Are you tired of hearing about Africa yet? :)
To be honest, I stopped journaling after what I've told you. Not because I wasn't thinking about things anymore, but because, as I mentioned after visiting the prisons, I stopped processing. My head literally hurt trying to figure out why I was on this trip. And then finally I just heard a voice saying Stop. Stop trying to figure everything out. Just be here.
So after graduation, I stopped trying to analyze and process. I stopped stressing about fitting all of this into my life and instead just embraced it.
On our last day in Gulu we hosted a witch doctors' graduation, during which time we washed their feet. I'm so grateful I'd gone into this mode by the time we did it. This was only my second time washing feet and the last time was on a mission trip in high school. Back then, I don't think I realized the gravity of it.
There is something very humbling about both washing someone's feet and also having your feet washed. I felt honored to be on the giving end of it. The experience almost brought me to tears and also filled me up with certainty and joy. That seems to be the theme of this trip - teetering on joy and pain at every minute.
I once read that there is actually a very thin line between love and hate - the two being closely linked, emotional extremes. I think joy and pain might be the same way. The joy I feel is so absolute, but also deeply tied to the pain I see. How can they feel so much emotional joy when they have so much physical pain? And how can there be so much emotional pain in the US when there is so much material joy? Can we not have it all? Are we seeking it in the wrong places? Is there a solution?
On the trip I realized the beauty in a simpler life. Now that I'm back into my U.S. routine, I yearn for my makeup free, hairbrush free (basically dreads), get ready in 12-minutes, including a shower lifestyle. I yearn to be unplugged again. I yearn for the deep, deep sleep. I yearn for my afternoon agenda to consist of ring around the rosie and Ugandan tribal language lessons.
And there's more.
Because I yearn for the way I didn't care about being skinny. The way I didn't worry about getting my workout in. The way I didn't look in the mirror. The way I wasn't constantly bombarded with the idea that smaller and skinnier is beautiful.
The way that, in fact, vulnerability was the most beautiful thing I saw. The way honest joy and pure openness and excitement and gratitude were abundant. Hope in Christ and unabashed faith.
Why, just one week later, am I already worried about working out again? When I first got back, I thought I looked a little funny with my hair curled and makeup on. Now, I'm back to my routine: makeup and wifi and exercising and overscheduling.
Don't get me wrong, I love my life in Atlanta. I love my material comforts, my social life, my mascara (though my hairbrush has largely lost its appeal now that I realized I can go that long without it).
But what I can't stop wondering is: can there be a balance? Can we meet in the middle, somewhere between the developed and undeveloped world? Does it have to be all or nothing? I can't help but think the most perfect world falls somewhere between the two. A little bit of unplugging for America, a little bit of development for Africa.
Unrealistic, I may be. But I'm OK with that. I never, ever vowed to be realistic. But what I hope is realistic is my desire to hold on to what I learned.
To stay less vain. To care less about how I look.
To remember kindness first. To love fastest.
To remember the peaceful feeling I felt while in Africa, the emotional and spiritual rest I felt.
To never, ever become complacent. You don't like your job? Quit. You're in a bad relationship? Get out. We are not called to a life of suffering for no reason.
Not to say things I don't mean or do things out of guilt. We only have so much time and I want to use it well.
And that, my friends, is what Africa taught me.
Thank you, thank you for reading and for your incredible support. I hope you enjoyed it :)