Saturday, 31 March 2012

Rituals of Parting

As I write this I'm sitting in my living room in Oxford, with the car packed. My keys are on the kitchen table, and once I get up and walk out of the room, I won't be coming back in. It's a strange thought, as I've been very happy here, but I'm feeling a lot more ready to go than I was last time I posted.

I think what's helped a lot is to go through all the rituals of leaving. I had a goodbye party, where many of my London friends came down and at BBQ food and drank. At the end of the evening we played drinking Top Gun, and I realised that I've had these friends for years. They've seen me go before, and they'll still be there when I get back - and still playing drinking Top Gun. I might be going away for a bit, but it's not permanent, and it's something I've coped with before.

The next day, we went off to the Henley Boat Races, and spent a day by the river in the sun watching rowing. And this time next year, the boat races will still be happening - and I'll be back in time to see them. So many of the things I love about my life here repeat every year - so if I miss a year, it's not the end of the world.

Then I did all the dull stuff - cleaning out my room, parents coming to get my stuff, sorting out my banking, and so on. Not fun, but once it's done there's a sense of being organised and ready to go. And a sense of having done all that work so you might as well go.

Of course there are bits that are still sad. And I'm a long way away from being excited. But I'm readier for it than I was, which isn't a bad start.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Next Steps - Senegal

So this blog fell into a hiatus, for the simple reason that it's a travel blog and I haven't been travelling. But that's about to change - I'm currently packing my bags to move to Senegal, leaving on Monday, April 2nd. I'll be there for a year, which currently feels like a very long time.

But I'm excited about the job - Regional Funding Coordinator supporting our fundraisers in Mali, Niger and Chad, which is a big job given there's a food crisis in full swing in those countries - and everyone says Dakar is a good place to live. There's a surf beach not far from the office (WIN), the climate isn't too bad, it's very safe, there are great restaurants and sea food, nightlife and music, and it isn't too far from Europe to get home.

So I originally logged in to the blog to talk about how excited I was about the move and to try and sell people on visiting, and to talk about people's different reactions to the idea of me moving to Senegal - of which the most common has been 'Do you mean Dakar, Senegal or Dhaka, Bangladesh?'

But logging in, I read my last post from Russia, talking about the things I missed about the UK. All of which have been exactly the things I've most liked about being back (though admittedly number 1 has been a bit on the rocky side), and which make me sad to be leaving. And I realised that the most common reaction, and the hardest to deal with, is the assumption people have that this is what I do, this is how I am, this is how I'll always be, and I like it. But every time I move, not knowing when I'll be back, it gets harder.

I know I'll be fine once I get there. If anything, my post from Russia, as well as reminding me of what I will miss about this country, also reminds me how sad I was to leave Russia. I'll be the same in Dakar, because that's how I am. I love my job, and I love the travel, and I am so glad to have the opportunity to contribute to helping people who are struggling because of the food crisis. And moving all the time is the price I pay for being able to do this work.

I used to find it easy to leave the UK, because I always knew I'd come back, but hard to move back, because I never knew when I'd come back to the place I'd been living. Now it's the other way round. When I left Russia I was sad, but had no doubts. Now, I desperately don't want to go. I have a life here, and I want to build it and make it permanent, put down roots, plan in advance, develop fixed habits and routines.

There are lots of good reasons why this is the right thing to do. But sometimes I wonder whether, if I had my time again, I would still pick this career. And I increasingly realise that I either need to get a more stable job in the sector, or find an exit strategy.