Transitions

Last night as I was falling asleep that familiar feeling crept over me; I haven’t felt this in the last year in the states. It originates deep in my emotional core, an aching recognition of isolation and loneliness from living in a strange place on a continent 8000 miles from home. Washing over me for a minute or two it is enough to jolt me back into the reality of the choice I have made to depart from family, friends, security, and comfort to seek adventure, teach, and explore a new culture.

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Prudence, language and cultural trainer, note the UGGS and winter coat!

For a fragment of time, it gives me pause to doubt my choice yet somehow it passes and I can move forward….

I am featuring Zoey in this blog; she is with me every moment and I miss her every day.  She gave me the ultimate gift of complete freedom….and I am so grateful, but my heart still aches over the loss of her beautiful spirit.

Our abbreviated training in Swaziland started on the 15th after spending 10 days in DC in training. We have been immersed in language and cultural training, safety and security, Swazi nursing practice and education, and PC policy and procedures. Housed temporarily in a training site, dorm style, we were all anxious to move to our permanent housing and settle in where we can cook for ourselves and have some privacy.

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my kitchen

I have eaten enough fried chicken and fish now for a decade. Our meals have been prepared daily (wonderful luxury) and they are plentiful and overall pretty healthy. LOTS of veggies, rice, potatoes and usually chicken or fish for dinner, eggs and oatmeal for breakfast, and lunch a mix of things. We take our meals together and classes together so we are pretty tired of each other but all in all our group gets along well. Age range is 28-70 and there are 2 trailing spouses, 9 volunteer nurse educators.

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Sworn in !

Our housing is at University of Swaziland (UNISWA) though I work at Southern Africa Nazarene University, about a 10-15 minute drive.  There are 6 of us at this housing site which makes it nice as we can share transportation and play games at night.  No tv or wifi, but the wifi was installed yesterday and we are keeping our fingers crossed that it works tomorrow.  Using the phone as a hot spot works as long as there is 3G network, but very unpredictable.

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View of the Swazi mountains from campus

Swaziland, nestled in the northeast corner of South Africa, has a pretty good infrastructure in terms of roads, power, and water supply and is fairly modern compared to Malawi where I was for 2015-16. However, the country was devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and is still recovering. Here are a few statistics:

  • Population roughly 1.14 million
  • 17, 000 square km
  • 35-45% is HIV + (age and sex dependent)
  • new infections have decreased by 44%
  • average life span for female is 56, male 49
  • US gave $68 million in PEPFAR funding for HIV/AIDS in Swazi in 2017
  • Average annual income is $3135 (World Bank 2015)
  • 5% unemployment
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frig gone for repairs

With that background, the seemingly up to date infrastructure takes on a new meaning…..things are not what they seem. This country has one of the few remaining monarchies. King Mswati III was crowned at 18 and has been ruling ever since. He is 49 and has been King since 1986.

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Polygamy has been widely accepted on the African continent since the beginning of time. To that end, King Mswati has recently chosen his 16th wife and he has 32 children. The king is chosen on the death of the ruling king when he is the only son of one of the king’s wives, regardless of age.

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Time for dinner and more fried chicken! One of the bonuses here is returning home from a long day and picking up some chicken to go at a local BBQ stand. They call it chicken dust because of the dust collecting on the cooking chicken as it deposits from passing road traffic. Gotta have a sense of humor!!!

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kettles galore, tea is BIG here

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Full Out!

Like so many other things I pick up and then put down in my life, yoga seems to have disappeared from my practice in the last year. The relaxation, physical flexibility, and insights gained from regular practice are necessary for me to live more peacefully and with ease. I hadn’t acknowledged just how stressed, tense, and anxious I have been for the last three months until settling into my Kripalu retreat with Kate at this wonderful sanctuary. The center is dedicated to the spiritual practices of yoga, meditation, mindfulness and promotes principles of ayurvedic healing and food preparation.

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Kate at Kripalu

The food is MARVELOUS, and though we are staying in a “dorm” with 6 other women, it is quiet, the beds (bunk) are VERY comfy, and all the amenities are available. Breakfast is taken in silence and cell phones are prohibited in all public areas so it is magically quiet and serene.

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Carter, Jackson, and Holt

For the last several months I have been juggling several balls in the air, not knowing if, when, or where I was going with Peace Corps. This was frustrating to say the least after the rigors of medical and security clearance that also took months.  Though I had an inkling I would be assigned to Swaziland, it had not been officially confirmed and then we were notified that the funding had not been released so we were uncertain if the program would move forward.

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Suz and Bentley

I have been living out of suitcases and boxes for the last three years since I sold my home in Reading. Since my return from Malawi last July I have had 4 different addresses, living no more than 2-4 months in any one place. This has been a logistical nightmare in terms of receiving mail in a timely way as well as really never feeling “at home” anywhere. My nesting instincts have become increasingly acute though I have stripped my belongings down to the bare minimum, at least what I move around with. I still have over 4500 pounds in storage so I have not made as much progress in that department as I had hoped.

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Carrie in Boca

We received confirmation that the program had been fully funded a week ago, just in the nick of time. If delayed another week, they would have cancelled the program for the year due to logistics etc. While all the uncertainty had been building over the last few months, I was faced with the added challenge of choosing a path that was most in alignment with my highest good. That is a challenge on a normal day but the Universe had served up some additional distractions and opportunities that began confusing and tempting me.

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dearest Mom

In May, I met John…blind date, Denver. We have been inseparable ever since. How is it possible that I am offered this amazing man during a time of potential separation by 9775 miles? John is a former Peace Corps Volunteer (Brazil 1973) so he understands the desire, the service, the adventure. He has fully supported me, aligned with the spirit of the program, and has expressed his own desire and interest in joining me for much of the year and finding his own niche there.

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Me and Johnnie

The principle of aligning with our soul’s purpose and carrying that forward in the world has never been more present in my life. From a story in the Bhagavad Gita,

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Crested Butte, LOVE!

Considering your dharma, you should not vacillate,” Krishna instructed Arjuna. The vacillating mind is the split mind. The vacillating mind is the doubting mind—the mind at war with itself. “The ignorant, indecisive and lacking in faith, waste their lives,” says Krishna. “They can never be happy in this world or any other. Acting in unity with your purpose itself creates unification. Actions that consciously support dharma have the power to begin to gather our energy. These outward actions, step by step, shape us inwardly. Find your dharma and do it. And in the process of doing it, energy begins to gather itself into a laser beam of effectiveness.

Krishna quickly adds: Do not worry about the outcome. Success or failure are not your concern. It is better to fail at your own dharma than to succeed at the dharma of another. Your task is only to bring as much life force as you can muster to the execution of your dharma.”

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Biking in Colorado

The decision to depart, despite this loving partnership, has been agonizing to say the least.   In the end, I had to listen to my soul and make a choice from a place of the deepest loyalty to my self, my spirit, my heart and trust that the rest would align with that.

This month is filled with travel….Kripalu, Denver, Florida, VT and ultimately to DC on the 5th of September for a week of training before departing for Swaziland on the 14th. I am relying on the generosity of the Universe to line things up behind me in the swirling vortex of the unknown that will manifest as a result of this choice!

I will be engaging full out!!!

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This is who I want to be when I grow up

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor Frankl

 

https://kripalu.org/resources/second-pillar-do-it-full-out