By Amy Paulson (Reposted from The Gracias Foundation, now called Global Gratitude Alliance)
At 6.30am on September 5th, I landed at Zurich airport after an ultra intense three weeks of field work, monitoring and evaluations, diligence, project research, and more – not to mention manual farm and house work, and more importantly, spending precious time with the local kids.
It’s now one week later and I’m just now starting to clear my head.
Traveling in Africa can be an overload of the senses and the emotions.
In the rainy season, things just smell differently than they do in the dry season. My nose sniffs out the scent of dampness in the air, the earthiness of mud puddles all around, peppery spices and rich vegetable stews, and coffee beans roasting over hot coals.
I see and hear goats whining as they walk down streets, competing for the right of way (and winning) over cars and people. Chickens piled up on the top of a van shriek defiantly at their fate. And, there’s always a faint sound of music wafting in the air – maybe drumming, maybe hip hop or traditional, maybe just a passerby humming something beautiful to herself.
But most of all, it’s the emotions that overwhelm: Stress from travel delays and traffic jams putting dents in my daily jam-packed work plans. Frustration then quiet acceptance that doing something seemingly simple, like getting connected to the Internet, can take 6 days of work experimenting with different devices and carriers. Pride when seeing children shriek with pure joy and laughter, in a way that I’d never before seen from them, during dancing, drumming, or acrobatics classes – programs that our generous donors sponsored to give them a sense of purpose, self-esteem, and belief in their own potential. And, longing – to do everything necessary to ensure that the incredible people that we serve have the necessary opportunities available to create dignified and independent lives.
Finally, intense gratitude for the gift of this work that I get to do every day.
All these thoughts, senses, and emotions swirl together while my tired brain tries to process everything (steam coming out of my ears) until my body finally fights it, telling me: Stop. Rest. Be still. Clear your head.
It’s now a week later, and I’ve done just that. And, I’m now ready for more.