My favorite movie of all time is Out of Africa. Not because of the beautiful landscape, although it is breathtaking. Not because of the intense clash of Karen Blixen’s aristocratic way of life with the grit required to survive the rough African terrain, although the beauty and absurdity of it is equally magnificent. But because of the way love seeped into the crevices of the family system that developed on Blixen’s plantation and took up residency in unconventional yet authentic ways.
Like water on dry land seeks refuge in the porous earth, love changes us and softens us while helping us to grow and flourish. Love bridges the gaps we often create to separate ourselves from one another and allows us to rejoin in our oneness. Out of Africa begins and ends with Blixen narrating from her journal: I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills. And her voice lulls viewers and guides us to that sacred space where love resides.
Since returning from Rwanda nine days ago, I often catch myself thinking, I have a home in Africa … My heart aches with homesickness. And while my team and I called the ALARM compound “home,” what I am homesick for is what I have begun to think of as my “Africa family.” They are my home in Africa.
Upon returning from Africa my life quickly catapulted into the usual hectic chaos so common to the American way of life. There are six other people who comprise my “home in Africa” and each of us quickly fell into the chaos of returning from a long trip, catching up with work, reintegrating with family and simply going on with life and business as usual. Yet not one of us has been able to quite shake our homesickness.
Two days after arriving from Africa I was back on a plane to DC. I woke up Tuesday morning violently ill. I could not meet my colleagues for the day of meetings we had scheduled. I spent the morning rushing to the restroom. By noon, I had stopped bothering even picking myself up off the bathroom floor. I knew I would be right back there in 20 or 30 minutes anyway. By 4 p.m., I realized I needed help. And by 5 p.m. I was in the emergency room. The first question asked: “Have you been to Africa?”
And though Rwanda is 3000 miles away from the closest Ebola outbreak, I was rushed to an isolation room and the nurse and doctor took great care to treat me as humanely and kindly as they possibly could while wearing something akin to a hazmat suit. Numerous questions and blood tests later, I was assured I did not have Ebola. I was diagnosed with a bacterial infection, given an IV of Cipro, a follow up prescription and released from the hospital.
I have been in “isolation” since — alone in my house, craving human contact.
Seth Godin released a blog this morning titled, “We have Ebola.” In the article he writes, “It’s tragic but not surprising to watch the marketing of another epidemic unfold. It starts with, ‘We’ don’t have Ebola, ’they’ do. They live somewhere else, or look different or speak another language. Our kneejerk reaction is that ‘they’ need to be isolated from us.”
This hit home for me, because in addition to my homesickness, most people have not wanted to be around me. Although they know I don’t have Ebola, there is a lot of media hysteria and fear mongering that the general population is quite susceptible to.
This morning, as I was making coffee and thinking about how much I missed making coffee for my Africa family (homesickness makes you miss all the tiny details of home) and also contemplating how much I was looking forward to returning to the office tomorrow (because this isolation from everyone is making my homesickness worse), it occurred to me what this experience came to teach me.
Since returning from Africa nine days ago, I have been thinking about my Africa family as a team of six precious individuals. Yet, during this time of convalescence, I have missed being connected to humans in general. It has been lonely. In Godin’s “We have Ebola” blog, he also wrote this: “Fear of the other. Pushing us apart and paralyzing us. The thing is: We are they. They are us.” And I realized what my Africa family taught me, or rather reminded me: We are all one. We are all family. We have simply allowed ourselves to draw inward so much that we have separated. And love (and Ebola) is crying for us to rejoin.
I have a home in Africa, and I share it with you.
Robyn Short has ghostwritten numerous books and is the founder of GoodMedia Press. She is a student of A Course in Miracles, a self-study system of spiritual psychotherapy. Robyn is a passionate believer in peace and social justice. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Psychology from Auburn University, a Masters of Liberal Arts from Southern Methodist University and a Masters in Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution from Southern Methodist University. Robyn is the author of Prayers for Peace, and Peace People, co-authored with Nanon Williams. Robyn is available for book signings and to speak on topics of peacebuilding and nonviolence, especially as it relates to these core issues. Contact Robyn by email.