Monday, November 9, 2009

Small miracles

The sunlight is an explosion of gold filtering through the dust kicked up by skipping feet, shuffling hooves, spinning wheels and ricochets off the fiery orange uniforms that silhouette the bodies of the children who fill the primary school yard. It lasts only a moment before our Jeep has passed on heading back into the city, but that's long enough for me to see that the scene has changed in the hour since I last passed this way, heading out of town to the airport. Dad must be on his bus headed for Garoua by now, just one more adventure in living in Cameroon as the airplane which was supposed to be transporting him has been detained in Garoua, the next provincial capital, 2.5 hours away, because of the dust in the air here. As I begin the return to my everyday life as a volunteer once more, the transformation of this simple schoolyard scene, which I pass by without a second glance on any given day, makes it clear that my vision has shifted.
Among Peace Corps Volunteers, the collective wisdom maintains that around 11-15 months of service (I'm at 14 right now), disillusionment and impatience with the system are commonly-experienced emotions. While a year is certainly long enough to experience the difficult side of living in, and interacting with, any place, it's easy to let that overwhelm you and cause you to lose sight of the beautiful, the unique and the wonderful things that also exist in any place if you can look with the right eyes. Being surrounded by people who are more or less mirroring (though imperfectly, with various refinements) your experiences and reactions, losing some degree of perspective becomes simple. Having the chance to re-experience the place for the first time as my dad did, I was reminded of the many discoveries which can come with presuming the best about someone rather than the worst, the reward to be gained from seeing an individual rather than a stereotype, no matter how much that stereotype is grounded in experience, the miracle in the man crippled by polio who still manages to propel himself through the world with nothing more than two hands and his tenacity.
Recounting this I realize I'm depicting myself as somewhat of a modern Scrooge. That's not really what I'm trying to say. There are still many things each and every day which take my breath away with their beauty, their poignancy or just their staggering reality, but with time I do acknowledge that I've also lost sight of much of the initial magic or potential held by every moment. It's nice to have some of that objectivity back after four days of showing this incredible (in every sense of that word) country to my dad, and I hope I can hold on to this new perspective a while.
So without further ado, here are some of the small miracles I experience all the time:
* The brilliance of the sky at night when the electricity goes out
* Standing in the middle of a cotton field with nothing but mountains around for miles
* The people who silently forgive me the mistakes I never even realize I have made
* Sunset scenes over the mountains, that come in every color depending on the dust/clouds in the air
* The ease with which I can often make people smile or laugh, just by attempting to speak their language or carry something on my head
* The grace and kindness found in unexpected places
* The feats of balance and strength I get to witness every single day, whether involving motorcycles, bikes, or just one's own body


Ann Marie Farrell said...

What an amazing writer you are! I can almost see the beauty you are describing, though I have never been there. The struggles, the negativity and then the ah ha mooments help you realize the duality of life and the hidden wonders. You have shown wisdom that belies your years and I smile, knowing you will be fine.
Thanks, XXOO Mom

Cait said...

Kate - Your post made my day. What a truth you speak - one that we must be constantly reminded of. I can't wait to see you in December/January. Let's pencil in a planning session for how we're going to change the world :)