Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress: Minutiae of Setting Off

"Pilgrimage is always about movement from head to heart."
a Bishop of Massachusetts

It turns out that the journey between the head and the heart is very long and filled with the minutiae of travel, particularly foreign and to a truly far place. Each piece reveals yet another complexity and yet another mini journey branching off into a place only glimpsed.
Much has to be taken on faith.

An example was my immunization list. Some I had already had; some I needed to renew. The meningitis turned into a small quest. I had had Guillain-Barre in college which knocked one form of vaccine out completely and raised the spectre of G-B returning. After many phone calls which resulted in little definite information, I finally settled on pneumovax instead. I still think science is definite although I know better than that. If you travel far enough afield, you encounter elegant metaphors, great works of the imagination and finally at the end of science, miracle. So I pray that I made the right choice.

Then the list of diseases on offer in south Sudan. Read quickly any list becomes poetry but this list included some old friends: filariasis (elephantiasis), dengue and schistosomiasis (liver flukes, a particularly nasty parasite that infests fresh water in the tropics.) So no swimming in the river and plenty of DEET.

I make lists and check things off and make new lists with piles of things. To repeat Joseph Smith's curse, I feel as if "I'm being bitten to death by ducks."

Saturday still seems very far away and I don't feel ready whatever that means. I'm looking forward to sitting on the plane with my plane toys. Thick trashy novels which I leave behind on the seat. An electronic NYT crossword gizmo. I can even watch the little video tracking the flight quite happily. It's almost meditative. I'm not taking my iPod, one less charger, one less thing to lose.

I am excited by the fact I found a travel Bible on the Christian Dollar website. New King James with Jesus' words in red, a blue leatherette cover (emphasis on the 'ette) with a little gilt clasp which is already peeling. But it's all there so if I preach, I can actually use the Hebrew Bible too.

I'm lost somewhere in the capillaries of the esophagus...nowhere near the heart yet.

I am looking forward to the stripping away of all the conveniences of the West to an enforced simplicity. I need to get away from stuff for a while. After Venezuela, it took me a long time to buy a vacuum cleaner and I didn't have a television until I got married. Part of a pilgrimage for me is setting things down by the roadside because they have become a burden.

"The bread you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the person who is naked."
Basil the Great

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