The last message I received from my family was nearly a month ago now. It was an unfortunate autocorrect in which my mother attempted to type the inspirational phrase “Carpe Diem” (Sieze the day) only to write “Crap Swim”. The message was sent in our family group chat and so naturally, I received a “Sieze the crap swim” message from every member of the Kane family. Gotta love parent texting.
Since that day, I’ve made it my goal to crap swim the hell out of my time here. I’ve seen our group dive headfirst into a crap swim, seizing every opportunity, jumping into any dance circle, talking to literally any stranger, attending any celebration. Hell, with these people I’ve now attended or participated nearly every life event one can have here in Zambia, from a baby shower, to a birthday, to a baptism, to a circumcision party, to a wedding, to digging a grave, to even attending an exorcism. We even joke that there is a running check-list of life events that I need to attend here in Zambia (fingers crossed for a Bar-Mitzvah).
In fact that check-list mentality is how I’ve always treated carpe diem (or crap swim). At Gonzaga I make around 5 to-do lists per day. A day well seized revolves around how many memorable or productive things I’ve done that day. The “to-do” culture was the product of a stressful major, and drastic over involvement. At Gonzaga I’d venture to say I’m one of the fastest walkers on campus. Legend has it that Ethan Kane made the trip from C/M to 4th floor of Tilford in 7 minutes and grabbed a muffin from the cog on his way. I don’t waste much time getting places, I just want to be there with efficiency, because of a fear of wasting time. Often I would think that wasted time means an un-seized day. I recall one day in Spokane when I was walking to the library during a beautiful snowfall. Due to my busyness I found it impossible to enjoy the true immaculate beauty of the snow drifting to the ground. I remember the deep frustration of that moment. I’m sure many of us know the curse of being too busy to notice the wonderful world.I ran into the same problems in Zambezi as I did in Gonzaga almost immediately. In an attempt to make as many friendships as I could and experience everything, I had became too busy to slow down and truly feel anything at all.
The funny thing about Zambezi is that the ground literally forces me to slow down and notice the world. Every street runs entirely with thick fine sand that pulls my feet deeper and deeper into the earth, forcing me to walk slower to a pace that ordinarily I would find unbearable. In this context though, I’ve started to love how slow the sand makes me walk. Zambezi physically won’t let me rush. It pushes my feet to sink into the sand and experience the gentle therapeutic feeling of sand running over my toes. It forces me to listen intently to the calls of children yelling “Chindele!”, and truly see the faces of the people around me.
So these last few days in Zambezi I’ve been trying to always walk in the deep sand, in fact the deepest ruts of sand I can find, because if I don’t, I know I’ll rush and I’ll completely miss the simple gift of sand on my toes, just like I had always missed the beauty of snow in the Spokane winter.
I feel that my idea of Carpe Diem (or crap swimming) can actually oppose my ability to truly feel a moment. Don’t get me wrong, the motivation to seize opportunities is a beautiful mindset, and has led me to so many adventures. Doing a lot of things is great, but as long as the pressure to do a lot of things doesn’t push you out of the moment you are in. Is doing everything worth anything if you don’t feel it. You may sieze the day, but never forget to surrender to this moment.
Two nights ago was Father Baraza’s birthday, and as I shared a Zambian beer with the birthday boy, he went off on a well rehearsed speech about how Africans view time (A very common topic of conversation with Fa-Bara, as he is lovingly called). He spoke of the absence of future in the common African view of time saying “The only thing that exists now, is now.” and when asked for the secret of a long life revealed “Just be.” (shout out to Grant for his blog figuring it out early).
I cherish the times like this in Zambezi that like the sand, have forced me to surrender to now, erasing all thoughts of the future or past. Like, surrendering to the grief as I hear the tragic story of the smiliest kid you could ever meet. Surrendering to the complicated beauty, holiness, and sadness that the Falconer orphanage holds. Surrendering to awkwardness as a very enthusiastic and sweaty man challenged me to a close-proximity hip gyration dance contest.
Instead of seizing this last day in Zambezi I want to surrender to it. Instead of looking for profoundness, I want to let the profoundness of the mere existence of the world find me. I like the idea of surrendering instead of seizing because I want to give myself to this day, not attempt to “take it”. I want to let it take over every fabric of my being and guide me wherever it may. I want to surrender to today with joy as my students as perform stories they’ve written with confidence and pride. I want to surrender to my frustration and sadness as I say goodbye to Zambian friends who I’ve learned to love, just in time to leave them. I want to surrender to the beauty of the Zambezi river one last time.
However, this presence is a hard thing to do when there is so much to worry about: saying goodbye to our friends, buying our family gifts, packing up our stuff, wondering if I brought toilet paper with me or if I’m going to get pinched by the infamous butt pincher chair. This last day it would be easy to take on the carpe diem mindset that I need to see everyone and wrap up everything the way I want it before I leave. But that’s not realistic. How does one say goodbye to the friends and children and students and mentors that you’ve just begun to truly love? Especially when you know that in all likelihood you may never see them again. A clean goodbye is going to be difficult. Today I will attempt to show the people that have welcomed and loved me with all their hearts, all the appreciation I possibly can and I know that for me it may never feel like enough. How can one possibly have a goodbye to this place and these people in a way that does feel like enough? So I go into today knowing that I can’t do enough for everyone today, but perhaps I can just feel one thing well. It would do a disservice to this place, these people, and myself to not feel today with all my being. I give all of myself to you today Zambezi.
p.s. I have been rocking a sty in my right eye for the past 6 days. There are pretty much no mirrors in Zambezi, although I can only assume that I partially resemble a distant relative of Sloth from Goonies. Don’t expect many photogenic pics (hence the picture of me walking away).