To feel or not to feel, that is the question

My body has taken a toll from all the traveling combined with emotional stress of living simultaneously in different worlds. Precious few can imagine what it is like to be so many hours from a toilet or telephone in a place where people are so poor that the torn clothes that drape over their bony structures continue on with the most possible dignity and while touring gardens which are literally the lifeline between life and death when suddenly the smartphone attached to my waist blares to life as if to awaken me from one story to another. The brash ‘robo-caller’ from Verizon Wireless pierced my consciousness to remind me that my data usage is over quota!!!

Somehow astonished at the interruption, another part of me instinctively clicks into another realm poised to argue with them that my phone settings are ‘off’ for data in another tone of voice… who is this other woman? which one is me? Clearly, a ‘mzungo’ (slang term for white person) as crazy/or more crazy as any who’d come before?

The irony is all around and inside of me. Who do I really think I am to bridge these foreign realities? On one hand my parents are increasingly anxious about my travels and my children and soon to be grandchild are living in yet another reality with plenty of drama of their own flavor. Today was the first day since I’ve been back (4 days) that I was able to take on some of my ‘first world’ tasks. Surely I paid my rent and health insurance immediately upon return, but the fortitude to return to the Verizon wireless saga now that I know that they are charging me for $600 in data usage which I didn’t actually use, I found myself on the phone for the usual quota of several hours to get a supervisor, who still has yet to return my call… but as I spoke to this indignant mock supervisor who told me that she has qualification to become a supervisor… but who could only argue with me, all I could think about was that moment and place in time in Northern Uganda when they pierced my consciousness as the worlds collided in real time.

Here I am wanting to scream at this girl, do you have any idea what it is to be 10 hours from the middle of no where and to squabble about ‘data usage’ while people are struggling to stay alive right before your eyes???!! Am I pretentiously judging this girl who is only doing her job? Is there a way to live in so many worlds at one time? I don’t know. I can’t figure it out. Bridging cultures is usually easy for me, it is what I do, but for some reason, my last two trips felt more like tectonic plates rubbing together toward a gigantic earthquake-like collision that is happening in my body. A war of the worlds waged in the most familiar, yet unfamiliar place. 

Our technology is so advanced that we can be seamless in our communication, people can call me on my same US phone number and it will ring in the most remote locations. Yet, our physical worlds are so very very far apart. The $600 of data usage accrued in that few days, even mistakenly, would be enough to provide food and water to so many children… or even shoes or a clean shirt or underwear, can you imagine? And somehow, I feel so impotent to do anything useful except to grow in my own awareness of the massive gaps within the fabric of humanity.

To feel the plight of others wherever they are in the world can be overwhelming, to feel my own place in this extraordinarily diverse journey is essential. Soon I’ll be leaving again for Nepal and I have much less experience with South Asian culture than of Africa where I’ve worked many times. How will I cope?/adapt? Will my body feel better by that time? Can I get my work done between now and then with Tony coming during my transition time, another reality collision. 

Urghhh… more questions for another day. No pictures in this post, the images are too closely intertwined to make sense… almost like the DNA of humanity weaving its way around itself as I stand in the middle and observe the strands… yet suddenly they crash in upon one another through me and then out once again… maybe more like a figure 8???




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