Robert killed a snake at the gate this morning. I sat on his guard table watching people walk by, pointing at the dead reptile, some jumping of out shock, others poking it with sticks. I had just returned from visiting Aaron, who I had found out the night before has malaria and a boil/ulcer. I walked along the dusty road in the early morning, but the traffic and commotion was already in full force. Aaron emerged from his bedroom looking tired. We had tea. He commented on how little sugar I put in my tea. He reminded me of how little salt I had put on the food I had prepared for him a few weeks ago. He showed me his ulcer. I gave him Arthemethine to treat the malaria. His children walked in and out of the room. His youngest daughter cries when she is brought too close to me. Then two of Aaron’s friends dropped by for a short visit. When we were finished talking, Aaron walked me out onto the street. On the side of the road, he expressed his desire, once again, to study in a Bible school abroad. I didn’t know how to best respond. I mentioned options in Tanzania, and possibilities of traveling to Nairobi for further opportunities… more realistic opportunities. I don’t really know what my responsibility is or what it should be. It’s a sadness I don’t know how to deal with, a reality that is the product of multifarious factors seemingly beyond anyone’s control. I can’t make any promises, even the promise of trying because I don’t know what should be encouraged and what should not. I walked home in the heat, sweating. And then we looked at the dead snake.
There’s not much reason.
When I was in India last month, I hit my head on the roof of a car as the driver sped through broken roads up a mountain that boasted the tea plantations of Sikkim. The scar healed last week. Today, during the church service in Tanzania, I bent down from my pew to get my bag and managed to hit that exact same spot on my forehead on the bench in front of me. The scar has returned, full circle.
On September 25, I wrote: My continual discomfort here in Dar es Salaam, the haven of peace, is rather disconcerting. In many ways this city is inhospitable to the foreigner – the language, the lack of electricity or running water, the lack of service, the attitude, the inconsistencies, the paradoxes, the noise, the dust, the traffic, the accidents, the malaria, the desperation. Until you familiarize yourself intimately with these issues, you are made vulnerable, disappointed, confused, hungry, dirty, and highly self-aware. I feel sedated. Inactive, incapable, sterile, stagnant. So this is what it means to survive for the sake of survival. This is existence insufficient in motivation, energy, passion. I need to exercise my brain my body and my spirit. Now I understand why I’ve been sick ever since I arrived. I have no reason to live a dead life. It’s time to create.
The reality is that my greatest frustrations and deepest melancholy came with me from home. Living here, or anywhere for that matter, is otherwise easy.
The truth is that I’ve made a concerted effort to lead a righteous life, and respect the tenets by which I have chosen to live. But somehow I’ve forgotten how to love in the process. The fiercest wars are fought within the confines of the mind.
So this is what they call growing pains. It’s a constant struggle to remind myself of the vital distinction between want and need. I want to change but I don’t want to experience the inevitable pain involved in that transformation. I want so badly to love, but have difficulty doing so when I so badly want to hate. I need to love. Time to return to the fundamentals and block out all the petty distractions that break us apart in the first place.
I walked back from Rachel’s room after watching another episode of the Sopranos. I walked out somewhat defeated, having acknowledged the problem and subsequently cowering at its face. In my mind I confront everything head on in high tension, yet in reality I seem to only retreat. It is a world of seclusion, a world of utmost loneliness, and it welcomes defeat.
But every night I truly marvel at the stars. Tonight I saw a cluster of dim lights around a collection of bright stars, and imagined that I had chanced upon another star system. The sky is smooth and clear at night, the clouds mere decorations on the margins. The stars here are bright fireflies. The coconut tree is taller at night. I want the night to be my blanket, a veil to shelter me. But I’ve been bitten by mosquitoes in a malaria infested area. But it’s hot and I’m sweating. But there are ants and worms on the ground that I walk upon. But moths are eating my clothes. Yet I want so desperately to be immersed in this environment, to be an opportunist, to not let such a moment of chance slip by unused. I will be leaving Tanzania is less than a month, and I think I’m excited. I think I’m looking forward to leaving, or maybe more so just to enter a new place. But I’m afraid. I’m afraid that I haven’t done a good enough job of making the most out of my time here. I’m afraid that things will all end too quickly. I’m afraid that I’ll have regrets. I’m afraid that I’m simply not skilled in this area, whatever that may be. I’m afraid that I’m not entirely willing to accept the reality of the situation, or to admit anything affirmatively to others in public.
I miss being able to talk to people about things.