Messages, signs, the feeling there is an influence moving the pieces of my life, any or all of these things are how I feel right now. Circles form the imagery that floats around the addled compartments of my brain, a feeling of doors closing and doors opening. It is not a bad feeling, in fact the concept of aspects of life being overseen by some greater force is comforting, but I have never seen or felt these connections so strongly before.
January 2005 found Den and I in Cape Town on the return leg of an amazing trip around South Africa. It was in January of this year Den stepped out of character and made the purchase to beat all purchases in our long lives together and orchestrated my presence at a swanky diamond centre. The romantic tale of my headlong rush up an escalator in order to claim my gift can be read here. The result was a tanzanite ring which I wore as my replacement engagement ring for the next eight long years, until leaving for Tanzania, the home of tanzanite.
That magical morning had a greater purpose in my life other than adding to my love of bling, jewellery and flashy sparkly things. I truly believe the ring and the story of its purchase were part of a bigger plan for me and it was the first talisman set to bring me here, to the only place in the world where tanzanite is found, Tanzania.
January 2005 – the circle opened.
It was also during this trip we visited a remote village way out in the middle of South Africa as part of our safari. Here we encountered the issues of HIV, poverty and poor education. Here we met the people affected by these things and I met my first white volunteer. Den was choked by the experience and couldn’t handle the suffering he witnessed, I was enamoured by the passion and the fervour of the volunteer.
Maybe, even as the circle opened its form was lightly sketched in pencil, who knows?
Illness made its first attack on Den in the autumn of 2006 and our Christmas trip to Australia concluded with Den becoming ill on the flight home. He was clearly seriously unwell but fought to hide it and refused my pleas to get help. We made it back through the UK and then home to Spain where my wonderful friend Anita had already made an appointment with Den’s specialist. He was rushed into hospital, severe pneumonia this time.
By mid 2007 I had left work, claiming I deserved a break but knowing I wanted to be with Den. September saw us off on our travels again. We had discussed the irreverence such a holiday represented in the face of being a no income partnership but both agreed if we had it, we would spend and enjoy it. Neither of us openly acknowledged the unspoken knowledge that travel was going to get less and less likely as health issues escalated. It was that glorious trip back to South Africa that had the honour of the last entry in my travel journal.
The last entry in tells of my trip to a Zambian village and meeting a Scottish volunteer there who was working as a teacher. My journal closes with the thought:
|Wow, that must be so rewarding. One day, maybe that will be me. Maybe that could be my future, working with kids in Africa.|
Significantly I never ever opened my journal until September 11th 2013 as I sat in Amsterdam airport awaiting my flight to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. The words I penned in the airport are mine and mine alone, but the shock of reading that final entry filled me with a belief I was doing the right thing.
The circle’s circumference becomes a shade clearer perhaps, only those in charge of the book of life know.
As the next few years trundled by and the dark spectre of illness hit Den harder and harder and more and more often, there were many times when I thought back to those trips to the African villages. It became my secret plan B, unspoken in my soul for fear of hearing it aloud meaning illness really was going to win. By the middle of 2011 I was researching volunteer opportunities silently and secretly, refusing to openly acknowledge my growing fear.
After Den left I bottomed out, life was bleak but I held on to my vision of helping kids in Africa as my lifeline. I declared my intention almost immediately and was met with surprising support, friends, family, my son Paul. Life tried to get in the way, the Spanish inheritance processes stripped me bear at my most vulnerable time and our house remained on the market with no sign of a sale for an unbearable period of time. Finally, when despair threatened to take me, the powers above stepped in and threw out a life line.
I had 10 days to move out of my home. I had a year’s rental contract with highly favourable terms and a cash injection that allowed me to plan a volunteer trip. The circumstances of that rental contract are so bizarre it would be impossible not to see some significance in its arrival.
Where to volunteer? It was clearly going to be Africa and Uganda had proffered some inspiration for me. Then it was suggested I should at least try to embark on my adventure to a country where there was some level of political stability and a good record of ex pat safety. A chance encounter with a guy who works in East Africa gave me an opportunity to ask for advice.
“Don’t go near Kenya. Seriously, I know it looks great and there are a lot of volunteer projects and stuff but really Kenya will explode within the next year, there will be big problems. Not Kenya. For safety you need to be at looking at countries like Tanzania, …”
I didn’t hear another word. My mind was made up. My thumb fluttered to my tanzanite ring and stroked the stone as the man’s words of advice washed over me. Tanzania, the home of tanzanite, of course.
Two thirds of the circle’s circumference etched clearly and plainly now, clear dark strokes delineated its form. Messages, signs, the feeling that there is an influence moving the pieces of my life, serendipity.
On the 11th September 2013 I took off my wonderful tanzanite ring and left it in the trusted care of my life friend Lorraine, it was way too ostentatious and valuable to be sat on my finger as I embarked on my adventure. I was OK with leaving it behind, it was the right thing to do and I wear other important talisman which carry Den with me at all times. These I will never leave behind.
Now nearly a year on, I have found peace and happiness. I love my life in Tanzania and new doors are opening for me here, ones I thought would remain closed forever. I have had the privilege of an amazing journey and I hope to continue this adventure for a long time to come.
In ten days I will return to UK, Spain and Norway. I will collect my tanzanite ring but I will not wear it. It has done its job. It brought me here and allowed me to find this new person that stands before the mirror. This person has a depth of memories and treasured experiences that will influence her steps for ever. This person has learned the value of life and has a more humble attitude to life now. This person no longer needs bling, jewellery and flashy sparkly things.
The circle is complete and I am whole again.