Dreams, Callings, and Coincidences: South Africa Months 6 and 7
Dreams, Callings, and Coincidences: Update from South Africa- Months 6 and 7
“But it wasn’t a dream. It was a place. And you were there…and you were there…and you were there too!”
Overwhelmed? Maybe if this were at a previous time in my life. The timing of all the challenges and opportunities before me is perfect. I’ve had an ample adjustment period. It is not so much that I am blending in as part of the culture as I am in total acceptance of the world around me.
Yes, call it a lesson in unconditional love for life. This love has freed me to be a part of something much bigger than only my personal and professional aspirations. Like earth debris in the wind, I flow with the forces that push and pull me to the places I am needed, settling for a while, as preparedness enables my imprint on life. And then again the wind blows, lifting me, carrying me, and scattering me, only to land me for another moment in time, for another impression in someone’s mind-maybe even in their hearts.
I’ve had recurring dreams nearly every night for two weeks. I’m always in a faraway place; sometimes another country, sometimes a familiar city, sometimes my grandmother’s old neighborhood. I am always moving; traveling sometimes by bus, sometimes by plane, often a car, and more often a bicycle. I’m always off to do some seemingly urgent work of significance that can only be described as a calling. I stop temporarily in homes I recognize and some I do not, in hotels, hostels, and airports-and sometimes in huts or shacks in foreign lands.
In all the dreams, I am saying goodbye to people in my background; sometimes a farewell, sometimes a “see ya later.” It is always evident however that wherever I am off to, they cannot come with me. It is as if my subconscious is severing ties to old relationships which no longer serve a purpose, or recognizing the importance of physical separateness from some of my nearest and dearest as a means for mutual growth. Yes, one thing I’ve learned in my journeys, both dreaming and waking, is that there is hidden value in time, space, and distance-value humans often run from, but don’t let me get ahead of myself.
In the dreams, there are those who re-enter the scene- as if to stay. They only re-enter once the familiar scenes dissipate. They linger with the new and uncertain aspects of my dream world. In waking life it may be they are distant friends or coincidental acquaintances. But one thing seems consistent; they arrive and appear to me ready to flow, drift, and effortlessly imprint the world, as if by calling.
There is often chaos under the surface of my dreams. In one episode, I was fare-welling childhood friends in my parents’ backyard in rural southern Illinois. Upon the farewell, I heard gun shots in the distance and watched gun smoke surround the town. In another dream, I am standing before a pyramid in Egypt, noting every detail and marveling the complexity of the structures, and then drones appear and missiles fly into the pyramids. Sometimes I am flying away on a discreet mission, and other times I am speaking in foreign languages in dimly lit rooms of small homes in India.
In all of the dreams, I am on a mission; answering to a calling, always physically detaching from the familiar, though maintaining the deeper abstract bonds with those I love.
There is never any reservation about coming or going. I just do it. An inner stillness soothes me. In my waking life, I have described this peace in a former journal entry.
It was over a year ago, on December 22, 2012. I was traveling by train from Chicago to southern Illinois to see my family for the holiday. It was a few months before I found out where in the world I would be asked to go as part of the Peace Corps assignment, as part of the Universe’s design (“Universe” or “God” – whichever term you prefer- I am referring to the abstract yet real force at the core of our existence, which has the power of creating perfection in our lives when we choose to quiet our obsessive human mind and all its thought compulsions which stress, judge, and leave us never at ease for long. In my book, I will explain my interchangeable use of the terms further, but for now, insert your term of choice for the force you know I am describing).
On this day, December 22, 2012, it was becoming real to me that I would soon take departure from my family and friends for a minimum of two years. At that time, I had accepted the possibility of landing in a place without access to any form of technology; thus anticipating extremely limited communication: no phone, no facebook, no blog (as you now know, I got lucky). I was making peace with this possibility as I wrote the following:
“I get a little sad thinking about the fact that in less than six months I will not be in real time communication with any of my loved ones. But I think it can be a valuable time for growth.
When a person dies, it seems their example, their teachings-their legend take on new meaning forthose left behind. It is as if all the values the person stood for are no longer shadowed by the person, but illuminated in the world- in the hearts and minds of those left behind. Perhaps death, or absence, allows for reflection which is not possible when the person is still around. When people have no choice but to reflect in order to feel close to the one they’ve lost, that is when the legend resonates truer, fuller. That is when people stop and think, ‘Oh! This is how she would encourage me’ or ‘this is what he’d say in times like this.
I’ve been a coach, a mentor, a sister, a daughter, a friend, and always a cheerleader. What happens when I am gone? In my absence, I can only hope for the value and gifts that death brings. I can only hope that the silence will pull those I’ve left behind to move on without me, yet With me. What a unique opportunity I have to die in my waking life.”
