Saturday, June 7, 2014

Stripped and Present

I feel uncomfortable without makeup on.

Not in an end-of-the-world type insecurity, per se, but an awareness of what society would call my flaws. Like low-fat ice cream, it just feels somehow lacking. Make-up is actually not unlike photo filters, accentuating what you want people to notice while dimming or blurring the rest. Why post a regular photo when you can dramaticize it? So goes the logic. It's also not unlike social media as a whole - always creating and recreating ourselves.

This cannot be in Africa. I question whether it should be in America.

I'm notorious in our two-roommate home for being unable to find things that are right under my nose. But at long last, nothing I could do could help me find my Nikon camera last night. I had wanted to take it with me to Africa for obvious reasons. It far surpasses my iPhone. I must have searched for over an hour. At last, reluctantly driving away, I mused that it's better this way. For every moment I won't obsessively be behind a camera lens (creating art yet again), I will be present. And I think that matters more.

Write them on my heart instead.

I think this is really life, though. I remember backpacking the Grand Canyon with some friends. I was makeup-less then too, but we all were. Somehow being in the midst of the wilderness, facing genuine physical challenge in a situation where none of the societal standards applied anymore…was immensely freeing. I remember feeling more fully human without the demands of beauty and political correctness. That's an entry for another day.

Besides, I'm not going to Malawi to be beautiful. I'm not going to take life-changing pictures (although I admit I wanted to). I'm going for the people, and being stripped this way forces me to stay true to this purpose. In a way, I don't want to come back and post a thousand pictures of me with cute children because I know that even in part, I would be making it about me. Somehow that seems awkwardly, even wildly, out of place here. In my life I must always be fighting off this tendency.

Here we are, packing up piles of over-the-counter medications
to donate to the local medical organizations. 

People have asked me what I am most excited for. And to be honest, I don't know. I suppose I am going to see. See the people, see the world they live in, experience their humanity and serve them in whatever way I am able. The team gathered last week to sort and pack thousands of packages of different over-the-counter medications for distribution through local African clinics. Somehow handling bottles of NSAIDs and antibiotic ointment bound for our Malawi friends made their humanity just a bit more real. Down to tummy-aches and dental care.

In a way, though,  I'm waiting to get my bearings until I get there. I have remarkably few expectations. But I am ready to step forward into this new unknown. My bags are packed. A couple quick errands remain. I fly out this evening around 9pm and disappear into a world yet undiscovered by me. See you on the 21st!