Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin

Launching the African adventure

Last week I unwound, relaxed and worked, all in the lovely setting of Ben's parents' home in Northport, WA. We'd sleep early-ish, wake up late-ish, feed the horses and romp with the 5 dogs (Hazine, Took, Callie, Nikita and Weasel), work and finish to-do's, then spend the afternoon exploring and birdwatching. Big grey stormclouds intertwined with blue sky patches all week; we'd come in from our day half-sunburnt but our pantlegs wet to the knee from hiking in rain-drenched brush. One day we flushed a turkey along the ridge behind the house, then gathered a bouquet of arrowleaf balsamroot, indian paintbrush, and lupine for Ben's mom. Another day we caught a cinnamon black bear meandering across a dirt road before he melted away into the trees again. And we drove through the border crossing to have Japanese food in the mountain bikers' haven of Rossland. The week closed with sadness, though, for Ben's grandmother took ill and was hospitalized. He is still in Washington now, with his family.

And I? I am still training the burble of the blackbirds calling from cattails in the pond behind that house. I am drinking in the last of Western civilization in a hotel room made of hi-speed internet, a king-sized bed, and the hottest, longest shower I could stand. I had Greek yogurt and microwave noodles for dinner, the noodles heated by the cooks at the neighboring Hilton Garden Inn. We chatted for a bit while they polished the silverware, about retaining language (they were from El Salvador) and about the beautiful of countries far away. Tomorrow, a string of flights - Ethiopia, to Kenya, to Tanzania. I meet Christy in the Kilimanjaro Airport on Tuesday evening, we travel to Arusha together and will stay there until Friday.

The past week has been so rich and full of realization. I came to love the pride of the self-admitting "small-town" Northportans, the great distances between ourselves and the next neighbor, and the peace of standing outside with a cup of coffee, watching the horses meander through the pasture below while the swallows perched anest or darted for morning insects. I became spoiled from spending every waking moment of every day with Ben, learning his life and getting to know his parents, relatives and family. They are all so full of sparkle and energy; I feel their lives keenly. 

But now it is this evening, and I am casting myself adrift on another adventure - this time not to find myself but to do good work for someone who perchance can benefit from my skill. But I know better, and I wonder what I will find of myself in a place where I will be singularly recognizable and very, very far away from home. I wonder what I will lose of myself among the grasses, what will blow away on those bluffs, what I will give to the wild and to the indomitable people that I know I will meet there. And then, how will I bring this back to the world to make it better?

I told myself I would reflect on the past three years and try to make some sense of it.. but I am slowly realizing that my time at Duke has been so intense and so lengthy that it may only come clear through distance. I have not yet decided what I should squeeze out of this summer, and I vow to know it before I reach Noloholo and the African People & Wildlife Fund.

I won't have a chance to write in the next few days, but I hope to chronicle my adventures as well as I did last year. The internet will be less certain, but my resolve is greater. And so, to bed, and then to the beginning of the middle of everything.
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