Ahh, music. The power it has to lift me up, console me, and make me feel like myself. Music is what keeps me whole. To those of you who are not Fansons or music-lovers in general, I don’t think I can even express how profound its effect is—and how deeply wounding the lack of music can be.
Today is my one month anniversary of being in Botswana. One month of learning a new culture, learning a new language, learning new people, and learning a new way of life. One month of daily battles with myself, tremendous highs, tremendous lows, and moments of defeat interspersed with tiny victories (which I believe are, in fact, the most significant kind). One month of different food, different water, and different weather. One month of missing old friends and making new ones.
But what I am celebrating today is bigger than that. Today, I got my music back. And along with it, as it happened, my sense of identity.
I lost my mp3 player at the airport in Jo’burg (there ARE consequences to a 36+ hour journey with little sleep), and although I have had my computer, I had no headphones, and haven’t been able to hear music for weeks. The reason this is especially difficult right now, is because one of the greatest challenges that PCV’s face, particularly during training when we are brand new to the country and also have so little control over our daily lives, is how to retain our own identities, while also reinventing ourselves within a new culture and adapting our own personality, self-expression, hobbies, and interests to the new world in which we are living. In a sense, for the past month, I have felt as though my entire identity went missing. For me, music is like a gateway to my soul, so the lack of music only compounded the feeling that I was slowly sinking in quicksand. (I simply must insert this quote…I know at least the Fansons will appreciate it: I’m looking for a song to sing and I’m looking for a friend to borrow. I’m looking for my radio so I might find a heart to follow. I’ve never been just longing for your loving, I’ve never been just wearing down to nothing, I’ve never been just looking for a reason so that maybe you’ll be thinking of me.)
Since getting out of the hospital and returning to my site, I have been making a concerted effort to rebuild myself, testing small things that I can do to feel like me again, in such a foreign world. Making my own dinner with foods that I am used to and that provide the nutritional content that I need. Making sure to get some form of exercise every day. Working very hard to remember to SMILE and LAUGH, even when I don’t feel like it—because in the States, I do those things all of the time, and they are a good part of what makes me feel whole.
And just as I noted in my previous entry, it is as though as though once I began making the effort to pick myself back up, the universe, or whatever you want to call it, pitched in. All at once, I received a large pile of letters and postcards. Let me say, despite the fact that it has only been one month, and I have enjoyed more access to the internet than I expected, I cannot even begin to express the joy that receiving real letters brings. Something I can touch that came from home, from someone I care about so much, so full of support, encouragement, and love. I have written back to each of you, and I am still in the process of locating the poso (post office), but hope to have them mailed by the end of the week. But reading through these letters makes me think about life back home and how much I love each and every one of you—you are all part of my identity. Each and every word I read feels like a breath of air re-inflating my soul. I can’t thank you enough.
And as though that wasn’t enough, I finally got my music back. During shadowing, the volunteer I was with had a spare pair of headphones, which she kindly gave me. I haven’t had enough of a charge on my computer to listen until today. Taking in each word, each note, of the songs that have already gotten me through so much is almost like a momentary trip home. Music has never sounded so sweet.
So, although the one month mark is hardly even a step in my journey and I have an immeasurable amount of learning, adapting, and growing to do, I feel like I am finally starting to figure out how to maintain my sense of self. I understand now that I am still surrounded by my friends, even though there is a great physical distance between us, and I am finally navigating my way to the comforts, like music, that my soul needs to stay strong. So, my one-month anniversary is on a good note (hehe, “note,” get it?!), thanks in great part, once again to you guys and all of your support…and I guess Hanson, and Howie too…hehe ;o)
(Also, please please please please DON’T tell me about the upcoming Hanson concerts in the PNW…I literally died inside when I saw the dates, and I actually can’t handle it…thinking about it will literally cause me to curl up in a ball and cry, and I *just* got myself past that point, so just don’t go there…thanks…lol)