En route to Lusaka

Deep, musky, earthen, human.  There is a distinctly “African” scent — unfortunate to have to group all Africans into just one descriptor, but that is just how it sits in my brain.  I walked off the plane and was catapulted back to my time in Bujagali, Uganda — my last African adventure where I struck out on my own with my tent, pack, and some courage in my back pocket.  I have read that the our sense of smell is one of our best memory keepers — unlike any other sense, smelling can bring back ever more vivid experiences — certainly proven true during my when-will-this-end-am-I-in-the-right-place-did-I-miss-my-flight layover-I-cannot-believe-I-am-really-here in Addis.

Travel, for me, always brings the world into sharp perspective — what and who is important (and what is not), the meaning of life (seriously), and what is necessary.  Having to think about and prepare for a long absence from Dustin, Jersey, family, and close (and new) friends, I was forced to think about questions like — why the heck am I leaving these people, this comfort, this life?  And what should I bring to help me on my journey?  What am I going to do if something happens to someone dear to me while I am so, so far away?  And then, again, why am I leaving?

Travel is an experience of extremes — anticipation, excitement, sadness, happiness, patience, frustration, loneliness, community.  Nothing about being out there on my own creates feelings like this.  And I guess one of the reasons why I travel is because of that — I learn most about myself when I am pushing my internal envelope to see what I can handle.  How hard is it to say goodbye to Jersey (um, I was a mess)?  The folks?  Dustin (talk about the lllloooonnnngggg goodbye)?  And how about a 35 hour journey, complete with three yelling, laughing, un-parented 5 and 7 year olds, averting the 7lb max weigh-ins for carry-on (mine was probably 5 – 6x that), trying to understand the long wait in an airport where there were no announcements, little English, and no signage?  And those are just a few highlights where I felt, shall we say, challenged.

On the other hand, I have been seated next a lovely Ethiopian girl, a nursing student at VCU (Virgina Commonwealth University), going home to see her family for the first time in five years…  a very kind Zambian who works for the Central Bank and whose second child was born in Lusaka while I was sitting next to him on the flight (and even offered me his card should I have trouble making contacts within the Ministry of Health!)…  Ethiopians (and perhaps Eritreans) assuring me through broken English and wide smiles that: “Lusaka, yes” (in other words, I was in the right place)… And, who would have guessed, but blissful sleep for most of the trip from San Francisco to DC, DC to Rome, and Rome to Addis.  I never knew that I could sleep so well on a plane nor that it would be such a nifty place to start work on my mediation practice (thanks, Pema Chodron).

So, Lusaka, here I am.  Freshly showered, fed, and unpacked, let’s see what challenges and heart-touching moments you have in store for me — I am sure there is more for me to learn.

And, FWIW, I also compiled a quote book (thanks for the idea a long time ago, Sierra).  I wrote down important quotes, prayers, thoughts from others, etc that I will use for some daily reflection.

Today’s is from Cate — she sent it to Dustin and me prior to our travel to China:

Blessed are You, Lord our God,
For You have created a wide and wonderful world in which we can travel.

We ask Your blessings upon Dustin and Julianna as they are about to leave on a trip.
May You, Hold Guide of Travelers, be their ever-near companion,
spreading the road before them with beauty and adventure.
Free that road from harm and evil,
and send as their escorts Your holy spirits, Your angelic messengers, who accompanied the holy ones of days past.

On this journey, may they take with them as part of their traveling equipment
a heart wrapped in wonder with which to rejoice in all they shall meet.

Along with that clothing of wonder, may they have room in their luggage for a mystic map.
With the aid of this map, may they read the invisible meanings of the events of this journey
—of possible disappointments and delays, of possible breakdowns and rainy day troubles.
Always awake to Your sacred Presence and to Your divine compassionate love,
they shall see in all that happens, in the beautiful and the bad, the mystery of Your holy plan.

May the blessing of God be upon you throughout this trip; may it shield you from all harm and bring you home again in safety and in peace.

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8 Responses to En route to Lusaka

  1. Tara says:

    Aww…I can’t imagine how hard it was to leave Dustin, Jersey and your parents. It will be another amazing trip and you are such a strong girl! Can’t wait to read more…we are all praying for you and sending you tons of love and strength. Take care!!

  2. sierra says:

    I have been thinking about you and your journey. I love how you embrace the challenge. It sounds wonderful and exhausting, just how I remember Africa being. I’m glad your quote book is off to such a great start. I look forward to reading about your adventures in the days and weeks to come.


    • You got it, sista’. And keep those pictures coming — the girls are just getting more and more beautiful and distinct. It is a miracle to watch them grow and change so dramatically; I cannot imagine how full you must feel with love for those two. Incredible.

  3. Melissa says:

    What a blessing to have you processing through this journey as we prepare for our own. You have put into words many emotions I’ve been experiencing and encouraged my heart to expect and embrace the challenges that are sure to come. Thank you Julianna.
    We love you! ~M&M

    • Oh man — I have been really thinking of you two of late… I mean it was hard for me to prepare and leave for three months, but you two? I cannot imagine what it must feel like to be heading off for as long as you are planning and hoping. You both remain in my thoughts… Traveling is radical.

  4. tom says:

    Hi Julie!! Hope you are rested and ready for your adventure. Keep us posted and enjoy your research and down time. Love, Uncle Tom

  5. Patty Harrington says:

    Dearest Juli….You’re in my heart and prayers throughout your journey. I’m just now starting to read your blog, and thouroughly enjoying everything, from history, descriptions, feelings, plans, etc., to Cate’s sendoff prayer! This has helped me immensely, as M&M are @ this time enroute to Guatemala. I look forward to reading more from all of you! Lotsa love, Aunt Patty

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