I'm sitting outside my hut, on an old sheet to keep the light colored pants Debbie gave me clean rather than to appease the Basotho concerns of cold cement causing hemorrhoids. My feet luxuriate in the soft sand that comprises our front yard. Most mornings are too hot and too sunny for this, however, today is gray with just enough humidity to make the occasional light breeze welcome instead of cold.
I sip my coffee and consider making a second cup. This time last year, the consideration would have been a second pot, as the second cup was a given, but now real coffee is a luxury usually shipped by a generous and loving person back home.
In the distance, I can hear villagers shrieks of joy-it is New Year's Eve after all. Next door, I hear Ntate Thamahane conducting village business. Occasionally my quiet morning is interrupted by a villager walking to the chief's place, which requires we go through the usual Basotho greetings.
Relishing my bare feet in the sand, I remember an older man at Three Mile Island last summer telling me he believes people should have a physical connection to the Earth as often as possible for health reasons. While this sounds like the musings of a back to nature person, he was otherwise a very conservation and professional individual. I remember we discussed the way sea turtles us the Earth's magnetic force to direct thousand miles journeys (because I always want to discuss sea turtles) and that we too should allow our bodies to experience that connection to the Earth. Now, a year and a half later, I am sitting on the other wise of the world, fully appreciating that connection.
As New Year's Eve often induces reflection, I cannot help but wonder at all the paths that led me to this moment. It seems like every stepping stone has focused on connection and simplicity, often removing those things that separate us from such a connection. How many of my jobs have put me in a place to experience life without the usual trappings of electricity and the modern world: television, unlimited high-speed internet, regular hot showers, traditional flush toilets, etc.
In a world filled with reaching towards the next big thing-be it the newest iPhone, marriage, kids, a mortgage, or a new car-I find myself stepping away; craving and pursuing jobs that are lifestyles in simplicity. The immense peace I feel sitting on the cement, leaning on my dung and mud hut on this gray day is the same as I captured when at sea, grading handwritten essays on the deck of a schooner. It is the same as I found sitting on the deck of my cabin during a summer thunderstorm at Three Mile Island. It is the same as I enjoyed each early morning walk down to Nikana Lodge at Camp Pendalouan, looking out at Big Blue Lake's serene facade in the silence just before camp truly awoke. It is early mornings and late nights in Charleston, sitting on the Spirit of South Carolina while looking out over the harbor and marveling that life brought these moments over and over again.
Fifteen years ago, none of these were on my list of dreams. I graduated high school and started college in pursuit of suits and salaries; the American dream. Somehow, despite my desire to be unique, I followed the cliché and found myself during those college years. In doing so, I realized the reality of a career indoors, of reaching for promotions, of following the usual path set out by the game of Life (graduate, job, wedding, house, babies...) unpalatable. Thanks to a simple daysail on Niagara with my mom and a summer of fitness and hiking in Maine, I realized there were other options and the only limiting factor was me.
And so, I find myself in the perfect place this New Year's Eve morning: sitting outside, barefoot, with that second cup of coffee. As the hot summer sun begins to burn its way through the clouds and will soon chase me inside, I cannot help but look ahead to 2015 with excitement. It may be the only year of my life spent exclusively outside of my home country. I doubt it will be filled with only the serenity I feel in this moment, but I can always return to my happy place: barefoot, outside, with coffee. And, I will always appreciate the simplicity of life in a place where my slowest walk is regularly commented on as too fast.
Special thanks to Mom, Julie P, and Eric G for supporting this moment through gifts of coffee.