Most applications remind us what picture, status, or ‘memory’ took place a year or two from this day. My brain has done this for me since February 6th, 2016. This is the day I found out my dad had cancer- his death sentence. Since then, birthdays, Father’s Day, my dad and Zafer’s death dates, ‘last day seen alive’, funerals, memorial services, and much, much more are marked on my internal clock that cause me grief. I can rarely go through an entire month without being reminded of “this time three years ago”. Time is a man-made construct and could never hold back the spirits of my dad and Zafer. However, I am human, and time is in turn a necessary marking of progress and an oddly great motivator. So, since I’ve turned this into a paragraph revolving around death (per usual) I am happy to say that because of tragedy I have meaningful dates on my calendar now, too. Like this one.
Writing this post, I am sitting with a multitude of emotions. I am in disbelief that 365 days have passed since I stepped foot into the unknown on this beautiful, hot tropical island. I am anxious in many ways for the next year that lies ahead of me. But mostly, I am with peace and overjoyed at the trials I’ve overcome, the habits and mindsets I am setting my life up with, and the materialism I can so easily live without (besides buying cute cultural outfits because retail therapy is still very much alive and well within me). When I think about spending a whole year abroad, I face the fact that I haven’t been in the presence of family members and friends that I would give anything for. People who have shaped me and still continuously give me the support and strength to get through my hard days in Comoros and life in general. This post toots my own horn quite a bit but I want to acknowledge my people here and back home who straight up love me harder than I could have ever imagined. I had a village all along.
- We can start with the obvious, I have lived in Comoros and have been on the African continent for 12 months. I have lived ten months in my specific village and only 15 are left. When my students are relentlessly cheating, and knocking off years of my life, I want time to speed. When I walk through my village and hear “ALLI-SON” and the smiles of my littles, I want time to slow.
- I’ve hiked 60+ miles on the island of Ngazidja, my home.
- I started my own garden. I can say that I have planted, grown, and loved on squash to fruition. I have nourished my body with food I harvested myself. One of the most unique feelings I have ever felt. A skill and hobby I will take with me anywhere. I am starting a new garden soon because I moved houses and the cyclone destroyed what was left.
- On that note, I’ve seen what natural disasters and climate change means for developing nations. These are the countries that will hurt the most. These are the people who will die first. The western world will hide, take, expose, and build the most extravagant systems, use the most resources to battle the fight we started. Countries like Comoros taking the fall and, as always, getting none of the credit, help, care, love, or respect. (Refer to my Instagram for more on my thoughts about cyclone Kenneth).
- I have learned a second language, Shingazidja. I remember when I first arrived in Comoros with the stress and frustration of feeling so alone, barely being able to say hello. Sometimes when I’m speaking the language I can feel my brain working in ways previously untouched. I hope to learn at least two more throughout my life.
- I’ve been comforted by the Indian Ocean.
- I have lived alone in my own village. A village that has never let me feel that way.
- I have lived in a collectivist culture. This has challenged me in many ways. Here in Comoros, I drink filtered water. For Iftar, a teenage boy joined us and took my water bottle and poured himself a glass without asking. Initially, I was possessive- why? I have been intentionally trying to recognize these moments of entitlement that stem from where I was raised and the value the western world places on money and the “mine” concept that is so engrained into our actions. I was fortunately able to be exposed to this type of attitude on a small scale with my best friend Kelly before I came here. Kelly constantly stuns me with her ability to leave no friend go unfed at her own “expense”, leading a life with such inclusion, and effortless sharing that is never given a second question- and certainly not catalogued in the back of her mind as a future debt someone owed her. Love doesn’t keep score. Thank you for giving me this small transition, Kelly. I love you.
- I’ve missed playing my favorite video game, Overwatch, every single second.
- I don’t eat for pleasure anymore. This has been an interesting realization for me. Other than a few pizzas I eat in the capital and my mom sending me ruffle chips, I eat to feed my body. I don’t overindulge and there is nothing fancy about what I eat on a day to day basis. I have found an inner joy, an art, and deep appreciation for cooking that I will carry on. Fast food is not sustainable and is the cause for a lot of deep rooted distress and diseases in American culture.
- Women are magic
- I am a teacher. This is a career that is prominent in my family but something I never imagined I’d do. I’ve seen the world in a new light because of it. When I can decipher my feelings more thoroughly on teaching and living in a developing nation, I intend on writing a post about it.
- I’ve accepted how normal it is to come home after a long day and have various fruits in my bag. Coconuts, pineapples, bananas, mangos, etc.
- I’ve fasted from sun up to sun down with my community for Ramadan. I have participated in 2/3 Eid celebrations and am so, so grateful to live in a Muslim dominant country. I don’t think I need to express how deeply we are conditioned in America to think a certain way about this religion and the people who follow it.
- I have watched every single Marvel movie that has been released to date courtesy to my hard drive and volunteer downloading abilities. Quite an accomplishment for someone who hadn’t seen a single superhero movie before this. We are Groot.
- Yoga and my breath is now a crucial part of my day. A fellow Peace Corps volunteer, Thristina, explained to me how she started doing five breaths every time the mosque would have its call to prayer (five times or more a day). I cannot stress how grounding, beneficial, and encouraging this has been for my mental health and productivity.
- My group started with 23 people. We now have 13. Many have left for various reasons, but I am proud and thoroughly impressed that we have come this far. We have chosen to leave a bubble that conditioned us for a certain type of life in the states. A life of comfort and expectations that are unheard of for a lot of the world. A life that has told us what we are doing is admirable. When it should be expected of privileged, educated, and wealthy individuals to somehow serve a community ‘less fortunate’ than our own. I’m not saying you must drop everything and go abroad for two years- everyone’s purpose and passions are different, but we all must do something. You may even learn and thrive in the ways you realize you are in fact the less fortunate one.
- I am happy
- I am alive
I have faced hardships throughout the past year that have had nothing to do with death, grief, or loss. A lot of problems have been strictly me against me. I have been liberated by this because for a long time I thought I found my meaning to life, and that my struggles would only and forever be found in the form of what I lost. I joined the Peace Corps to have my life view altered, craving life lessons similar to what death gifted me. This was the only thing I could think of to do where I could choose to make my life ‘harder’ and more meaningful in a positive way. Where this journey comes with grave white guilt and unique problems, I am better for it all. Which is the only thing I really wanted out of this and a driving factor in to seeing my service to completion.
As always, follow the butterflies and trust your angels.