The time thief. By what can it be measured?

Just less than six months ago, I sat, bewildered and uncertain, as I boarded a plane from London Heathrow to Entebbe, Uganda. My heart ached in ways that I hadn’t felt for eons of time and my inner excitement was stirring yet confused. And I found myself stepping onto the East African soil for the first time. I watched as a silent observer to my self, how I responded to all that was occuring and I reflected on the passing of time, wondering what on earth this concept really means to us all, when it can vanish in instants whilst it can also expand out into unknown and at times, inconceivable lengths.

Chronos is the time by which much of the developed world functions, the seconds which becomes minutes which turn into hours, into days and so on into lifetimes. The business world certainly clings to a stronghold of this, in order to proceed in its orderly fashion, allow money to made, and meetings to be had. Yet even here, time can be snatched away with astonishment and we can wonder where it all went. Or we can step into a moment that feels so vast and expansive we cannot believe it will ever end.

And here I am, reflecting once more. Stepping more and more into the supremacy of Kairos, opportune and divinely-timed moments. Appreciating that everything happens as it does, that time is no thief yet it would be unwise to alternatively call it a friend. Time and space shift, everything moves, and so do we.

I stepped into Uganda with a one-way ticket, a confused heart, and a clear love for myself and my life signifying my determination to be, here, now. I quickly developed an inner practice of letting go of all that I have known before, so that I was casting less and less of my previous experiences and my mostly western views onto things were so far from this cast of the net that they could never be contained within. New friends would ask me, “How long are you here for?“, and I answered honestly and whole-heartedly every time; “For as long as I can be”. This was my truth and it has grown in abundance in every breath.

As this love affair, not only with Uganda, but with the source that is my wandering, homely, creative, curious, loving soul, has grown exponentially; life has happened. Things have changed. Joy has flown around me in plenitude. Pain has faced me in copious amounts, largely through physicality but also through emotional healing, expansion and insight.

My words remain true – I will be in Uganda as long as I can be. But it is wider than this. I will be wherever I am, for as long as I can be. So that I am fully there. So that I gain all that there is to learn. So that I give the space within to recognise when I reach a point when I also no longer can. Releasing the grips of fear around me of knowingness, of security, of comfort. Reaching out instead with a wide embrace towards unknowingness, in the trust of my self, of strength, love. Most of all, towards life. With this, comes the deepest knowingness of all. For me. For what I need. For what makes my heart sing.

And so here I am again, sat on the edge of the cliff, tears in my heart and in my eyes. As I regretfully, happily, and humbly acknowledge – this is as long as I can be here in Uganda. At least this time. Unexpected, unplanned, uncertain, and in some ways sure, unhappy. But it is here. Situations with my working life here, but more importantly with the status of my very unstable foundation of my knee, bring me to this point. And I am not going to look back; with each hello must come a goodbye, in order that we may meet again.

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My last days here have been utterly heart-warming as well as heart-wrenching. Breaking the news to my students was the most upsetting experience in my professional career thus far, with some of the children asking me “What will I do without you?” and others being devastated that “… the kindest teacher we ever had” is leaving them (this came up in a conversation as we walked through the corridor and one student pondered aloud to the other, why it was that all of the students seemed to love me).

I felt so folorn that students who I knew relied on my comfort, my time and my presence for their own sanctuary, amidst their confusing and at times very unpredicatable lives, were shaking with sadness despair at my news. I held them as tight as I could, and I swore to these particular boys that I hope to know them even when they are old men. Others begged me not to go, and all of them wanted a way to stay in touch. Therefore I spent some of my last evenings there writing invidivual letters to each of them, attaching two poems that I hoped would inspire them and give them a least a snippest of guidance to fall back on.

And I made arrangements to take the boy most attached to me, his younger brother and their “sister” to the cinema, for their very first experience of such an unknown world. We went and saw Santa, wherein the boys gave him their christmas wish; that it would snow in Uganda for christmas (hmm, Santa’s good, but he’s not that good…), we had our faces painted, we ate ice cream and laughed together. And we went to a 3D experience of the fabulous film, Moana. Ironic in every way and so very serendipitous. What a beautiful film! The magical tool in the film is the Hei Matuau (fish hook), that I have tattoed on my left ankle. The star character adores her life, her home and her family. And she suffers because she knows she also needs to let it all go and wander beyond the horizon. Exactly what I have been doing, and exactly what I now need to do again.

It was very tender for me to make the goodbyes and watch the boys be driven away. Though they have me on WhatsApp, and I have promised that I will return to Uganda again very soon, and therefore I will see them then.

I received many many platitudes as the news of my departure spread, and the eeeriness of disappearing time sang out more and more loudly to me. I attended christmas events and felt uterrly surreal, I enjoyed a feast of a meal with the family of another of my students, and I spent as much time as I physically could manage, with my beloved friends.

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And then. Then. It was time. That thief has turned up again. Time to go, again. Time for me to embrace the experience of retrouvaille; the joy of meeting or finding someone again after a long separation. And time for me to say I love you, and I will see you again. So that I can reunite with Uganda and all that it contains for me, in better health and capacity, in another time unknown.

Chronoception, the sensation of time passing in every breath, is a constant feature of life, one of our 16 (not 5) senses (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sense), and something that we so very often take for granted. Time is never lost, though it is always here and gone in the same moment.

I cannot comprehend how I will leave here. I couldn’t comprehend how I would arrive here. So, time my dear familiar, we face each other once more. My heart, eyes and soul have moved beyond all question of words, sounds and sights. Time has passed faster than I could possibly describe, yet what has been in this chapter have been longer than any lifetime I have known before.

Where do I go from here? When do I come back? Where have I been? All answers unknown. All questions unspoken. All words no longer needed.

Uganda. Love. Time. Paradise. Now. Then. Future.

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