Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Out of Africa
As you can imagine, this photos was not taken in Lira, Uganda. (behind Dad's new boat in Colorado)
The last three years of my life cannot be described in absolutes, nor can the people of Uganda be described in a blog posting. I can say absolutely, however, that I found another piece of myself in Uganda. By engaging in a culture radically different from my own, I have shaken off big pieces of what both cultures have led me to believe as true or right and now live knowing fewer truths, but holding them stronger. It is difficult to hold these worldviews simultaneously. Someone told me in church yesterday, that "our true selves only emerge after being put through trying experiences", using the analogy of a teabag being placed in hot water (a proper English analogy).
I like analogies, more so, I like twisting or stretching their meaning past the original intention. If I am a "teabag" and have been placed in hot water through my experience in Uganda, and am now being placed in another cup of hot water in London, I ask myself, "Is my flavor going to run out or get weak?" Before landing in London, I was accepted into a PhD programme for the therapeutic care of refugees at Essex University. I also decided that I was going to find a job and work full time. In other words, I wanted to put the same used teabag into another cup of boiling hot water. After some prayer and reflection, I decided that I needed something else this year. As a counsellor, I have given advise about self care to many burnt out, disillusioned, cynical, and angry workers who have depleted their energy, ambition, hope and meaning. I made the tough decision to seek spiritual and psychological restoration over my drive to excel academically and professionally. I will not be joining the PhD course this year.
What this will look like is still unfolding, but I already have a good start. I am looking for part time work and voluntary opportunities with agencies who work therapeutically with refugees (and have a few leads). I am creating enough space to respond spontaneously to artistic and intellectual events. I have already attended public lectures by : Lord Nick Stern (leading climate change activist), Luis Moreno-Ocampo (Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court) and tonight Thomas Friedman (of the NY Times). I am also looking for ways to rejuvenate spiritually, both in community and individually. I will still be attending the most interesting class of the PhD programme called "Working with Refugee Families". I also realized that overloading myself with work and school would distract from my desire to be more available and loving to Holly, so one of my goals is to be a better support to her this year. And, I have joined the LSE orchestra! We had rehearsal last night and I am overjoyed to be playing cello again. Lastly, I wanted some time to think about and potentially start fundraising for a very exciting idea that has been surfacing regarding an initiative with war-affected youth in Uganda next year (Ask me more!).
So, family and friends, go get another teabag. Life is too short to spend it spent.