Home Sweet Home....
4 and a half months later....a million miles away from Africa..a thousand years away from coming home -Alliston, Ontario...tonight, I'm giving a speech with the 'grandmother's" at the St. John's United church...last night Orangeville...am steaming along as though something grabbed me, engulfed me, my very being, as if i never had any choice...the longer i am away from Africa, the deeper my feelings are for those people, those beautiful countries i worked in....it is as if they have become my family, they have, i hear from them everyday..emails, phone calls, especially from Zimbabwe: "help me, Lynn you have to help me" that country is under seige...inflation is up to 4500%, when i was there it was about 1200. Back then, in October, fuel was in short supply, days when you couldn 't get gas, line ups everywhere, people waiting for hours, days...everything was done over the black market, everyone used it, electrical shortages, water shortages, people I knew walked, miles sometimes, in shoes threadbare, without enough money for bus fare, or lunch..
But now it is worse, so much worse....where once they were able to have two or three meals a day, they now have one..if they are lucky. Corn, the staple of Zimbabwe skyrocketed a few months ago - a family of five could have six days worth of food for 21 cents, but in one week it had gone up to $1.45..and now, who could even imagine... everything is up, schoools and hospitals closing down, nurses and doctors walking out because government paid salaries are so low they can't afford even bus fare to get to work, let alone a decent salary to put food on the table for their families; the economy has died, dead, and it's getting worse,Somewhere I read that inflation could soar up to 1 million percent. It is unimaginable.
My life today, four months after coming home. i am consumed by all of this.
Everything in my life changed. i closed down my art retreat when i got home..i had the choice of reving up the whole machine once again, for the 12th year....of getting a brochure out to over 2,000 people, running all over Ontario to art stores with leaflets, information, and endless hours on the telephone, registering, discussing, explaining...I just couldn't do it...i knew i would lose Africa, whatever that was, whatever that meant to me back then...four months ago...I sent out the big email..that this year the Creativity Art Retreat in Dunedin was closing, i sent back deposits for participants who had registered and wrote a bit of a notice in my website. Within a few days i had over 150 emails back, most of whom wrote, you go girl...some were upset, disappointed; life changes, people change, things we do change..there is a time for everything, ...a time to begin, a time to close down...i said to a friend oh how i would miss running the art retreat..he said "no you won't" just like that, and i knew i wouldn't, ...the energy i had to put out was huge, i simply had no desire to carry on...i needed to reserve my strength and creative juices for whatever was to be for me for what i needed to do about Africa, for all the things i experienced, what i saw, what i felt..i didn't want to lose that...
ICA were great..supportive, they listened to my stories, they set up an event where i was given the opportunity to show slides, do a bit of a review about my journey- but what next?
My kids were still living in my house: they had moved in back in September - John, Shauna, the two babies Pyper and Finn....they were renovating a big old house a few blocks from mine, it had been the perfect solution, but they were still here! The building permits had taken three months, the job was far bigger than first planned...they weren't about to move out, so i moved in, with my happy little culture shock tucked quietly under my arm and sort of reclaimed a bit of space at the back of the first floor, camping out on a futon couch ...my computer, my studio, my clothes mingling together a few feet from my bed. My place has two floors, two open spaces but for the bathrooms..great for one or two people..but not for a family and me coming home, glad to see everyone for the first few days, the presents dispersed, a hundred phone calls, a few parties, all of this in 26 degrees below February weather. The kids had settled into the living quarters upstairs with the babies...I took over the back of the downstairs, sort of. No privacy, I had more space in Africa - space to think, breath,write...meditate,whatever, and here we were all jambed in tumbling on top of each other, all of us with major sleep deprivation.
I took a baby every night for feedings...Pyper and Finn. They were gorgeous, fat, blond, blue eyed and 8 months old. They didn't remember me. They had a babysitter who came in by the day. For the first three weeks she sat with the babies on my futon bed downstairs, leaving the upstairs space for Johnny and Shauna. It had been a great arrangement while i was away but now i was back, squeezing into the adjacent bathroom which is the size of a broom closet to change my clothing, the jolly jumper hanging from the top of the door jam, preventing the door from being closed tight, the babies and Amy a scant few feet away...
Johnny and I had a bit of a meltdown one cold morning sometime around the third week. He arrived downstairs at 6 am, as he did every morning, a coffee for me in one hand, a baby tucked under his arm in the other; we all played together while Shauna slept upstairs. It was a beautiful time, most of the time, but that morning, for me, with no space of my own, no ability for reflection, no meditation, no writing time, no thinking time - up three times that night with Pyper, tired, exhausted, without my home.
