Since the day I set foot on African soil a few months ago, I have been continuously bombarded with the same question, which is beginning to cut through me as I constantly ruminate its answer. Why is this time so much different, why is it easy and comfortable to be “home” here in Bulembu? Even traveling in Nairobi and in Tanzania, there was something different. I traveled not as tourist who was looking to protect himself against the evil he has always been told exists in Africa, but rather a man who had nothing to lose and faced danger as an opportunity to see more of the real Africa. I look back and some of the situations I put myself in, I question how much I have lost my mind ( paddy wagon rides into the bush, hiring taxi’s with no money for remuneration and living by the Matatu transport system (the 10 cent van ride). There are many things which I have thought about which could be in making this experience so different. First, I am in the middle of probably the biggest life transition I have ever made. New friends, new job, new city and lastly, new culture. It makes it easier to embrace the hear and now, when the past and future are not the influencing draw like usual. Secondly, there is community here and many friends which have helped to bury my insecurities of loneliness, which have been all too common on my African journeys. Lastly, and I think more importantly, I have played it safe. Honestly, I have gone back and re-read many of the pages that my father and I wrote in the early stages of our book and it blows my mind away how I am living a self-fullfilling prophecy. The very things which we advocated, they are the things which are stealing my experience, my emotions and ultimately my heart. Let me explain.

The last few weeks I have been swamped with more projects here than I know what to do with. I am getting up at 5:30 and literally working till 7, sometimes even 9 or 10 with meetings and phone calls (the overseas kind that drop you every 20 minutes and have that annoying 3 second voice delay). But in those moments where you ask yourself, what the hell am I doing here? It is those moments where I just “turtle” for fear of what I might find and return back to work. I am using work or “busyness” to ignore the most important thing that makes us human – our emotions. I think love and emotions are one of the greatest things we have.

So how have I played it safe? What Africa has which flies in the face of visitors and “temporarily” breaks the heart of so many is poverty, hopelessness and darkness. So here is the deal, I have avoided the very thing that gives me the real purpose out here – to let those little kids love you. That is why I came almost a year ago and I thought I had so much love to give them only to find out how much love they could give me. Yesterday was actually the first day I was able (rather chose) to spend with orphans. We took a Cambie into town and sang the whole way – we taught them “99 bottles of Coke on the wall” and songs like “Father Abraham”. Then today to see them smile as they learned to play volleyball, it just reminded me what this is all about and why we do what we do here.

This is not just an African lesson though, it is one I think most of us have encountered at some point in life. Why do we hold back our emotions and simply cover them up with the busyness of life? To be honest I have had quite the shitty summer. Africa in June was lonely as anything, summer was one big transition away from almost all that I knew in Kelowna and many things I value have been hurtful. I will not forget what my sister said to me on the phone before I left – “Go and find all those emotions which you have simply ignored, you have them and you must work them through and embrace them”. She is exactly right and the state which I have found myself in is simply because I have reduced the attachments around me. That is the path which I am currently on, because it is safe. How can you get hurt when there is no attachment and you don’t give of yourself? It hurts to love a child, an orphaned child, and see how you mean the world to you as they write you card after card after card and then you have to leave – that hurts with a pain I would rather not feel.

But I have to say that I will not let this experience, which is bound to be one I encounter often in my life, be one of those. I look back on the many times I have given completely of myself to my family, to my experiences (Student Council and Africa), and to my relationships and I regret nothing – rather they are a blessing. I don’t think I played it safe and withheld emotions and I cant do that this time either. I know that some of the gentlemen I am working with here, they probably wont make it (AIDS) till the next time I come back (May), but you know what, the chance of loss, is what makes love have value.