Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mans best friend.

Forever my best friend, Princeton
"If you have a dog, you will most likely outlive it; to get a dog is to open yourself to profound joy and, prospectively, to equally profound sadness."
Marjorie Garber

My Dog Died on Monday. I Feel the strain of distance now more than ever. I found out yesterday over e-mail. I cried harder than I expected, in the middle of an internet cafĂ© trying to hide my tears, not wanting to stick out more than I already do. I did not get to say goodbye to my best friend, my confidant, the soul who knew everything and all about me, and not only never stopped loving me, but showed no change in friendship despite my burdens, baggage, and faults. I will go home in August looking for him, but will never see him again. I expected the cat to pass while I was away, but never my dog. I knew loss was a risk when I left, but I feel every single mile between Colorado and me. 

I woke up feeling tired, lonely and upset. I thought about what else I will miss while away. Weddings, births and birthdays, graduations, all of those little moments that make up the beautiful picture of memories. Deaths? who else will pass while I'm away? who have I not said that final goodbye to? OK I told myself, those are natural risks to the rewards of an experience, a life, like this. And if I want to continue doing service like this in my life, which I do, these will have to be things I endure. So I got out of bed. Yet all of this self talk crumbled easily upon entering the world I now inhabit. The everyday difficulties of living in such a foreign place, the difficulties that I have been weathering and, getting used to, and moving past, hit especially hard from the moment I left my room. 

The stares of people, the calling of Vaza, Vaza, the reality of distance. Language barriers, no water, power outages, sunburn, cramped bus rides, heat, worry, confusion, doubt, loss, all compiling and pounding till I felt I could not take it anymore..... AHHHH I had to stop, take a step back and reevaluate. Yes this is sad, my dog has died. Yes he was one of the closest souls to me on this earth. Yes I am upset and have every right to be. And yes living here is difficult at times and poses many unique challenges. No I have not and thank god I  haven't lost a person close to me. No I cannot afford to be dragged down into a pit of despair, letting this event augment and become about other difficulties I face here. And yes, yes I do need to find the time and space to grieve this loss and neither let it control me or suppress it. But where can I find the place to do that, and with who? In a country that dislikes dogs? A country where dog is not mans best friend and is not a household pet? Where dog keeps you up at night, and is dirty, and may steal food? I just didn't know. I told my host mother about the loss and she tried her best to console me, giving a warm hug, but the understanding was not there. So feeling down and disheartened I headed to one of my placements at a deaf and disabled school.

 Although I have only worked there for a few days, I have already grown to love the children there. I am always greeted with welcoming hugs, and laughter. Here unlike any place I have been yet I have been immediately accepted, and quickly began to feel better. Sitting down on the grass I watched the kids play, and caught up with the kids in my limited sign language. A puppy (of course) came over to me, one of many, and I started to pet it as it laid down next to me. I became lost in thought. At some point one of the girls I especially like, probably around six years old, got my attention, and through some more broken sign, asked if I was OK because I looked sad. I was able to respond that my dog had died the other day. She looked at me signed "that's hard, I'm sorry" and gave me a hug. I could hardly take the empathy, and genuine heartfelt care. I started to cry. slowly and silently at first, again trying to hide it, when another child noticed and joined the hug, and another, and another, until I was surrounded by a dozen kids in a massive group hug. I was done for. First trying to hold back the sobs then eventually letting myself be held by a web of children as I grieved the loss of a dog, a friend, a life that I knew.

 I shed the burden of death in that moment and opened myself up to new life. Life full of joy and sorrow, love and loss, newness and routine here in Madagascar. In that embrace I felt a peace that had yet to grace me in my journey. And I let the very kids, who I believe it is my duty and honor to love, love me. I will never forget Princeton, nor the life that I left at home. But I think I am just that much more willing to become a part of Madagascar, sharing my experiences, and memories from home, here, and in turn letting myself release into to mystery of what lies ahead. I believe this will not only honour who I am, and those that have shaped me, but open myself up to be shaped by the people here who, if I'm lucky, I may touch as well. I miss home. I sometimes struggle with the differences here. I miss my dog. Oh god I miss my dog, and always will. Yet those children created the space for me to recognize, feel, and move foreword. So for Princeton, and for children everywhere, Thank you.

"If we wish to create a lasting peace we must begin with the children" Ghandi

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