Getting a Life

5:00am: Eyes open, brain sloppily starts firing neurons around trying to trial-and-error its way towards a cohesive thought. Lurching into gear, it presents a half-baked collage of blurry memories, smeared possible truths, and undigested bits of dreams. Why am I in a white net? Why are a goat and a rooster having a heated debate about when morning technically starts right outside my window? Where are these haunting, eerie minor key notes of Arabic announcing the Morning Prayer through tinny speakers coming from? Where the f#*k am I?

Two weeks in and just under ten months to go before my first tentatively scheduled return trip to Canada. My intention has been to get settled and comfortable as quickly as possible and to lay down a foundation for the long term. There have been the inevitable stumbles in the cultural department, (“Yes, I know it’s 10am, but good evening to you in advance, it’s the only word I know right now”); moments of extreme awkwardness trying to figure out the bucket bathroom/shower situation, (I dearly appreciate your solemn gravitas and discretion, old lady who pointed out the difference between the buckets); and the first furtive exploratory walks to the central market, (“Hey everybody, just trying to blend in and act natural. Never mind the stream of kids running after me yelling ‘hello’”). I am beginning to find a groove, but there much yet to discover.

10:00am: Driving through town to the nursery and business offices of the BDS client I am matched with, witnessing either the most beautifully choreographed and impeccably timed ballet of cars, motos, bicycles, pedestrians, herds of sheep, cows, and tractors all sharing the road with millimetre precision; or, the most spectacular affront to probability and statistics that has ever existed. Getting out of the city the landscape opens up to savannah grasslands and scattered trees. Agricultural initiatives of all types and levels of success are unceremoniously scattered around in plots on either side of the road. People on bikes carrying pickup truck sized loads of wood and kids in matching school uniforms stream by along the side of the road.

By all accounts I am living the dream: nice pad near the center of the small, but well provisioned town, plenty of people to talk with and kids that use my room for an amusement park after school, hearty home cooked meals to share with the families in the compound, and plenty of down time to sit and stare off into space wondering how it all came to be.  The next year stretches out in front of me like an ocean of potential; I can take an active role in shaping it or just as easily slide into tedious ennui. My goal is not just to survive, but to actually grow and thrive here. I’ve got a stack of books, a guitar, a yoga mat and some running shoes. I also have, what promises to be, challenging work in front of me partnering with a local agri-processing business to understand, synthesize and create lasting value in the community. Beyond that, I hope to take advantage of the opportunity to anthropologically, geographically, historically, linguistically and culturally come to know and appreciate this corner of the world as much as I am able. The apocalypsonian horseman of boredom, illness, loneliness and demotivation will always be in pursuit, but with enough mental maintenance and diversity of activity I should be able to stay well ahead.

5:00pm: The day’s heat is rolling back towards the west, it’s still light out enough to read and the mosquitoes haven’t wizened up to my presence yet. The girls next door are pounding the shit out of some poor, helpless root crop (cassava or yam) to make the classic dish fufu (kinda similar to doughy mashed potatoe). There is an ever expanding number of kids and babies tetering around, a wayward sheep has invited itself to try the scrap heap under the mango tree and the women of the house are shooting the shit around their outdoor charcoal fires. Out of the corner of the blue sky a small dark grey cloud is rounding up its posse to prepare for an attack. Within minutes, the sky is dark grey and Operation: Ahh! Get Everything Inside is underway. Several more minutes and the first drops start coming down, exponentially increasing to full tropical down pour. Not much to do but wait it out.

10 Replies to “Getting a Life”

  1. Oh Honee Sonnnee you write so well I’m brought right into the experience. I am sitting here in my box of a condo and wishing for myself more of a communal life than I have. I did enjoy Quirke yesterday and had the strata meeting in my living room last night so I’m trying. Next week I start a ukelele/ choir experience at the Sarah McLachlan Studio which is free for seniors. I other words no matter where you are or how old you still need to keep reinventing yourself and adding new people to care about as former one’s pass through your life. This experience will only make the rest of your life easier to adapt to. K
    eep up the blog and your open heartedness, love so much Mom

  2. The rain bit reminded me of a dance I did with a group on Saturday at the Seniors Hall in Ft. Langley, led by a man who spent several years in South Africa managing music bands. On Sunday he brought out his drums and other African musical instruments and we tried an improvised “composition.” It was all part of a course called “Aging Well in Community.

    Hey, at least you’ve seen a rooster and some sheep and goats before. Not like a yak.

  3. it is great reading your entries Jon 🙂 for one who was so quiet in Mongolia – you do have a sassy way of talking about life. miss you! – Gecca

  4. Hey Jonathan.. your writing is so vivid and your effort is so giving and generous of spirit. Please make sure you come by the office during your return visit to Vancouver and I’m so glad you decide to give Toronto the cold shoulder. -Randene

  5. “Boy! What the hell are you doin’ in Africa!!?? Get your white ass back home! ” is what I wanted to say when your Auntie Ann told me you tripped out and went to Ghana. Of course, that would be undiplomatic. I wasn’t worried about you in Mongolia: Ghana looks a little shaky to me; please be careful. Don’t use those running shoes in the wrong part of town, either. They still have tribal feuding there. May God bless your efforts and bring you back to the bosom of your family.. Ann would be messed up if anything happened to you.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement (?) Paul! So far everything is peachy, biggest risk is crossing the street, but thats the same anywhere really. Thanks for reading!

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