There’s a lot of things that are important to me, like my family and sushi and starbucks, that I have been missing out on this last year. A lot of “normal” things that I haven’t done in a really long time.
But what HAVE I done?
I can’t believe it’s been a year today since I landed in Mozambique. People always said that the time flies, but I didn’t believe them. I think back to where I was a year ago and where I am now. Am I in the place I thought I would be? No, I’m not. I never could have imagined the different challenges and setbacks and other things that I have faced this year. But I also realize now that it isn’t necessarily about accomplishing huge things, but instead looking for small victories. I still don’t speak Portuguese perfectly. But I speak it enough to discuss HIV prevention and transmission with Mozambicans. I still get intimidated by some things. But I can travel alone over large distances on African public transportation without being nervous. I still freak out, when there are cockroaches in my bed and things like that. But other things (like snakes!) no longer faze me. I still stress out about some meaningless things. But I also have learned to really go with the flow and take each day as it comes, instead of constantly looking towards the future. I have not accomplished huge things. But I have accomplished some things. And more importantly, I have learned and I have grown more than I ever could have imagined. It has only been a year, but it HAS been a year, and I am excited to see where this next one takes me.
Being here has taught me how much I take for granted in my American life. How often I have believed that there’s not time to call, not time to email, not time for the things that I now realize REALLY matter. Being away for so long, I hope that for the rest of my life I can remember what it feels to miss people so badly that it hurts, and to remember that there is ALWAYS enough time for the things that really matter in your life.
I have learned to take pleasure in the simple things, like a hot shower (instead of a bucket bath) or a washing machine (instead of washing my undies in a bucket) or a hot cup of cocoa on a cold day. I have learned how good we truly do have it. In the States I often mourned the fact that America doesn’t have its own original culture (news flash: we do!) and also was quick to jump into the America-bashing that comes from college-age liberals who lived through the Bush era. But living here, I realize that our country is not without fault… we do a lot of things wrong… but we also do a lot of things RIGHT. And for the first time, I really am Proud to be an American (cue Bellagio fountain show, with song of same title, here). I’m excited to see how the rest of my time here in Mozambique plays out. But I am just as excited to go back to America with this experience ingrained in me. To marvel at the amazing opportunities that we have available to us, and I’m not just talking about out-of-season produce in a grocery store or an oven with adjustable temperature! Rather, I’m excited to wake up and know what it means to take each day as a gift.
In Mozambique, I have learned not only about Africa and AIDS and how NGOs work and how to kind of speak Portuguese, but also–and more importantly–I have learned more about myself than I ever would have guessed; more about life and love and priorities. This may have only been one year of my life, but I know that the experiences I have had will stay with me forever. It has NOT been easy. In fact, it has been way harder than I thought. Way harder. But through all of that, it’s going to stay with me forever. And for that, I would not have it any other way.
Here’s to the next year. Nao sei onde estarei, mas tenho certeza que sera uma boa