In late 2012 I was preparing to leave Sierra Leone. School was out for the holiday, the secondary school was almost finished, and I started taking my small digital camera around with me throughout the day.
This is from Ali’s family’s worre: a Fula ranch where the extended family lives in circular thatch roofed huts surrounding the herd.
Inside the myriad huts, you could see the smooth floors and detailed walls that the women of Ali’s family meticulously sculpted from mud. You could also see the pots the family uses for milking the cows.
More travel daydreams. I started looking back at photos from Sierra Leone and forgot I had taken this one before taking the boat to the Banana Islands.
I’ve recommended a hypothetical overland trip from Spain/Morocco to Sierra Leone and back to so many people with having only overlanded half of it. It’s been in my head awhile. I learned a lot about my preferred way of travel in Latin America that I would like to use in West Africa again.
Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal (maybe The Gambia), Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.
Three months minimum. Local transport. Stay in villages and bring rice for potential hosts. You could fly down to Freetown and start up depending on how you feel about air travel.
Years ago, firmly settled into my evening routine among the stones in Sierra Leone, I painted the words providence in the wilderness on my bedroom wall. Not much an artist, I used words and phrases plucked from anywhere to decorate and inspire me. A mix of something in Malcolm X’s autobiography and Robinson Crusoe, I thought I was being philosophical.
I thought it represented my past-self’s idealized trajectory; starting with being a young, confused, but lively person in the world and maturing into someone confident, more focused, spiritually satiated, sure of things. I naïvely thought age and interestingly curated living arrangements would help me with finding that providence. The years pass and I count more grey hairs in my beard, but I feel no closer to that mythical providence in the wilderness than all those years ago.
Which isn’t to say things are bad. Things are great for me, actually. But maybe it is this dual thinking that grinds on me occasionally; that I take on too many externalities, like the state of U.S. domestic politics or global opinion on the existence of a dying biosphere, that are very much out in the wilderness for me.
So, enough with resolutions or promises. I know myself. I need better habits and routines. But since I have rarely had those, I feel more comfortable bringing a few intentions to the coming ten years.
- Read more for pleasure, less for knowledge
- Don’t be afraid to show yourself
- Be mindful of spreading your general positivity too thin
- Create something
- Cut out distractions
Note: This is the first time I’ve written anything about me and Islam and shared it. I am hesitant to write this even now, mostly because I’m scatterbrained and a terrible writer. I linked to blog posts from others who are more knowledgeable in certain topics to keep this short. You might not know I’m Muslim. Or you might consider me too recent a convert, not informed enough. It should be obvious, but these are just my thoughts and I speak for myself. In some stricter circles, it might be considered inappropriate to do so without having some type of qualification. I don’t speak Arabic and I wasn’t raised in a Muslim household. But these are blessings and my reality. I am a Muslim by choice. I have unique perspective and a voice. As the Qur’an commands of us, we must come to know one another [49:13]. Here is a part of me.
Sometimes, I have the feeling I’ve lived two separate lifetimes. In some way, I have. It started when I woke up one morning after the doctors pulled a tube out of my throat in the ICU. That tube helped me breathe while my body and a drug cocktail dealt with inflamed membranes in my spine and brain, poisoned blood, and renal failure. It was a year after high school and I was hospitalized with meningococcemia. Before then, I was a very average teenager in the suburban sprawl of the San Gabriel Valley playing in a band, hanging out with friends, and going to shows. I lived in my bubble. But after that morning, something changed. I no longer desired to stay close to home and play video games on my free time. I wanted to use my brain. I needed to see and feel all life.
Continue reading “The Reformation Within Myself Will Not Be Televised”