I do not do well in car rides. I am anxious, I am restless and I fell sick. Every morning I’ve gotten in the car and I’ve popped two Dramamine and put my anti-nauseau wrist bands on. I try an tell myself that it is all mental, but that doesn’t seem to help the constant waves of nausea and pounding headache I am experiencing.
There is this real contradiction on road trips.
I have felt incredibly close to the terrain while driving from Nebraska to Nogales:
I feel like I have seen Colorado and the mountains, that I could describe in great detail my surroundings when driving through Nebraska, and I honestly felt closer to nature when crossing into New Mexico than I have in a long time.
However, I only left the van to buy food or use the restroom. I was not in nature and really could only guess what my surroundings felt, smelt, and sounded like.
In fact, I am appreciating this refreshing terrain from a vehicle that is harming the exact environment I am in awe of. Continuing on this I am taking highways that sever this environment for effiencency.
In almost direct contrast to this I am simultaneously having historical pity for anyone who “went west” without a car, air conditioning, and roads.
This internal conflict is not necessarily a problem that needs a cohesive solution. Instead, it is simply something that I need to be aware of. That driving in a car is not a substitute for actually being somewhere. I saw a place for a split second as we sped by and that is it.
However, even after this realization that I have not been one with nature I do feel some sort of Jack Kerouac like communion with the road. This is what has been so special about this two day pilgrimage. When in a car there is no escape from the distance traveled. That two days ago we were really far away from where we are now both physically and in mental preparedness.
In a van\car, there is no escape from the reality that you are moving. I have found myself thinking instead of moving southwest, that we are moving forward. Forward to our new destination where the anticipation ends and the real work begins.
This truly plays into why I have felt so connected with the terrain. The terrain is a visual reminder that we are moving past the flat Nebraska corn fields, through the first glimpses of mountains in Colorado, to the dry environment of the southern United States. This adds to this concept of forward movement and pilgrimage. That we are giving ourself time during our travels to accept the distance driven and the experiences we will have within the next couple weeks. This road trip has been a meditation of sorts just being and watching in the car as we travel to Nogales and start our work.
What are you looking forward to?
What are you nervous about?
What about this trip frightens you?
What are you excited about?
Even though these are basic questions for any traveler I find myself struggling to come up with sufficient answers. The only thing I have been able to muster up are shallow responses like I am afraid of flipping the van, or I’m excited for sunshine and a different terrain.
I have had a hard time understanding why I can only answer these questions with such shallow responses because it is a contradiction. We are about to attempt something incredibly complex balancing journalism and theology while telling a multi-faceted story, and all I can think about is the van playlist and pacing my car snacking.
The reality is I do not yet understand or truly comprehend the complexity of what we are about to do. This is why I am struggling to answer these questions. I do not really know what to look forward to or to be anxious about.
However, I have not been able to decide if this is me being unprepared or having the unique ability to walk into a situation without prior bias and judgment.
I will not be able to answer this question until we are back in Omaha, but either outcome I will have gained insight on how to approach similar situations in the future. Until then I will continue to ponder the refreshing landscape, the temperature in the vans, and the best way to sleep without mouth breathing too loudly.
I don’t know if it’s the mass amount of photography terms and techniques that have been thrown my way in the past few days, or the fact that this is my second visit to the developing world that gives me a different perspective, but everything about what I see creates beautiful pictures.
As we drove through all the small towns, I couldn’t help but notice all of the raw and organic beauty around me. I promise I’m not just using those terms to sound all fancy and sophisticated, it’s a whole different kind of beauty. Something about looking at people who live in a culture that has yet to be slapped in the face with the concept of “ideal” body image and lack an emphasis on physical appearance, catches my eye. I feel like no American person would look as intriguing just sitting on a motor bike, or standing on the side of the road as the people here do. Not to mention, there is no such thing as an American taking a minute to just sit or stand in a public place like that. And if they do, they’re usually seen as crazy people, not potential works of art.
Speaking of catching my eye, I make a lot of split second eye contact with the people as we drive by. And for that one moment, I forget about where I am and how different our circumstances may be. For that one moment, we’re just two people, two humans exchanging a look, wondering about who the other person is. It gets overwhelming to visit all of these places packed with people because I constantly see faces and immediately wonder where their life is going, what they do with their time, what motivates them to keep living a life so vastly different than my own.
People are everywhere. And when I say everywhere I mean everywhere. Sitting outside houses, stores, on the side of the road, on top of trucks, riding bikes, everywhere. Even in the middle of nowhere (and by that I mean along the miles and miles of rainforest) you will always see men on bikes, women carrying fruit, even young children walking alone.
On a lighter, less deep and philosophical note:
I highly enjoyed our eleven hour bus ride to Lira. No, seriously (excluding that chunk where we moved about 100 ft. in half an hour trying to leave Kampala, good times). It was almost like a dysfunctional family road trip, only rather than visiting the Grand Canyon, we drove across the Nile River with baboons chasing after our bus as we tossed bananas out the window for them (True story, I know I can barely believe it too). All that was missing were some quality family sing-a longs. Next time, guys.
Keep on keepin’ on,
“The closer you look at something, the more complex it seems to be.” –Vint Cerf
“We are all bozos on the same bus, so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.” –Wavy Gravy (Yes, I just quoted a clown. More proof I lack the ability to actually be fancy and sophisticated.)