Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Back In

I'm heading back.

Not to Congo this time, but to northern Uganda instead. It's a short commitment; I'll be there just two months, to evaluate a cash transfer project and write a report on it. Barely enough time to get situated. But I'm a bit more prepared this time than I was a year and a half ago to dive right in to Africa and the NGO world. And oh-so-well rested.

Nine months in Congo took it out of me. The lack of exercise, the walled-in lifestyle, the incredibly complicated and often depressing humanitarian situation, and especially the overbearing supervisor. When I went to France for break, three months in, I could barely remember how to ski. There were weeks when I literally didn't leave the compound, an area of maybe 450 square meters. I knew that I'd need a bit of free floating once I got back to the U.S. to start feeling like myself again.
nearing the summit of Mt. Rainier
And so, since my return home at the beginning of July, I've been indulging in everything I couldn't in Congo - hipster ice cream joints, burritos, rock climbing, hikes, glaciers, Goodwill, so-awful-they're-hilarious movies with the brother, half marathon preparation, wilderness medicine courses, and lots of glorious, anonymous, walking. The novelty of feeling unremarkable as I stroll down the street has not worn off.

And I've been visiting friends, scattered throughout the major cities of both U.S. coasts. Friends with architecture degrees that feel like surprisingly useless, and unbelievably expensive, pieces of paper; friends on libertarian pig farms whose swine snort up several tons of Pixie Stix, Keebler cookies, orange juice and other assorted supermarket refuse each evening; generous friends with funds who take advantage of the slow economy to get into biking shape and take me along to sample fine restaurants; friends questioning the value of their PhD programs; friends scouting out movie storylines in Madagascar; friends bewildered by the economy who have taken to living in homeless shelters to save money during the job search, or else working jobs they never would have expected to claim as their own. 

It hardly seems the time for too much introspection, especially as concerns careers. But I knew I needed a break, and that the humanitarian world, regardless of my persistent qualms about it, would be there for me if I needed it. I still feel, as I did when I left Congo in June, that I'd like to be more stable, and settled, and that I'd probably be happiest if I lived in a place more conducive to an active lifestyle, and for several weeks now I've been scoping out Seattle as a prospective home. 

But the bank account is nearly empty, and when I got the Uganda offer, it didn't take me long to accept. It's only two months, after all. And despite everything, I'm very excited to go back.

1 comment:

  1. Aha, more African digestions coming up. Always interesting following this blog; wasn't sure when the next post would come after your return to the States... Cheers and good luck.


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