Defining 3 Months
For all that time defines (beginnings, endings, months, days, nights etc) it is hard to describe a length time. Ie. what is or makes for a long or short time?
As I set course to board my final fight in Gambia I will be there for 3 months. In conversation with friends, co-workers and strangers on airplanes, it is hard to describe the period of time. The default reaction is along the lines of ... "Wow, 3 months that is a long time." Perhaps based off the comparison to holidays. This statement was shared by my Grandma as I visited on Wednesday night before leaving Vancouver. For her, approaching 97 years on this planet, the comparison is more based on the approach of a new horizon – this most definitely make my departure feel like a long trip.
This said, looking back to January anticipating my departure 3 odd months later this stretch of time hardly felt long at all. In fact it was quite the opposite - yikes that came fast. This will also be said by the locals as I discuss with them that I will only be there for 3 months, for many this timeline will be far too short. The awareness in my own mind will create limitations into the work I choose to involve myself in. For many things my time will be too short.
All said here is my boarding call - 3 months, long or short, the clock starts now.
Travelling with Myself
I tend to be a difficult person to travel with - this is speaking from my own perspective. For some reason I have little interest in investing in food, activities or the like on my own. I seldom will purchase a coffee or admission to local attractions. Instead I tend to wandering miles around foreign cities hungry hiking hot mountains trials to avoid a 4 euro tram fees or enduring long budget flights without free meals as I refuse to pay 7 pounds for a dried out sandwich and I tend to stay in the cheapest youth hostels where inebriated teenagers don't allow for proper sleep and force you to loose sleep and watch your bags like a hawk. Yes, travelling without company there are few things I find pleasure in.
For this reason I have learned to arrange people into my travels. Friends new or old transform a travel experience for me. With someone to share the experience the world comes alive, cafes, restaurants tickets, activities are a pleasure to be shared. On my three day trek to Gambia I had a great chance to visit with friends in different cities, enjoying good food and hospitably cycling small towns, punting on rivers, learning history, playing music and sharing stories with friends new and old. For this I was extremely grateful.
It is hard to appreciate how quickly change happens in Gambia – or perhaps it is the surprise of what changes. The airport seemed normal the typical chaos, boarder questions (why are you staying so long?), x-ray machine which scans the bags for excessive imports (and threatens the possibility of future generations of all who work at the airport) and the warm greeting from friends. What was new was the greeting from the new parking boots being installed on cars parked outside the lines. The rule of Africa – don't panic, it only brings problems ten minutes of friendly conversation brought a key and we where on our way.
In other areas the compound where I live a year brought new faces and saw others move off on their own. It is hard to describe to someone unfamiliar to the culture however their has been so much change the entire dynamic of the people group and interactions will be quite different – it will take some getting used.
I have spend my first couple days on tour establishing contact with old friends, trying to answer the age old questions: 'what language should I learn?' and 'what all will I be up to on this trip?'. There are always plenty of requests the wisdom is required for how to be involved.
It is not an easy place to be particularly for a westerner who is a "doer" at heart. When you meet another missionary, NGO officials, local they will ask – what are you up to on this trip? I humbly answer well I don't know yet. It is so easy to put high expectations on "results" and "progress" but now is a season of listening and observing and it is hard to put time parameters on that sort of thing.