10:24. The white truck screeched to a halt in front of the passenger bus. The bus driver flew his hands in the air and glared at me through the window. I am pretty sure he would have flipped me off if he wasn’t at work. As my belongings spilled out of the truck door on to the pavement, I hurriedly explained that I already had reservations. Umm yes, I know they were for five minutes ago, but I am here now I can I get on? The passengers glared.
I thought shit I hope this is not going to be how I come off in Africa…a disheveled white girl creating a scene everywhere. Embarrassed I thought man I can’t even get it together to catch the bus in SB how am I going to make it in Africa?
Then at the back of the bus someone called my name. “Sarah”? Surprised. No relieved. No Grateful. It was my friend Thomas who was headed to Africa as well for work. A friendly and caring soul with 20 + years working and living in Africa, in recent weeks he and his wife (Linda) have talked to me about everything from business meetings to malaria medicine to personal safety. I have dubbed them my “Africa parents”. I actually had been so busy packing and moving I had not really had time to “”freak out” about my trip. But like so many other things that have already serendipitously aligned for this trip I knew it was a great sign that we were beginning this journey together.
I would say in my younger years I attributed a lot of things to luck and chance, but as I have become older I see how everything is connected and nothing happens by chance.
Difficult to explain fully to even myself, the purpose of this journey has apparently been lost on most others. There has been a lot of conversation around my trip. People curious, others worried for me, people who told me I shouldn’t go, complete strangers calling me out of the blue to offer ominous warnings, and my ever loving and supportive (but freaked out parents) cautiously inquiring about a rough gamelan the night before my departure.
The truth is this calling to go to Africa has been plaguing me for over 10 years. This last year the calling was so strong that I felt if I ignored it any longer I would be wasting my life…not doing this thing I was supposed to go do. I am not sure what I am supposed to discover or do there, but all I can say with unwavering resolve is that I am supposed to go and it is a part of my life purpose.
By force the wheels were set in motion 3 months ago. My good friend from College had agreed to meet in Tanzania, but we had to pull the trigger of she was out. Buy the ticket and commit to a date or it is not happening. Ever since I did that little Internet transaction my life has been turned upside down. Glistening daydreams and sweating dark nightmare I have been enveloped with Africa. Trying to participate in everyday life, my boyfriend complained it is like you are in your own world. The fact is I have been. I have been perplexed with this divine purpose. At times wondering why do I want to do this again? Putting all my savings and might toward doing something I cannot really fully explain to anyone. Is it practical? No. Is it going to be profitable? Probably not in a dollars kind of way. Is it going to be life changing? Yes, but I just cannot say how.
What I do know is that the “signs” have all been there. From meeting my “Africa parents” (and all of the wonderful connections they have offered me), to an energy worker telling me my spirit guides are showing her volumes of my (yet to be published) photo stories from this trip, to by chance coming across a party for the Congo in a New York penthouse (when I was really there to go to a portfolio review on the 11th floor). Everything has aligned.
Since that time connections have been made all around Africa with NGO’s (3 of them based in Santa Barbara), some businesses, magazines, and even a friends cousin working in the Democratic Republic of Congo. So I have come to work on some photography and multi media projects in an effort to provide non-profits with the material they need to promote their programs and fundraise. And I myself will try to begin a few documentary projects. If all goes well (and I find $7,000 in funding) my friend in the DR Congo (who is writing for Nikolas Kristoff's NYTimes blog) and I want to have a show about the women of the DR Congo at the United Nations in New York. Really I am not sure what I am going to walk away from Africa with or what I will leave there. But I trust it will be more than me leaving with some exotic parasites and Africa keeping my dollars.
As I sit on the bus in the basking in the warm glow of the California winter sun all I can think is of course Thomas (my Africa dad) is on the bus with me.
And I will take it as yet another “sign” that I am journeying down the right path.