February 04, 1992

Sometimes It Just Happens

Bob --

The mail truck just pulled into the training site at Makeni, where I'm sitting at 9:00 on a hot evening in central Sierra Leone. I trust that a letter or two from you is in my package of mail, but I won't hassle the driver until he takes me back home tomorrow.

Lots of folks are running into the city for sodas and beers, but I keep telling them that my time is best used tonight in writing letters. This is the last one I'll write tonight. I've been pretty bad about responding to my Christmas mail, but I have to get my bi-weekly letter off to Bob.

Your 28 December and 5 January letters lie open before me. I've just re-read them, and they bring a warm feeling and smile to my face. As I think I noted two weeks ago, the first reading nearly brought tears to my eyes. Not bad, mind you -- even your most "unanswerable" questions serve as further tribute to our friendship bond. Your picture hangs in my living room.

Understand that my attempts to define the uniqueness of my experience here were not intended to highlight potential barriers between us. Maybe nobody will be able to completely comprehend the changes wrought in me by the pits and perils of Sierra Leone. I think that your concern that our different life experiences will overcome our commonalities is foundless nonetheless. This, like all things, can serve to make our friendship, our bond, stronger.

Last week, Rob and I took a trip to a rather distant village, drinking and recording our escapades all the way. Once in the village, a smiling Rob began to record the Muslim prayer song of one man sitting on his porch. When it was finished, Rob burst into tears, explaining into the tape recorder that "this man has just shared something that is really personal and meaningful to him." Upon reflection, I realized that I had not actually cried since leaving you, Mom, and Dad in the airport in Kansas City.

Today, I participated in a forum-panel discussion for the new trainees who arrived last month. I related a story in which my trust had been betrayed here, one which left my throat constricted, unable to continue. I wish I knew myself better. I had no idea that I was going to cry until it just happened.

Sometimes it just happens.

Sometimes it just happens.

Until next time. Love, Mark