I was quiet, but I was not blind. ~Jane Austen
It’s not quite a year later. I am three days short of the day I left Morgantown on a bus headed to DC, and 6 days short of the day I got on a plane in NYC. But nonetheless, it’s time to reminisce about my journey thus far and how I’ve grown. They’re right folks, living abroad changes you. No doubts from me. I won’t refuse all the mushy, yucky stuff about changing to be a better person, growing stronger, becoming a pro at maneuvering culture shock, because yeah — all that’s true too. But this is about me! So here are some ways that I’ve changed personally during my past year in Togo.
My sense of time.
This is by far the most bizarre change I’ve made. In the States, it was all about the hours or the days for me. I rarely ever got stressed about a deadline more than a week away! It wouldn’t have even crossed my mind, to be honest. But here, woah. I can feel so busy because I have a few events coming up in the next three months. That’s right, three months away and it’s on my mind already. My to-do lists used to have at least ten tasks per day to accomplish. Here, I’m on cloud nine if I can do two things a day. Three things a day and we are really pushing it… There are days that I grade a handful of papers and do my laundry by 9 a.m. and I’m so proud of myself. I think, yeah man, you’re doing great! (I actually do think this from time to time). I don’t think I’d put this change into a category of good or bad — I’m just thankful I have time to appreciate my hammock.
Oh, there’s a spider running across my bedroom floor, let me crush it with my big toe! Nbd. The number of crawlies that gross my out has gone from a lot to almost none at all (barring snakes, those are never ok). I wake up in the morning, start brewing my coffee, and sit out on my porch. I have zero qualms these days about smushing unwanted bugs with my toes. In fact, I don’t even think twice about it.
Even the lizards. I hate how many lizards I have in/around my house. Can you imagine how embarrassing it is to wake up from a nap, throw on a shirt hanging in the closet, head out to the market only to find THERE’S A FREAKING LIZARD IN YOUR SHIRT THAT WANTS TO START CRAWLING ALL OVER YOUR BODY. I’m not proud, but this has happened so many times. I think, keep calm, your in public, don’t strip, don’t strip, DONT’ STRIP! Luckily my friend Benoît isn’t shy about helping me evict unwanted shirt guests nonchalantly. Let’s be real, I don’t exact blend in at the market, so freaking out about a lizard in my shirt would be quite the spectacle.
While we are talking about lizards, let me bring up the fellow lizard that lives in my latrine. My latrine is basically a fancy cement outhouse. I keep the seat covered, but somehow, this lizard just doesn’t want to leave. So after my morning coffee, when I go to the throne and sit down, he just gives me a few taps on the bum as if to say : hey, I don’t wanna be in here right now. Lemme out. I stand up, he runs out, I finish my business, and we see each other the next morning. #RealMVP
Health above all.
We have a handy little saying in Togo: Santé avant tous. Health above all. If this past year has brought any changes for the better, it’s how I see my health. I live close to the Burkina Faso border; it’s hot, it’s dry, it’s dusty! I have never had to drink so much water in my life. But if I didn’t, it would be a serious issue for me. Not only have I started focusing every single day on staying hydrated, I’ve been really finding the importance of eating good foods to stay on my game. My life here is the exact opposite of sedimentary. I walk to school, I walk to the market, I walk up mountains, I walk to get water, I walk to see friends… get the picture? After all, my body is a temple, right?! I want my temple to be golden with wall curtains, and lots of wine!
Let’s not forget about mental health. I consider myself lucky that I have had a really amazing experience thus far. Forgetting month 5, I’ve been so happy with my life in service. But every now and again, I can feel myself slipping into a rut that we all know. It is easy to feel isolated while serving abroad. Think about it, we left all our friends, all our family members, our native language, everything we are comfortable with back home. This past year has taught me ways to stay out of the rut and in a place where every day can be joyful. I’ve learned how closely linked my mental health is with my physical health. And I’ve been practicing being mindful. Living each second in the Present — not worrying about the future but enjoying the Now.
Wanna know one of my secrets to staying on the up & up? I sing to myself, all the time. I’m totally not shy about singing in my house when my host family is home anymore. Every once in a while, I’ll catch myself telling myself how funny I am… then I stop to think about if I just crossed a line or not. HA! Crazy is the new sane.
Okay okay, so I only have three personal changes I’ve made in the past year. I hope you weren’t expecting a top ten! Let’s not forget about time in Togo, it takes a while to do a little. I’m certainly happy with these three changes, and I hope you’ll stay with me for the year to come. Please, share my blog, write love letters to me via snail mail (the thought makes me swoon) — keep me in your loops too!
As always my friends, stay savvy!
With much love,