Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ke Teng

In Setswana, there is a phrase: Ke teng.  

Literally, these two words simply mean "I am here". When I first arrived to Botswana almost four years ago, this was one of the first things I learned not only because it was relatively easy to remember, but because it was used multiple times throughout the day. 

Bush Fire, Gobojango, Botswana 2014
If someone asked "how are you?" you could answer "ke teng".  If they asked what you were up to, where you were, etc. the answer was always the same.  

Now, seemingly worlds apart and a plethora of experiences later, I have had the opportunity to meditate a bit on this phrase and its actual pertinence to everyday life.  

Sunset over the Chobe River, Zambia 2014
I have learned that "I am here" isn't as much of a physical state of being as it is a mental one.  To be present, one has to believe every aspect of their surrounding is their reality. In this process, presence leads to self-realization and understanding and establishment of personal norms.  

Stability.  Constance. Permanence.

For the wanderlust-bitten traveler, this realization is a tough pill to swallow (see last month’s post and my personal apprehensions here).  It’s much easier to live life to its fullest when you have no qualms or reservations about making a lasting impression, because you can simply just reload your pack and move on the following day. Never looking back, never questioning "what if".  

Unfortunately, in that practice of constantly looking to the horizon, it is much easier to stumble over your path of the “now”.  Ke teng has no meaning if you’re physically present but mentally yearning for the next adventure.  In my craving for exploration, I have mistaken my recent move to D.C. as a daunting obstacle rather than an opportunity to be here; to be present.  
City street next to National Archives, Washington DC 2015
Regardless of who you are, moving to a new place is always off-setting. It ruins your routine, ruffles your expectations, and injects your reality with dark, oozing anxiety.  For me, my move to D.C. has been a journey of realizations. 

-         I have realized that everything is a matter of perception. Paradigms control the shifting ebbs and flows of change, and even the smallest glint of surprise can alter an intended trajectory.  
-         I have realized that patience is not just a virtue; it is a way of life. And in the toils and reverberations of “big city living”, it is often more arduous to find a moment to oneself to reflect in introspection than it is to bypass it and continue onward.
-         I have realized that my music is abounding to be sung.  This past week, in between the time that I was grueling over scholarly journals for class, I happened upon an inspiring quote from a pundit whom I admire.  Through her musings, this spiritual leader emphasized the phrase, “Don’t die with your music still inside of you”. 

This quote resonated deeply within me; it vibrated between my ribs and sank deeply into my core.  I have met so many people thus far in my journey who wear their music on their face, their smiles echo their inner peace and resonate their playfulness with life.   Oftentimes I’ve realized that these individuals are the ones who have the least material connection to the world: their routines depend on the rising and setting sun, on that year’s harvest, and on the souls they surround themselves with.  
My muse, Samantha Mmapetla, Gobojango, Botswana 2013

Since my move to DC, I have met so many characters who shove their songs so deeply within them that what remains is a shell of a human being, a persona if you will.  Everyone is so focused upon earning the roll of choral director that their actual music has been lost.  

In the effort of being present, I fully intend to release my music, and to share it with those who comprise my surroundings.  

After all, I’m beginning to believe in enjoy this new reality. 
Columbia Heights, Washington DC 2015

Alongside the realizations and encounters thus far, ke teng for the first time in a while. 
Costa Rica, 2015

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Landing for a moment

I am always entranced by the fervidity of a hummingbird.  These remarkable creatures have the capacity to fly left, right, forward, backward, and even upside down.  Their feet are made for perching, and they spend the majority of their life hovering in flight.  Seeing one is always electrifying, because an individual knows that in an instant the bird will be gone, just as quickly as he came.

I saw one once, with her long delicate beak, gulping down the nectar of a blossom in the sticky rainforests of Costa Rica and I realized that my insides resonated with this vibrant bird’s spirit. I have spent the past years of my life flitting from continent to continent, gulping down the nectar of various cultures that I haven’t had a moment to perch.

I've been vagrant for so long, my soul has adapted a bit of a gypsy-like lust to explore and reconnoiter the quilts of land throughout the world.  I covet new places, new foods, new cultures to submerse myself in.  I crave the smells of a South American night by the ocean or the noises of an African rainfall on a tin roof. 

I have currently reached a point in my life where it appears that the past five years have to be tucked gently away in my bag, alongside my clothing, and I must begin to settle…to perch.  In the next six days I will be moving my belongings from my parent’s home in Arizona to Washington D.C. to begin graduate school and two jobs for which I fear I may not be qualified.  Stress seeps her way into my dreams, and worry tickles the back of my neck.  What if I am unhappy? What if this life that I have forged for myself isn’t necessarily what I expected it to be?

I have tried convincing myself these past couple days that a life in the city will be inspiring, a new, dauntless adventure.

Why, then, does this move have me feeling more trepidation then when I relocated my life to a tiny village in an entirely new continent, without knowing a single soul?

I venture that the answer is the one thing I have been avoiding the majority of my life: structure.

During my four years in the Peace Corps, I followed a certain arrangement. There were deadlines I had to abide by, and a mutual goal that was agreed upon.  But in the wake of the daily happenings, there was never a norm.  I set my own schedule, planted seeds and ate the flesh of impulse. My mouth salivated with the anticipation of the unknown.  Split-second decisions were my branches, and the pack on my back became my home.

Traveling has been my longest commitment.  Since we first met, I have grown internally, soulfully, and fear that with this break, we may never be the same again.  I will always long for the butterflies he gave me at daybreak, looking to the sunrise, and the satisfaction of knowing that I lived every day to its fullest as the sun set.  I now must bid travel and that life of whim farewell.  At least for the next two years.

I surrender to the overwhelming standards set by expectation.  But continue to ask why and keep my love affair rife with adventure, with life. I know the white knight of travel will always be waiting for me, gallivanting and boasting his sword of voyage.  

Onward and upward.