What I learned in Africa

What I learned in Africa

It´s been about a year since I came back from Africa. I speak of the continent, not of Kenya or Zambia, the countries we work in, because I am one of the few volunteers of KUBUKA who has had the fortune of living this experience by linking the two countries. I spent a month and a half in Kenya and a month in Zambia and the question of “which one do you prefer?” is impossible for me to answer. The same thing happens with other questions like …. “what do you miss the most?”, “what did you learn?”, “why does Africa gets you hooked?”

The truth is that whenever I have been asked these questions, I have searched within myself and have offered a truth, the deepest I could find at that moment; but, I. spite of this, I am always left with the feeling that it has not been the correct answer, that I haven´t really expressed the reason why, that my feelings are not reflected in those words. Hence this blog, because of that feeling of wanting to express something in its entirety, with all its greatness, its reality but no matter how hard you try, you don´t achieve your goal.

And, on my return, someone who knows very well what I´m talking about, said to me “you will not realize how much this experience has meant for you until some time has passed”. She is guilty or rather the one who has given me this space as a result of destiny.

Today, at 35, I can safely say that those months as a volunteer in Kenya and Zambia with KUBUKA have been the happiest of my life. For me it is surprising and somewhat frightening to affirm this when I have had and have a life which I consider to be full, with a wonderful family, friends, work, plans, hobbies, freedom and in which I have not experienced great failures or sorrows. What did I experience in Africa that made it so special? I think it was precisely not having all of this, being with myself, not feeling tied to anything, living without great expectations, not having the need to acquire material goods, enjoying without asking myself about the next day, just waking up and making the most of the day working for me, for others and learning from them and everything that surrounded me. Observing, calmly, slowly, little by little or, as they say, “pole pole” (Kenya); “pangono pangono” (Zambia).

I remember, as if it were yesterday, that at the beginning of my adventure, Álvaro did not take my hand when crossing the stream we had to cross every day to reach Kibera (the slum we work in), at that moment the delicate city girl (me) felt  that she had quite an unpleasant work-mate, but the truth is that he was only teaching me, he was preparing me for the large number of new things I would have to do without help. From Raffy I also learned a lot, simple but important lessons, like the food being ready when you try it and it is tasty (time and dedication); Jacky, Mary, Ann, Max…, the girls were expert in fighting, unconditional support and laughter; Patrick, awesome, you just need certainty and desire to walk; Paula taught me that we must have our feet on the ground, not stay with the first impression and dig until we reach the bottom; Wambu, to smile and that lies, if merciful, are not lies; Elizabeth to never stop learning; Steve, to find the right angle; my dear Bea, to defend your ideas “like a lion”; Joyce, to gain respect through love; Chola taught me how to show off; Nsofwa is the best at approaching slowly and achieving great goals; Marcos, joy and practicality; Mary, an example of effort and search; Sofía, to do what you must, what you want and enjoy it; Elena, to fight for what really is worth it; Ioseba, to stay calm and act accordingly; Paloma, to expand the perspective. There are many more who I have not named and also many other situations which acted as teachers but everything, everything, I carry within me.

After so many adventures, so much self expansion, when you return from days in which you look beautiful in all the pictures because your whole being radiates light, you consider “now what?” “what do you do to stay here?” “how can you continue with your life in Spain?” “or is it what you really want is to live there?” “are you sure?” “maybe it was all a dream and now it is over and will not be repeated?” I could be entangled in a million doubts but, as I learned long ago that brooding on is useless, I use a technique which I also acquired in that continent and which I have been perfecting with time. Something easy to see but difficult to apply: I live my current reality, I try (hopefully one day I can erase this word from here) to enjoy it to the fullest, I dedicate my time in what I like and, in this way, I flow. Because I am sure that if Africa has to return to me or I to her, she will arrive just like that and I will continue, wherever I am, the path that will lead me to continue smiling and I never had before.

Thank you KUBUKA for the gift, I still enjoy to another lever.

María Simal Higelmo, voluntaria de KUBUKA.

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