Sunday, January 04, 2009

A few random thoughts before I leave the continent

I am on my way to Mali tomorrow.

We are driving to JFK Airport and parking the car there. Our ride fell through at more or less the last minute and we decided that driving made the most sense. So I got an oil change yesterday, checked the tires and updated the maps on the gps.

In my bags: The usual stuff- underwear, tee shirts, capris, a couple pairs of sandals. Lots of toiletries because I really don't know what, exactly, is available in Mali. Plus some trail mix and granola bars, just in case.

I took my first dose of anti-malaria medication a couple of hours ago and haven't noticed any side effects so far.

I have noticed something about this trip. When I tell people I am going to Africa, they respond with their deepest fears and/or prejudices about it.

People are afraid of it. They are afraid of the diseases, the poverty, the culture. I get lots of comments about my personal safety or health issues. I have even had comments about sexual health issues and not catching AIDS. Uh, I don't think that's an issue. Really.

So there is still something kind of mythological about Africa. It seems to embody people's darkest fears.

Part of it, I am sure, is that the only media attention ever given to Africa is negative. We learn of Somali pirates and cholera outbreaks, dictatorships and malaria, AIDS epidemics and ebola. This drives my drumming teacher crazy, sometimes. He gets frustrated that most Americans think Africans live in jungles and have bones through their noses. (Not that there's anything wrong with that....)

For me, the information I have about Mali is different. It is a place inhabited by people I know and love. I have friends there... and family, of a sort. I listen to the music of Mali and am transported to a place of joy and beauty. I feel like I am reaching back to a distant past and far into the future as I listen to the music of our collective ancestors.

And when I hold a drum, play the skin, smell the remnants of the barnyard the goat lived and died in, I am connected to that past and that future.

Tomorrow I am getting on a plane and I am putting my life and faith in God's hands. He is with me here, in Morocco, in Mali, and everywhere. Forever. I am leaving my preconceptions behind and open my heart and mind to the experience of Mali, first hand.

Allons y.



Dear Rachael,
I really know how much you are looking forward to this trip and am so happy that you are able to go! I am sure this will be a life changing experience for you!! My cousin has been in Africa for a few months now and really loves it!! Be careful and I look forward to hearing of all your adventures when you return!
With Love and Prayers, Kathie

Rachel Nguyen said...

Thank you, my friend.

I am filled with such joy and awe at this opportunity, and cherish your prayers as I go forth into the world. I pray that I carry God's peace with me.

Ming said...

Wait until you leave Mali and you tell them that you are going to Rhode Island.
Their deepest fears...

Rachel Nguyen said...

All of which are probably true, Your Highness, LOL.