Homesickness for what no longer exists continually crept into my heart over the last few days. How does most of me know it’s an anniversary before my brain realizes it? Are anniversaries of the tragic somehow more indelible than anniversaries of the joyous?
Besides the longing and the missing, my brain muddled life segments over the last few days. I insisted to friends I have one cookie sheet without sides; almost 24 hours later I realized I used to own cookie sheets without sides.
It hasn’t been just cookie sheets. Books, music, shoes, linens, appliances all point to an elsewhere life. It’s . . .tropical rains . . . my own classroom . . . O – 0 – O – 0 – 0 – o – Miss O . . . hugs galore . . . almost 12 hours of daylight followed by almost 12 hours of night . . . the market . . . community like none other . . . househelp . . . bargaining for vegetables . . . copious amounts . . . of cheap basil . . . students 24/7 . . . street food . . . friends close by . . . ceiling fans whirling non-stop . . . the best bananas ever . . . bananas from the plants in front of my window . . . greetings that pass quickly or last for what seems like forever . . . Harmattan sunsets . . . and a few thousand other things that escape the grasp of my mind but linger just out of reach.
Of course there are things I’m glad to be done with like the mold of rainy season . . dust, dust and more dust in dry season . . . sweat trickling down the back of my scalp and pooling at my heel . . . the market . . . learning that my apartment was clutter free because all my loose papers were boxed up and hidden in the back of the closet . . . fire crickets . . . snakes . . . having to figure out how to make everything from English muffins to a tasty marinade that will also tenderize meat . . . grading . . . all staff meetings . . . the neighbor’s microwave that sounds just like my alarm clock . . . bargaining for vegetables and everything else . . . intestinal parasites . . . blind roosters (really—some of them had no clue when sunrise was) . . . the next door chicken farm after a big rain . . . scrounging for resources . . . and a few hundred other things I haven’t had to deal with for eight years.
Eight years ago there was less than a week to come to grips with the idea that it was ending. Denial and reality mingled in ways that allowed comfort, moving forward, and choking sobs.
In the last eight years the diaspora, as hard as it has been, led to much blessing. Other schools in West Africa have grown and changed because ICA no longer exists. What I’ve been called to has morphed and multiplied. I see more of my family than I ever could’ve had I continued to live in Africa.
My thoughts still drift back to Job. He lost so much. God restored so much more.
I’m no Job. Yes, I’ve lost much. God has restored so much.
The truth is that even though the community is spread throughout the world, the relationships remain. Eight years later, they’ve lost the familiarity of the every day, but they’ve gained the strength of intentionality.
My college pastor regularly repeated, “There are only two things that last forever—people and the Word of God.” Eight years after evacuation I know the truth of that in ways I couldn’t imagine when I was in college.
Homesickness and reflection go together like poulet chaud and attieke.
photo courtesy of Maneno.org