John rose to the occasion, and produced in a minute a huge piece of muslim from his van and tacked it up across the loft space, now visually dividing me from the entranceway and baby changing tables and clothing... it was a good solution for awhile, at least now i had visual privacy....Amy and the babies were moved upstairs during the day; I got a sort of room of my own; and Shauna lost her private space upstairs.
I felt discombobulated.
I tried to keep up my exercise routine i had developed in Africa from walking so many miles everyday and pulled something huge in my right knee on the treadmill...I had just found out the night before that my freshly-declared ex of three years had been living with another woman the whole time i was in AFrica. My right knee swelled up double the size of the other and is still large to this day. Eventually i had an MRI and will have to get knee surgery sometime down the road. A nasty winter cold had set in..outside, there was no colour, no people singing, dancing in the streets, no outdoor cooking, no music, no laughter. It was Canada in the dead of winter. Cold. Mean, Hard. People running from one destination to another, bodies wrapped round and round in dark boring clothing, heads down to the wind. No communication. No looking each other in the eye, no hi, hello, how are you, no smiling, no greeting, no connection with each other, just the huge deep silence of winter. And me. I was sick with the flu, my knee throbbed, my heart ached, I had no place of my own, no space. I stopped writing this journal, stopped reading good books. I cried a lot. It occurred to me how ironic it was, that in Africa, during all those months, I was never sick, my body was in great shape, I could walk for miles and I barely thought of G from one week to the next.
It sucked. I hated being home.
What to do, what to do, what to do? I did babies, lunches with friends, read celebrity magazines. My brain dissolved...I couldn't keep my mind on anything. It was like a dose of candy floss in the circus, too much popcorn in the movies. Light. Inocuous. And boring.
I decided to try to live like i lived over there.
In Africa you can get up in the morning and plan your day, but for sure, within a very short time, plans would change, tires would blow, hours would be spent waiting for something, someone, you had to just let it happen, not get upset, be flexible, actually enjoy the changes and let the whole thing flow, and it did. Things always worked out. Always. if i was three hours late for my workshop i was facilitating, i was simply three hours late. People were still there patiently waiting. I had to readjust the agenda and get going, and going we got to, and did and it worked out perfectly. People showed up late, often, maybe even a day or two later, but show up they did....something always happened in the waiting..someone came along, another conversation, another experience. It was that way all the way through the travels.
Why couldn't it be that way back at home in Canada.
Let whatever is supposed to happen, happen. Period.
A simple thing to say,think, but in our culture we are used to organzing and trying to control our lives, to such an extent that we, I get impatient, when plans are not met, at that time, or place. Well i was going to change that and let whatever was supposed to happen to me, happen.
And it did.
Within a very short time, maybe a few weeks only, I decided to write a book based on this blog of mine..I had had some pretty good feedback from a lot of people, some of whom I was shocked had been reading it from the beginning. I could rewrite the blog, add some drawings, photographs....something along the lines of Eat Pray Love...a personal odyssey, the evolving and understanding of someone, me, who knew so little as i headed out to AFrica...a little afraid of Zimbabwe..having been told that black men with HIV AIDS raped white women as a cure....and how i grew to make my way around these countries, a personal story, voyage..something i was sure people would be interested in reading...
I also wanted to do public speaking presentations of what i saw and felt over there...to raise consciousness of what is going on and to raise money, lots of money... I had honed down my fundraising projects to buying bikes for homecare workers in Zimbabwe, goats and sheds for HIV AIDS positive people in Handeni, secondary school education for Masai girls in Tanzania, and money to send positive people to a Masai healer i had met in a village in Sindeni, where i was told there was a cure for Aids.
And lastly, i wanted to make an exhibition of paintings based on photographic images i had taken in Kibera, one of the worlds biggest slums, deep in the heart of Nairobi.
The course was set..now all i had to do was to do it.
My friend Maxine came over and helped me make sense of the over 1,000 photographs lodged in the IPHoto section of my computer. We separated them into categories: orphanage, art workshops, HIV AIDS workshops, Masai, street scenes, children, projects, Kibera and one entitled "my favourite Africa", the best pictures of the lot, and there were lots of them. It was impossible not to take fabulous photographs there.
-Sierra's grade 2 classroom
-Mexico, allergic to 5 million bugs = welts, itching,misery.
-Chicago: peace, quiet, crying in the African section of the museum,sitting on the floor drawing masks. and drawing African masks.
-Home: Cat house.
-Roly Flemming: angel of organizing Creemore speeches.