Time for another leap into the universe! Last year I moved many times helping with the pandemic response, but not quite feeling settled or connected. So now I am embracing the life of Western Africa in Liberia.
I left the perfect house and a car which gave me freedom to go wherever, whenever to once again face daily challenges, seeking to find where I can make a difference. Another opportunity to practice mindfulness, out of necessity but also out of choice.
There is currently no fridge where I am staying. This means only fixing enough food for each meal or day or sharing leftovers with someone else or accepting it will be wasted. Milk, meat and sauces are limited to non-existent.
Being mindful at the street market to buy fresh produce with shelf life in mind but being open to what may be available or discovering a new favorite. Adapting the menu to what’s on hand or what needs to be used before it’s too late.
Embracing new choices. Learning how different does not mean less. Maybe ready access led to overindulgence or ignoring alternatives. Or maybe choices are just presented differently. Eggs can be bought by the flat of 30 or individually in any quantity you choose or need, and you must be careful to ask for either hard (already hardboiled) or raw to ensure you get what you want. Mayonnaise is sold by the tablespoon in small plastic packets and in the village, I can buy staples such as rice or sugar scooped from out of a large bag by the shopkeeper.
Finding the balance between buying what I need and eating what I have. Dinners are mainly communal, so at times others determine the menu but it is nice to share and not eat alone. Sometimes there is candlelight, either by choice or necessity, which give the food and faces a warm glow.
Getting back to the basics. Making a feast by focusing on enough.
Learning to read the sky instead of the weather app. Hoping for sufficient breeze and not too strong a sun which would fade the colors away.
Thinking of the generations who have done wash by hand, some in the past and current. Taking care of the wardrobe I am hoping will last while I am here. Thinking about the history of each piece as things are rinsed one by one. Starting with the least dirty items like pajamas and ending with my socks which have sand from the roads and trails I walked this week.
Mindful of the buckets of water that I am using as each must be filled at the pump and carried near the clothesline.
Watching the water go from clear to murky, hoping I am doing enough. Knowing others would do it differently after a lifetime of performing this necessary ritual.
Redefining what that means for me here and at this point in my journey. It has to be more than survival. It’s determined by a balance of today and a future I imagine. It is more qualitative than quantitative, more internal than external.
Working at a new job. Focusing on watching and listening what life and success look like here. Subtilities are important. Cultural cues and sensitivities can be easily overlooked or dismissed. Being careful what biases I have brought with me. Exposing myself to other measures or paths. Realizing that although there is always progress and change, things may not go as planned.
Being careful not to use my framework of what success looks like to judge others as they are using different definitions and metrics and success is experienced on an individual level.
Within the first two weeks of arriving, I experienced the passing of a close friend and significant health issues of two others from back home. Keenly aware that life is everchanging and none of us know just how fragile it is until health is negatively impacted.
What does healthy look and feel like? I am in the sixth decade in my body and there has been some drift. Although my youth is behind me, I am fortunate to be healthy enough to take this leap and live the life I choose.
My health will change while I am here. Closer to the equator, so the sun is especially intense to a blue-eyed person with fair skin that freckles as well as the stress of the heat. My diet is changing to adapt to what’s available with current resources.
Access to tv, Wi-Fi and even books is limited. Adjusting to expanses of quiet and making new connections but often find myself alone with my thoughts
I am hoping to experience many sunrises and sunsets and to stargaze through the darkness of the nights. I also hope to push my edges a little further, challenging limitations I have created myself.