I recently just read "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho during one of the many rainy days stuck inside my three tiny roomed house. As the rain beat down on cement sack roof I was enthralled into the journey a shepherd who was trying to realize his dream and discover his treasure.
Realizing your dream, or trying to realize your dream is something we can all relate to. For me what comes to mind is my Peace Corps service in that just being accepted in the institution of development work was a dream in itself. A quote from the book has particularly captivated me,
"The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and get up eight".
This quote truly resonates with me right now. It is a quote that has pushed me through the last, give or take, seven months of my service. It is the secret of success and survival inside and out of the Peace Corps. And I guess at this point in my life, it is me.
I guess this is the point where I lay down my cards, where I divulge what really has been going on for the last few months, where I explain the silence. It isn't a pretty story but a beautiful lesson of strength, endurance, trust, perseverance, and oddly enough faith. So, here goes....
...It it all started the weekend after I came back to village after my successful Women's Day Event. Dropped off at my door by my trusty motorcycle driver I noticed my jar was ajar and was soon told my neighbor that she noticed my door was open. I might just add that if I was in the United States and my neighbor told me that my door was open I would freak out and call the police and demand a full on investigation before even taking a step in, however I live in Benin, West Africa where animals are constantly breaking into my house and I don't have a police station in my village so I brushed it off and chalked it up to the animals. I called the carpenter and asked him to come the next morning to fix the door and the lock which is happily agreed to do. Exhausted from African travel I passed out extremely early only to be awoken by the worst thing you can possibly imagine hearing, someone breaking down your door. Literally frozen in the dark without any weapon, without neighbors home, lying in my bed while someone defiled the place I called "home". Frozen with fear I heard someone take my months salary, and walk from one room to the next. That next room happened to be my bedroom where lying under a mosquito net, heart pounding, thoughts of death flashed through my mind. Thank Allah, my neighbor came home at just the right time that it scared the person from my house. Still paralyzed with fear even after the intruder left my house I contemplated leaving the house and searching for help. Visions of me running to my directors house were running through my mind like a movie but I just wasn't able to move. Saying a prayer, I summoned the courage, put my flip-flops on that lied next to my bed grabbed my cell phone, and sprinted out the door.
This is a story I have repeated numerous and numerous of times. I have told the doctors, my parents, my friends in Peace Corps, and embarrassingly, or courageously, a psychologist. I have replayed that night like a nightmare, I have put a face to the stranger, I have taken sleeping pills, I have filled out a depression questionnaire, I have been depressed, I have cried, I have been afraid of the dark, I have not slept, and I have been scared. I have fallen, truly have fallen, but got back up only to fall again until the big question came, should I stay in Peace Corps. I can't really say what made me stay, I like to think it was courage. The courage to accept I could not change, the courage to admit when I needed help, the courage to cry, the courage to tell Peace Corps that I could not stay in my village and wanted , no demanded, another.
So, few months later and I am now in a new village. Tobre, which is located up north in the department called the Atakora. I lived in a gated in area with a family, and not just any family, I live in the Queen of Tobre's concession. Yup, friends and family..I am a princess. The language is Bariba and my Bariba name is "Yangui Bouillion" which means Fourth Princess. I adore my family and have started learning the language. I also attend mosque five times a day which makes everyone in my small village very happy, and I'm happy to report makes me extremely happy as well.
It's pretty wonderful how good it feels to be stronger, to feel happier, to be thankful I got up that eigth time.