So I am now leaving the life of the township for Western habits and mores. The transition is not automatic.
I initially mistake the reflections of sunlight on the polished metal bench at the Port Elizabeth Airport for insects crawling around my couch back in Riemvasmaak. Chairman once said to me, “you know the insects personally and they know you. This one knows when he sees you, ‘that’s the owner of this house.’”
One of the many things you learn in the township is how to wait—often, for nothing in particular. I have adapted. The initiative and ambition that is so valued in the Western workplace has taken a backseat to endurance and perseverance. I will have to realign myself.
Scarcity and transience causes a particular mindset: better to do it now—there may not be another chance. I notice a peculiar, but now familiar anxiety as my phone charges in the outlet at the airport. I must get as much as possible now, before it goes away.
My withdrawals from township style living are now being overcompensated with overindulgence. Long hot showers, hours of surfing the internet, oversleeping in a full size bed with clean sheets, sitting on the couch and wasting time watching TV.
I rented a bike today and rode 4 kilometres into the Atacama desert, the driest in the world, apparently. Perching atop a sand mountain (this was more than a dune) to admire the view, I looked down upon the badlands of the Cordillera de la Sal and the town of San Pedro beyond it. The Andes mountains framed the vast desert which in turn enveloped the pueblo. My perspective about the town began to change.
I began to contemplate (as spectacular vistas are wont to make you do) the last week in Bolivia, and indeed, my entire journey thus far. As I did this, it became clear that what I posted yesterday, if not inaccurate, was possibly a bit simplistic and maybe even trite.
Perseverance is nice, but what perseverance requires is a cosmic perspective.
In business terms, when the Dow Jones hits 8,000, you don`t sell everything and move to the woods to wait for the end (you didn`t did you?). The market has proven historically to rebound and build over time.
The recurring them of the Hebrew scriptures is collective amnesia: a merciful God having pity on his people, his people excitedly accepting the gift, and by the next time trouble comes along, forgetting that it ever happened. As I anxiously pleaded with God in delirium, God may have been replying to me, Have you forgotten already? Now, that may not quench a fever, but it leads to the right frame of mind. More importantly, it places History:past, present and future, into compassionate hands, as opposed to bacteria or volatile market conditions.
An additional realization is the importance of community. How much more miserable an experience to be isolated not only from civilization, but from people who were able and willing to help.