–end journal entry–
Today when I am asked by friends when I’m coming home, I don’t know how to answer that. All I can say is, “the world is my home, everywhere I go, here I am.”
Our existence is beyond the physical world. It is my belief that this human life is a mere experience- a short one in the grander scheme. And while I would love to wake up to familiar smiles, and the smell of my mother’s food, or dance to country music with my dear grandma, or hear the sound of my father’s laughter, and watch the youth of my family grow, I am whole right now-even in my physical separateness. I feel, sense, and know, that my imprint in their lives will be best kept as my spirit flows freely to where I am needed. Our actions and contributions in love and life are our conversation in times of absence. There is no better conversation than a life that speaks for itself, and there is not a piece of me that works without a piece of my loved ones in the sweat and the tears.
When the voice within me spoke, “Come this way,” I knew it was best for me and all those affected by my decision.
During the recent holiday season I had my first bout with loneliness. The summer temperatures and absence of all the festive traditions which are characteristic of an American Christmas and the lack of Hanukkah parties with friends had me feeling aloof. I was adrift in a sea of time, wondering if the snow and the lights and the food and the family were only a dream I once had.
A few days before Christmas, my mother called and we sang Christmas carols together. I time traveled home in those moments; realizing I can be there whenever I want. Mother put me at ease. Mothers are so good at that!
When I hung up the phone, I climbed into bed under my mosquito net. I was forced to remove all of my clothing due to the heat. I acknowledged that this was only the first Christmas away from my family, and next year would be no different. A gust of mountain wind blew open the curtains of the window over my bed. The light of the moon reflected off my skin and I glanced up at the night sky. “Yes, those are the same stars and that is the same moon that rise and fall in my parents back yard. Connected. We are always connected.”
The next day, I met a man visiting his family in the village for the holiday. He was confused by my presence, whiteness, and fluency in Tshivenda. When I explained the work I’ve come to do, he stated, “Oh, like a calling.” I was surprised at the use of this word to describe my aspirations.
The next day came. It was December 22, 2013; one year after realness of my departure had set in, and here I was, the lone mukuwa (Tshivenda for “white person”) in a foreign land, in a village celebrating the month long holiday break from responsibility. With much time on my hands, I was free to roam and better acquaint myself with my community. It was a challenge. I found streets abundant with drunken men by 8am each day- often making proposals or shouting inappropriate comments which they assumed I could not understand. I’m not sure they would care if they knew I could understand. I grew tired of hiding in my house or fleeing to the nearby town and decided to venture to the cafe down the mountain for some journaling therapy. I sat and wrote the following:
“Living in the village is a huge test of my spiritual strength. I am irritated still each day. I am patient with me, because I know if I keep working at it, I will be untouched by the differences. I need to remind myself that this is a gift. No one asked me to be here. I chose to. I do think spending time with various cultures and listening to their views of this country and the communities I serve has fueled ideas of how different I am from the community. While this may be true on the surface, I must choose to see beyond that-to simplify-to see on a basic level people are the same. I also must commit to seeing things differently. I am not going to impact anything if I allow the past of this country and other people’s experiences and perspectives to dirty my pure lens. No, if I do that I will not bring forth change. There is no playing small. So, I must be a stranger at all times; seeing things differently. It is the only way to transcend stereotypes and the past and create something brand new.”
“I used to talk about seeing with my new eyes. That’s exactly what I must do to create new. Maybe that’s what I’m being called upon to do…”
At this moment, a young man interrupts my writing and sits next to me. I can see him peek at my journal. Part of me is irritated by this. I release the irritation as he asks me “What are you writing?”
That mind-piece again wants to tell him, “None of your business,” because the mind-piece gets annoyed by folks being so interested in everything I’m doing. Some people even look in my shopping bags as they pass me; they stick out their hands and pull open my bag to see what I’ve purchased. My private American self is wildly irritated by this. However, I decide I am willing to accept people as they are, and love them unconditionally. I understand these folks are not trying to infringe on my privacy, but they are just curious, and their culture’s concept of privacy is a world apart from my own.
Choosing to accept people as they are, I decide to open up to the young man and engage with him, “A book,” I reply.
“About what?” he asks.
“About my life,” I reply.
He then begins to ask about my story. “Why do you stay here? Most of the white people live in the cities.”
“I work for the United States government. I am a volunteer. We assist developing countries in meeting their national priorities. I will be assisting with community development, education, health…”
“You are a volunteer. So you don’t get paid?” he asks.
“No, only to eat,” I respond.
“What about your family? Are you lonely?” he continues, “You are a woman, so you know you have to get married. What about that?”
