deep breaths today

It was only a matter of time before I experienced my first cry in Ghana. For days I have been drinking Ghana in with slow, smooth gulps. Wondering if I will ever want to go home. I have been surrounded by excited trainees for some time, and now it is time for me to make the two day journey to as far north as you can get to spend a few days with a current volunteer. While the first day I would be with a few others, the second I would be traveling alone. One new city to the next, and I felt nothing but empowered.

Once I reached my first destination, I plug in my laptop and begin the process of retrieving emails. The computer room is nearly empty - just Alan, our veteran PCV and a volunteer I had yet to really meet. Another email from mom. The best kind. I scan it and smile, nothing like small email talk when you are away. As it comes to a close she tells me that a childhood friend has been killed this past week.

And my heart breaks in three.

I think of how this will affect my childhood friends, how they will all have to hold each other through it all. I think of his siblings, and oh God, his mother. And I am here, cut off, with strangers that have become a hundred times more strange. This is bound to happen. People will get sick, people will die, and I will be here.

I announced it to the two in the room as if they needed to know. And they did, because I was about to lose it, and I would be damned if they thought it was because I couldn’t handle a simple “wish you were home” email from the states. I tried to blink away tears and she asks me if my friend is going to be ok.

“No. His funeral is today.”

Alan turns to her and attempts small talk and I was stunned to realize I would be mourning this alone.

She asks if I will be alright. All I can do is nod and she makes her exit. I attempt the same shortly after.

“Are you okay?” he asks, looking up from his emails.

“No,” I breath. And I breath again and again, short loud breaths.

“Why don’t you stay here awhile? There is no rush to go back. Relax.” He turns to me and tells me stories from his previous PC years and I listened harder than ever, trying to drown the thoughts of being so far from home, trying to see his face through eyes thick with tears. When he has nothing left to say, I swallow and smile. “Thank you, Alan.”

I made my way back and am overwhelmed by a dozen volunteers laughing, eating, and trying to find floor space to sleep. The night didn’t quiet down for hours. I lay awake plagued with panic attacks until the sun came up. The few times I drifted off to sleep I dreamt of home, being home, and woke up to the realization that it would be quite some time before I would be home. And between dreams I thought, “Really Maria? So soon? Does your heart ache so soon?”

Be brave Maria. Please be brave.

I am the first one up and have another day of travel. The intense urge to cry has yet to fade. I arrive at the loury station confused and tired, only to realize that my tro would not be leaving for a few hours. I find my place on a bench among teenage boys selling handkerchiefs and made-in-china radios. Malek is the only one who speaks English and decided that he will continue to speak English until I am on my way. He lectures me on not being able to greet him in the local language and I sadly nod in agreement as I’m thinking, "well Malek, I would have to know a new greeting in a new language every 10 steps in this country". But at least I’m not completely alone.

He goes on and on and I stare ahead wondering what he would do if I tear up.

“I think it is very important that you (Americans) are here to teach. It is better that way.”

“Hmmmm. You think?” I respond, hardly listening to him and wondering if I’ll have the energy to get some breakfast before my 4 hour tro ride.

“Yes, I do. It is better.”

He goes on about education. And I keep swallowing, wondering if I will make it to a new foreign city by nightfall.

“Mariah. What are you here to do?”

“Health.” I’m still staring ahead at nothing, wearing a blank face.

“Mmmmm,” he whispers. “Thank you very much.”

I turn to look at Malek straight in his African eyes, and search until I find it. And sure enough I do: he means it. He was so genuine it overwhelmed me.

I took another short, deep breath and was reminded that while today I may not be brave, while today it is taking every cell inside of me not to cry, I am here. I am here for a purpose.

“You are welcome, Malek”


Sarah said…
I think (and have always believed) you are a fabulous writer. This blog post is so well written. You write so descriptively I feel like I'm there along with you. I love you & miss you so much.
The Evangelist said…
Hey thre!

Thank you for your fantastic blogging. This is a tremendous effort.


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