Lessons from Africa
Wednesday, July 09, 2014
Everything I need to know about this journey I learned in Africa.
It was 17 years ago that I first went to Africa. I was young, single, living abroad and took the opportunity to explore parts of the world I knew little about. I headed to Kenya to join an overland truck expedition (for anyone unfamiliar with this mode of travel, it is incredibly rugged and challenging...and wonderful). Before my two months were up, I would travel from Kenya to Tanzania, on to Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
It was on this journey that I had an experience I have referenced and cherished ever since. It is what I refer to as a moment of perfection. I was on a fishing dhow off the coast of Zanzibar, sitting there in just a bathing suit. At that moment, I felt perfect. I had the sense that my body was perfect, I had peace of mind, I was content, satisfied, warm, and comfortable.
I probably weighed about 15 pounds less than I do right now (and mainly because the intestinal illness that plagues many traveling in rustic conditions had hastened slimming). But I knew at that moment that I was beautiful, powerful, and capable.
This morning I called to mind one of the lessons that helped inform that moment of peace. It was one of the first things I learned on arriving in East Africa - a popular Swahili term that was explained to me this way.
"Here we say Pole Pole. It means slowly, slowly. There is no term for hurry up. We don't do that here. We say Pole Pole."
I learned to slow down, to center myself and to know and embrace my "wholeness." I began to understand that the pace at which life was lived there (pole pole) made perfect sense to my physical body, My physical being reconnected with my spiritual and emotional being.
When I woke up this morning, I realized that it is Pole Pole that will sustain me on this journey. It is that sense of well being, vitality, and balance that I am after, not some culminating set of numbers and measurements. It has been all too easy for me to get caught up in the "hurry up" attitude about "achieving my goals," but that can't last.
Back in the US, I found the fast paced lifestyle disconcerting. I was uncomfortable. I have coped with that for a long time. I think age and experience have helped inform me of ways I can achieve the balance I require for peace and comfort. I feel like I can begin to pull that all together in a meaningful way now - Pole Pole.