sink, and on the floor. There was really no other color left on my head, other than grey and white, nothing else that I could see.
I can’t say that I was having a mid-life crisis at 2:30 AM on a Sunday, just before Christmas. That would imply I care. But I have to admit, I looked old, and was not overly impressed about at in the moment.
Old eyes, and an old grey head to go with it.
Here was the end result. A rather pathetic looking grey old man.
Is that really me? I don’t even recognize me anymore. I rarely spend time in front of a mirror these last few years.
Even the red beard is going grey these days. Not much of a prize left for my lady Lynn, unfortunately. Some reception she will get with this mug, in a few weeks, when she arrives.
I got to asking myself, as I snipped at my hair, with $3 Chinese Tailoring shears,
Andy, how many more years do you have left in Africa? I’ll be sixty years old in only eleven more years.
That realization sank in as I settled into my bed at 2:37 am after my eel net making day, and a deluxe haircut at the salon… or is that saloon
There is so much left to do, and I am beginning to realize, in a few short years I am not going to be around to do it.
Who needs an invisible cape? The Invisible Humanitarian is getting old.
Who will live so free of the box that you are ready to walk away from all that you have there. To begin here?
Let me tell you about my experience, and the experience of 99% of the international workers I know.
We have been through some great things, and some difficult things, some have experienced down right tragedies, and a rare few others, I would say, even experienced horrific things.
However, after over 20 years in and around West Africa, and rubbing shoulders with global people, I have never once heard a person, or there children say,
“I wished I (we) had never gone to live there.”
They might comment about how difficult some time, some experiences were, but nearly all add the caveat,
“I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything else in the world.”
I know how they feel. Nether would I. But in a few years I will have to.
Hey You, you the apple Iphone young couple, with your degree in ****** . I have only one thing to say to you.
Drop your plans, and get you ass over here to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the former Soviet Bloc countries. Don’t waste my, and your time with your two week trip. That has it’s place, but that is not what I am calling you to.
Sink your life overseas, for a good number of years. You, and your children will never, ever, be the same again. It will be hard at times, but it will be good too.
But I will warn you. You become haunted for the world in a way your friends back home will never fully comprehend. You will have a restless soul. You will no longer feel at home anywhere, probably never again.
But it is oh so good.
I have a magic cape I will mail you. While I am at it, I can also send along those FirstAid kit scissors to clip your toe nails, and these $3 tailor Shears too, you know, for cutting your young, not grey, pretty hair.