Le départ.

16 June 2017

It’s T-minus-one day until my departure from Benin.

My research has gone incredibly well, and thanks to a string of non-rainy days and hard working translators, I’ve changed my ticket to leave a week earlier than planned. I’m thrilled to be heading to the south of France for some time to breathe, to unwind, to process this transition and some residual baggage that I’d like to have sorted out before tackling the next adventure.  But I’m also sad to be leaving this place, where I’ve spent over three years of my life. 

It’s a different leaving this time; when I waved goodbye to my dear village friends nearly six years ago after two and a half years of life together, I thought it was forever. I remember the leaders of a previous service trip I had done telling everyone to please not tell the kids we were serving that you would see them again, that you’d be back. The last few days together are incredibly emotional, and you might feel with everything you are that you couldn’t possibly continue on in life without coming back here, and the kids are sad and you want to comfort them by saying you will come back, promising you will come back… but nearly always, without fail, you’ll get back to America, to your life there, and things that maybe seemed less important when you were hugging the necks of the needy across the globe feel more important when they are right in front of you, and you have to think of your family, and money, and time, and the zillions of other things that fill our American consciousness… and the promise is forgotten, and the kids are disappointed yet again, and stop believing the promises of the foreigners, and instead grasp on to foreigner visits as what they really turned out to be; not relationships or people who care deeply, but rather people who come to give them things, so they learn to take advantage while they can.  It’s problematic in so many ways, and not easily repaired; but as a start, please don’t promise them anything... especially your return.

It resonated with me deeply, those instructions, and still echo throughout, every time I come to the end of things; which, on this journey of mine, has been more times that I can keep track of.  When I left Benin those years ago, I knew it was possible I might return, in the same way anything is possible for an adventurous nomad like me. But when I said goodbye, in my mind, it was a permanent goodbye. But somehow, in my heart, it never was. I’ve always felt I’ve left a piece of myself here. It’s always been in my head that I need to come back, in a way that I’ve never felt for any other place I’ve visited.  But I held it loosely as I hold most things, and when the journey brought me full circle and I returned, I felt that little bit of myself slip back into place.

I carried a lot of invisible baggage from this place; baggage that doesn’t need to be shared but needed to be sorted out and forgiven and redeemed.  And this last eleven months, it has been everything I needed it to be.  I’ve encountered incredible, beautiful, loving people who have left me feeling nothing but hope and contentment in this place. I can look back on my time here with joy and not with regret. I can remember fondly this place, and not feel as though I have unfinished business here. 

And as I process through this, I realize, I won’t miss it here, the way I don’t really miss any one place.  I remember fondly every place I’ve been, and I would love to return to some of those places once again, but somehow the feeling of ‘missing’, of longing to be elsewhere… I don’t feel that, and I’m glad I don’t feel that.  Because I want to be present completely, in whatever place or whatever company I find myself in.  I don’t want to feel as though I’ve left a part of my heart elsewhere.  My heart is so full; so grateful for the journey, for the players in the story, whether in big roles or small, and I’m looking forward with anticipation that which is to come.

So as I walk through yet another departure, without any guarantee or promise of return, I will squeeze out every drop of glory I can.  Final visits with people I love, filling my face with peanuts and pineapples and other deliciousness that just isn’t the same anywhere else, last photos and smiles and gifts and kisses and treasured moments that last to eternity.  I love this place, I love these people, and I hope and pray I have the opportunity to return one day.

1 comment :

  1. Thanks for sharing your heart...always


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