teaching, learning and living around the world
A series by my mom, Sally Reams.
Read part 1 here.
I decided I would feel better about my daughter living in Kinshasa if I went to visit this far away land that seemed so scary to me. What is there for Sara to do besides teaching? Where does she hang out. What an amazing trip I had! Sara and I did things and saw places I never imagined. For example, we rode in a dilapidated motor boat on the Congo River to reach a small beach area where we waded in the river inhabited with what I later discovered were goliath tiger fish and giant kamba catfish, oh my! We also traveled by bus into the jungle to visit a Congolese orphanage where we gave toys and candy to the children. Our trek into the jungle was not without mishap. Our bus got stuck in the mud, but some locals helped the driver push us out.
Down the street from the school was a bar where we went to have a beer and look for Mama Godlieve, who owned a girls school. Sara had become a friend to Mama G and I brought a suitcase full of sewing notions to donate to the girls who were about to graduate.
In Zambia, we were greeted at the hotel by monkeys, giraffes and zebra roaming around, had tea together on Livingston Island, and hiked together to see Victoria Falls. I saw leopards, lions, rhinos, elephants and more, in the wilds of South Africa; experienced the breath taking beauty of Capetown, where Sara had previously vacationed; and stopped over in Johannesburg where she had taken her soccer team to a tournament.
After the trip, I felt better about Sara living in Congo and had a greater appreciation for what she was doing. I had seen her new surroundings so I could visualize her daily routines. I also felt a greater love for my own country, realizing how rich and privileged we all are in the United States. At that time, she only had one more year of teaching on her contract and we would have her home again, so I thought.
Ahhh, but little did I know…..THAT was not what SHE was planning.
One day I got the phone call: “I feel called to spend a year working as a volunteer with schools/teachers in Goma”. GOMA! That was the war-torn place where all the bad stuff happened!! Two years prior she’d told me “don’t worry mom, I’m 1000 miles away from Goma! Now she was going THERE to LIVE – by herself – without even having an employer to have-her-back?!! This is when my eyes really opened to the exceptional daughter I had. I am proud, yes, and this was all fascinating, but this is NOT what I would have chosen for her.
New self-talk swirled through my head – I have to roll with it – try to see it from her perspective – this is sort of like what I did to my own parents (HA not quite, but I needed to convince myself) – I was in my twenties when I moved from Tennessee to Virginia, I was over the moon excited about the adventure – my parents were teary-eyed but supportive – they had to let go, say goodbye – this is similar but the world is just more mobile – this generation is more global – FACE IT – JOIN IT – be part of it, not resistant to it – it can be fun for me too.
I jumped on board to help her fundraise for the money to support her experience there. I revived my old sewing skills, made and sold over 150 items made from over 25 bolts of African wax print fabric Sara purchased in Congo. I distracted myself from the underlying terror I felt, and immersed myself in sewing and selling. I reaped joyful rewards of creating bright and beautiful bags, purses, place mats, table runners and more. People loved my work and I could have started a business if I had desired it. I converted a room in my house into a workroom I still use, where I can quickly and easily delve into all types of creative projects. I might never have sewn again had Sara not inspired me.
Once over the shock of Africa, I was then presented with what I call my daughter’s sequence of “B surprises” – a BOY FRIEND from Goma (now her fiancé), a move to Brooklyn, a move to Brussels, and a move to Boston to work for Bridge.
I could write stories about each of Sara’s B surprises. For example, when she recently moved to Boston, I discovered that the frugalness I grew up with, and still believe in, fits nicely with Sara’s minimalistic and mobile life-style! Once again her pied piper aura sucked me into her latest adventure. Anga was still in Brussels finishing school when the call came “Mom, can you come help me settle into an unfurnished apartment?” True to form, she had arrived in Boston with only 6 suitcases of personal possessions, had planned no time-off to get settled and had rented an unfurnished apartment. What? She was moving into an empty place, had a very tiny budget and nothing in the kitchen, not a dish or a pan, no linens, no furniture or even a place to sit down?
I rose to the challenge and became her personal shopper and decorator while she was at work. She ordered 2 beds and borrowed 2 lawn chairs and I arrived with a suitcase full of linens. We moved into her apartment. I found a delightful thrift shop nearby that sold donated goods and I kept busy for two-weeks sifting through other people’s discards to find all sorts of deals. With a soap and water scrub, the treasures I found each day were in like-new condition by the time Sara arrived home from work. A few examples – a toaster $3, a mixer $5, glasses of all descriptions $1 each, dinner plates and bowls $1, a digital iron $5, kitchen utensils $1. It became a challenge for us to see how little we could spend and still make her apartment charming and livable. Together we did it!
I am just hoping that her next big surprise will not occur until after her wedding in August. Will her wedding be full of surprises too? I don’t dare think that her surprises are over, but she has prepared me well.
To other parents who may have a child on the brink of moving overseas, here is what I have learned from my daughter. She has taught me to:
I do miss my daughter when she cannot be around for the holidays or other traditional family gatherings. I feel fortunate that my son, his wife and children are nearby. They help fill up the hole created by my daughter’s geographical absence. But, at the same time I am grateful for what she has taught me, and the adventures that I have had as a result of hers. Learning from my children is one of life’s biggest treasures, keeps me growing and joyful!