I've been looking at my oldest daughter's Facebook today. It is filled with photos from her life in Africa. I was against Facebook until she went to Tallahassee for college after she graduated from Milton High School. But I found it to be a wonderful tool in keeping up with all my busy children.
During her time there, she traveled to Europe and lived in London for four months. From there, she traveled to many countries and had stories to share. The most memorable for her, and for me I think, was Auschwitz Death Camp. She stood in the gas chambers and made the moment a permanent memory. She was 19 years old at the time.
My heart swells today as I look at her photos from Europe and her photos from Africa. She is signing up for another year in Africa, so she won't return home to stay until next year.
I can only begin to describe how it felt in Sept. 2011 when I knew she really was flying away to another continent to live in what could be a lawless primitive village in Sub-Sarahan Africa. It was surreal, letting go of her. I felt like I was watching her drown right in front of me and I couldn't save her.
I've gotten over that. I had to. I rarely think about her daily life because it is unimaginable to me. She had a scholarship to Boston College when she graduated Florida State University. But she chose the Peace Corps. She told me it was because she wanted the experience of living in Africa and the experience of serving the African people to be a part of who she is forever. From that point on, she knew she would be changed.
She is quite different. Last Christmas, she had us rolling on the floor with laughter as she told her stories. Some of the events she shared were not funny when they happened. She does not always tell me about things as they occur. The confession of danger comes to me later, when she calls me with a cheerful voice and tells me, "It's over, Mom...don't worry about it now."
In many ways, I envy her choice and her life there. It has not been easy and I am sure I would be annoyed in many cases by the inconveniences she puts up with daily. On the other hand, there is a peace about her. I can hear it in her voice. It is a simple existence with few luxuries. No luxuries, actually.
I think her only vice was a blanket she splurged to buy. It does get chilly at night there. It was a down comforter that she left on her bed when she flew to the States for Christmas last year. Her home has bars on the windows, but someone managed to steal her blanket from her bed by reaching inside and meticulously pulling it an inch at a time, through the bars. When she got home and discovered the theft, she went out into the village to find who might know something. She says she came to a place where the women, elders, were sitting and they told her they knew of the blanket. A young African boy from her neighborhood tried to sell it to them. They refused because they knew it was stolen...it smelled like a "nassara" - a white person, they told her. She smiled as she described how the spirits told the women she would come on the third day after the boy had been there, to find her blanket. And by fulfilling this prophecy, they would share information with her about who had it.
In the end, she got her blanket back and tried not to get the boy who took it into too much trouble because punishment there is often extreme for children who break the rules.
I am publishing a photo of her in a classroom that was taken last year, on page A4 - maybe two photos, if I can get away with it. I am more than proud of this young woman than I can find words to say.
For those readers who pray, ask God to keep Angels around her all the time.