I tell everyone I’m married to avoid proposals and advances. So, I stick to my story, “There is someone, but he lives far away,” I explain.
“Oh, so you both decided to do your own thing?” he asks.
I have grown tired of my story at this point and tell him, “I don’t need to be married now.”
Being single at my splendid age of 29 is nearly unheard of in Venda culture. His look of confusion makes me laugh. He does not understand, but accepts it. He then asks, “Not that you must compete, but your friends in America, aren’t they making lots of money at their jobs and having things and you are here not getting paid?”
I explain to him a little about my career and previous professional endeavors. He gives me a puzzled look, wondering why anyone would leave it all behind.
“I’m crazy,” I tell him with a smile.
“So you decided you are not worried about money and this is what you want to do?”
“Yes,” I affirm.
We talk further, and I enjoy listening to him speak. He’s sharp and ambitious. At the end of our conversation I ask for his name.
“Mbidzo,” he tells me.
I practice saying it a couple times and jot his name down in my journal. He is curious, and looks over my shoulder as I write. “So I remember,” I explain.
“Here,” he points to the top of my page, “write ‘calling.’ In English, my name means ‘calling.'”
Another smile forms on my face. “Like a calling in life?” I ask.
“Like God is calling you,” he replies.
Wow. The last words I had written just before he sat down were, “what I’m called to do…”
Before I left for holiday travel, I asked the Universe and affirmed that new teachers would enter my life to prime me for the work of 2014. Days later, my first teacher appeared- a successful rural South African native who currently lives in Johannesburg. He is the son of the family who got me acquainted with SA culture back in July. Here we sat at the home in which I spent my first two months in country, having our first conversation. We discovered that the last few books we read were the same books! This is a rare find in a country which has libraries in only 8% of its public schools and only 5% of families read with their children. Not only was Simon able to provide depth in interpretation and application of our shared knowledge, but his spiritual alertness allowed him to answer questions in my mind on nearly every aspect of my humanness- as a sister, as an aunt, as a woman confused about whether love and a family will ever fit into my unconventional life, as an ambassador of peace, and as a model for a nation’s youth. All the questions which seemed to burn beyond my peace were answered- a clear canvass yet again; Absolute Potential.
Next, I would spend Christmas night listening to traditional American carols and having dinner with a man who is from the poor communities I serve, who is now working at Harvard Medical School. His story revealed to me the possibility of transcending limitations in this part of the world. Once again, Absolute Potential!
The only familiar face I saw during holiday travels was my dear friend and former co-worker, Craig. This was also by grand design, as he was visiting from the U.S., and this was his first time home in five years. I received such encouragement from he and his family for my efforts, despite our many conversations about the corruption and apathy which is prevalent throughout the societal, political, and cultural systems of this beautiful land. But within conversations of realism, my friend says to me, “Don’t let other people’s experiences influence you. Maybe you can do things differently, and even if you do the same things, maybe no one has done it the way that you will.”
Craig’s brother, with whom I closely bonded encouraged repeatedly by stating, “You may rarely end up where you intend to go, but you may often end up somewhere you need to be,” (referencing Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul).
A few days later, I landed in Durban by default. My other two preferred travel destinations were impossible to coordinate at the last minute.
Upon my arrival I met Rob. He caught my attention immediately. As I laughed about some of the day’s coincidences, he remarked, “You’re one of those high vibration people.”
Part of my life’s exploration and research for my book is concerned with our vibrations as organisms. The earth has its own vibration, which bees and other insects use to pollinate and sustain life on this planet. When humans vibrate at high frequencies, we are said to enjoy a state of grace, good health, and experience the flow of all we need to us at the right time. Establishing such a vibration is a lot of mind work and a great balancing act. It is extremely rare that I meet someone familiar with these ideas. And before Rob, I had never met anyone so well studied in these areas.
Rob shared as much as he could from his 19 years of spiritual and metaphysical studies as we adventured for four days enjoying one coincidence and lucky happening to the next. When my Durban stay came to an end, I joked with him that he was either an angel sent to me to encourage me on my path, or he was a most perfect imaginary friend I had dreamed up.
“I’m not sure you’re even real!” I’d laugh with giddy for moments on end.
Soon it was farewell to the road and my final teacher of the journey. I arrived back to Venda in a state of pure love and gratitude for the teachers which I had called.
And here the winds have carried me, I settling like earth debris in a sea of absolute potential… And I now the teacher.
Am I overwhelmed? Not in this dream.
“But it wasn’t a dream…it was a place! And you were there…and you were there…”
-Dorothy, Wizard of Oz
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
-Dr. Wayne Dyer
“The connections between causes and effects are often much more subtle and complex than we with our rough and ready understanding of the physical world might naturally suppose.”
-Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul
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