In less than a month, I will stand, once again, on African soil. I will breathe deeply the scent of fragrant blossoms. I will lick the sweet nectar of mangoes from my fingers. I will embrace the people who welcome me. I will sit with stranger-friends and hear their stories. I will sleep on the rough earth and not even mind if goats or roosters keep me awake. I will marvel at the majesty of wild animals. I will let people touch me. I will walk through their fields and let them show me their harvests. I will let the tears flow when I see the needs. I will let the joy fill me when I see their compassion and grace. I will soak it all in and let my soul be moved.
Almost exactly two years ago, I started this blog because I was preparing for my first trip to Africa and I wanted a space to process my feelings and thoughts before that trip. My first post was called "Going to Africa" and in it, I said this:
I will listen and let them teach me. I will open my heart to the hope and the hurt. I will tread lightly on their soil and let the colours wash over me. I will allow the journey to stretch me and I will come back larger than before.
Now, two years later, I know that I did indeed come back larger than before. I was stretched beyond my expectation, and I fell in love with a place that I knew would draw me back. It's hard to describe how a place like Africa moves me in ways I've never been moved by any other country. It got under my skin and into my heart. It becomes somewhat addictive.
How very, very lucky I am to be going back. I work for an incredible organization that supports food-related programming all over the world. I will be visiting 2 of those programs in Ethiopia. The amazing thing about traveling with an organization like ours is that we visit places that no tourist will ever see. We see the way people live in the remotest parts of the country where little if any "modernization" has touched them. We'll visit a region where we've supported local efforts to build irrigation systems to grow better crops. While there, I hope to see Elizabeth again. She's an incredible young Ethiopian woman (only 23 years old) who manages a large team of engineers and other labourers in the development of irrigation ditches and model farms. She is a powerful force for positive change in Ethiopia and I am in awe of her strength and wisdom.
This trip will have the added bonus that I get to enjoy the journey with an incredible travel companion. Steve Bell and his wife will be joining us, along with a small crew who will produce a video for us while we're there. I'm very excited about this project. Steve is an amazing musician whose depth and wisdom shines through in his music. You may recall a post a few weeks ago after I attended his concert with the Symphony. I've enjoyed getting to know him over the past 2 years, and I know that his presence will make the journey even more exciting.
In the meantime though, there is much planning to do, and my mind is going a hundred places at once. Planning itineraries, booking flights, getting the necessary immunizations, writing story-boards for the video production, arranging conference calls for the team, etc., etc. On top of that, there are Christmas presents to be bought, the family Christmas trip to plan - oh, the list goes on and on. In a month, I will relax, eat injera and lentils, and let the sun warm my cold Canadian skin. But until then, I have to try to get everything done while remembering to live in the present, enjoy my kids, and let the wonder of Christmas fill me.