When I arrived here at my placement site in September of last year, I watched clocks and calenders a lot. I counted the days to our first all-volunteer retreat. I counted until Christmas. I counted until July when we would travel home. I thought about that first day back and what it would be like. Especially as I was challenged in the early months, I thought about how long the year would be and what things would be like at the end... would I be SO ready to go? Would I be begging to stay? It was almost impossible for me to imagine.
I also watched clocks a lot because the pace of life seemed so different from what I was used to. Everything moved so much slower. (Little did I know that I was in one of the fastest areas of the country and some of my fellow volunteers were experiencing a MUCH more dramatic slow-down!) Getting used to "Just now" was challenging; waiting for what felt like an eternity for a taxi to fill up or having someone walk away saying "I'll be back just now" and then waiting for up to 30 or 45 minutes took a while to get used to. Coming from a culture of now means NOW and "Time is money" it was culture shock and it took me a long time to acclimate.
Slowly but surely, I have come to love this country's pace. I find myself rarely irritated by having to wait. Sometimes I have moments where I really can't believe how much I've changed. Like when I wait over 2 hours for someone to pick me up, for a taxi to leave or for someone to call me and I don't get the least bit irritated. Now, I was a bit abnormal in this respect before I even came to South Africa... I didn't mind traffic too much (especially on a beautiful day! Roll down the windows and turn up the music!) I also didn't mind lines and the grocery store or post office. It is what it is, right?
But South Africa has taught me patience to the EXTREME. Things happen when they happen. People arrive when they arrive. There's no use in freaking out about having to wait for something, because it will do no good. Better to just take out your book (always have a book with you!) and enjoy the day.
I also don't count the days so much. My family is counting for me now. =) They know exactly how many weeks and days (maybe even hours and minutes!) until I step of the plane. For me though, that day will be SO awesome and yet so sad. I'm very, VERY much looking forward to seeing family and friends who I love dearly and miss tremendously. But coming back to the states means leaving this country that has become my home and the friends here that have become my family. It means leaving a place that has taught me so much about independence and interdependence. It means leaving a life that I love and people that I love even more.
This year has not been a "trip" to Africa. This has been a year of my life in an extraordinary country. I have been challenged, I've learned, I've laughed, I've cried and I've grown so much as a person. So, I'm not counting anymore... at least I'm trying not to. I'm embracing each day as an opportunity to love this life, this place and these people. I hope you are doing the same... wherever you are, whoever you are with and whatever you are doing- love the day, love the moment. Life is too unpredictable to not.
Having July 13th on the horizon as the last day at my site is somewhat scary and foreboding because I know much is going to change when this year ends. But it's also a blessing in a way to know how precious these days here are. And I'm loving each one. Each conversation I have becomes precious. Each moment with my friends is one I enjoy and value. I am loving each day and living as though it is my last... are you?