Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Anticipation and Fear

Early Sunday morning, I will carry my luggage out into the cold, scrape off the car, and head for the airport. There, I will wait in line (having thrown out my hummus and toothpaste at security if I've forgotten and left them in my carry-on) to board a plane for Phoenix, transferring to a tiny plane headed to Hermosillo, Mexico. In Mexico, I will drag my enormous luggage (loaded with donations of school and dental supplies) awkwardly through the unpaved, dusty streets of a town that looks not-so-different from the side streets of LA, Las Vegas, or even parts of Logan. From there, myself and two female traveling companions climb aboard an enormous bus for a 3 hour drive to the headquarters of our Mexican volunteer counterparts, where (finally), I will begin to feel like I'm actually in Mexico.

I know -- and don't know -- what awaits me; I've done this trip before, but there are always surprises. Hence the anticipation. And the fear.

My heart longs for these journeys in a way never imagined (by me, anyway). Others used to tell me that I was a traveler: meant for other places and other things. But I thought that was only because they saw the surface -- the clothes that never quite fit the norm, the foreign films and music, the bohemian way I decorate my spaces -- and failed to see what lay underneath: a timid person afraid of change, afraid of too much possibility, afraid of the unfamiliar and unknown. How could a person like that travel anywhere?

Yet I did. And through these trips, I tapped into a self I'd never known before - not to mention sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and most of all, people I'd never known before and grew to love.

I miss India the most. But I'm excited to return to Mexico as well. I love the children and the sun and the food and the Spanish language. Strangely, I love the bad night's sleep on the cement floor with the incessant sounds of the chickens and dogs and the blaring of the truck selling food in the morning, the mud and the horrible bathrooms, and even the excruciating pain in my hands after a long day of mixing adobe. I guess I like the fact that I survive it, and survive it well.

So why am I so afraid? I'm terrified to go. It's as if I think that it can't be repeated: the love I feel for the people, for the experience. What if I've become colder and more selfish? What if the people hate me? What if I've become lazier, being at home, and I won't be able to handle the work? What if I'm so homesick for all I've left behind that I won't extend myself to the people I'm with? In the past, I've bonded with the people because I needed them so desperately. But now I'm content. Will that make me distant from them -- because my heart is here instead of there?

I wonder if this will happen every time. Even though the fear is inevitably swallowed up in the work, and forgotten soon after. Yet, every single time I go - always the same fear: will I connect with the people? Will I work hard? Will I give of myself? Will they receive me?


At 9:08 PM, Blogger Phee said...

I think I told you this before. My class was carrying out volunteer work at two different schools: one for handicapped kids and the other non-handicapped.

I was a bit disappointed that I was included in the handicapped volunteer group.

Handicapped kids reminded me of the special needs class at Morgan Elementary, and escorting one of them once, only to have him bit me on the arm very deeply. I felt I couldn't communicate with them. They scared me.

But I ended up loving my volunteer work. The kids were so unbelievably friendly and loving. Sometimes I wondered who was supposedly giving therapy to whom. I left each time feeling lighter than air.

...And yet...each time before I went back I had some of those same feelings. Fear. Inadequacy. A desire for normal. I think what you're feeling is natural. Everyone feels it. The difference is that you're not letting you hold you back.

Good luck. I'm so jealous!


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