What’s Next?

On July 14th we will step up into the TAZARA train, destination Zambia, as we complete our service with the Global Health Service Partnership and begin the next phase of the adventure. I love to clearly define and explain things, the more checkboxes and bullet points and color-coded excel spreadsheets the better. Yet it is not quite clear to me when ‘the adventure’ will begin, or did begin, or will end. Perhaps a moment of waking up before 6am on a dark and cold Portland morning before work will most obviously signify the end but I’m not ready to think about that nor is that what this moment is about.

Being brave enough to say goodbye to stability, security (and in hindsight my own bed) was one beginning of the adventure. There have been adventures within the adventure of living in Tanzania; safariing in the Serengeti, exploring Stonetown, dipping into the clear turqoise waters of the Indian Ocean, earning our stripes in longbus rides across the country. Learning to be an educator has been an adventure unto itself. As we finish our time here, we will have lived more than a year on the beautiful and complex continent of Africa. Our exploration of Africa will continue as we train down to Victoria Falls, wine-taste in the countryside then explore the metropolis of Capetown, spend 3 weeks in Ghana working with the Rural Health Collaborative, then take a long ‘layover’ through Morocco for a week until making our way back to Portland on August 30th. I am currently equally as excited at the thought of riding a camel through the Moroccan Sahara desert as I am of getting on my bike in Portland and pulling up to a local brewery. The far reaches of the world and the familiarity of home hold different allures.

We will spend September at ‘home’, visiting friends and family throughout Oregon, Washington and California. By the time we arrive home 12 of our friends and family will have delivered new babies since we left, so there will be a lot of baby-squeezing to do. October 1st marks the next big transition, as we fly to Tokyo to begin what feels like the most traditional sense of ‘the adventure’, the most clearly delineated beginning of our years of dreaming, saving, and mile-collecting for our around the world travels that we anticipate will end June 2018. We are (thrilled, lucky, privileged, good savers, good miles schemers) to have this opportunity to see the world. Few people who live in the world have such an opportunity and fewer yet believe they have the opportunity and still fewer take it.

Are we scared of being away from the workforce for so long? Do we feel the threat of job insecurity leading to financial insecurity? Of losing our hard-earned clinical skills and of not being good enough? Of the literal winding dangerous roads and limited access to healthcare we may find? Of being politically and socially irresponsible with the resource of ourselves in the time of a Trump presidency; when our activism is needed and we feel it acutely? Yes, yes, yes, yes. Of course. Those are all real and valid fears and were we to meditate on any of them we may decide to return home now or more likely we never would have left. Instead we are living into the excitement of exploration, the connection with people who live differently, the desire to know cultures, religions, foods and ways of being that are not our own. The truth is that life is short and what we have is now. So this is what we plan to do.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

*The photos below are from our 6-day trip to Peru in 2013. We had both traveled quite a bit before but something about the magic of one day being in my office and the next camping in the Andes only deepened my itch to see the beautiful world that we live in, and 6 day trips weren’t going to cut it. Hence, the scheming began.