Below is a fantastic guest blog from Geneva Pritchard discussing the challenges of moving with your international aid career.
Geneva Pritchard is a dedicated and enthusiastic member of the International aid community. Her aid career began in 2002 when she worked on a gender, water and sanitation project with CARE International in rural Nicaragua. In the years following she spent the majority of her time living and working with the refugee population on the Thailand-Myanmar border. Geneva has worked on a wide range of aid projects in South East Asia including emergency needs assessment among refugee populations, sustainable agriculture programs, treatment for and prevention of drug-resistant malaria among mobile populations, and advocacy work to influence health and education policy.
Geneva uses innovative methods to transition emergency programs to sustainable, community-led solutions and highlights the importance of partnership in all of her projects. She recently obtained her Masters in Public Health through the School of Global Studies at Thammasat University, Bangkok. Currently Geneva lives Melbourne, Australia with her husband where she is an International Aid consultant.
I have recently moved location again. I have moved to my fourth, yes fourth, location in less than two years.
Upon sharing the news with friends and family back home of this last planned move, I was greeted with responses such as “I don’t know how you do it”, “I don’t envy all that moving!”, and “but when are you moving HOME?”.
My once enthusiastic-intentioned call turned into justification to others for my chosen lifestyle as an International Aid worker who is often required to change geographic locations. Over the course of a couple days I hung up from phone calls feeling defeated and misunderstood by others, and even by myself. Refusing to be shrouded in doubt about my lifestyle, or worse, be sucked into comparing myself to the lives of others, I found a safe and comfortable place to meditate. Using the power of my breath, I centred my spirit and came to the powerful realisation that if I compare myself to the person I have always imagined myself to be, I am right on track. I live a life that is completely different from my family members and nearly all of my friends, and sometimes that makes me feel weird and different, but it makes me feel so….me.
I have covered many miles, and laid my head to rest on too many pillows to even count. I have not, however, taken time to reflect on moments where I feel at home, or at peace, in the midst of so much travel. In preparation for this upcoming move, I have put together the top 5 things that “ground” me in a seemingly endless life of motion:
1) Breath and movement. Yoga brings me back to my breath, and helps me connect my body to my new physical space. My yoga mat travels everywhere with me, and when it rolls out onto the floor I feel a sense of home.
2) Nourishing my body. Cooking calms my spirit and can even be a meditative process for me. The first meal I cook in a new place creates smells and senses that flood me with comfort and satisfaction.
3) Harnessing my creative spirit. Painting enlivens a part of me that too often gets pushed to the back burner. When I create a painting I feel a sense of pride, accomplishment and balance in my life. I use the lotus flower as a theme throughout most of my paintings so in whatever country my brushes stroke the canvas I have a familiar symbol to accompany me.
4) Wander and wonder. Throw that to do list out the window and allow myself time to wander the new streets, smile at strangers, and feel gratitude for new opportunities. When I take to the streets with a journal in hand and $10 in my pocket for a spontaneous red wine stop I feel giddy and alive. Whether I am wandering the dirt roads of rural Burma, or the back alley ways of Melbourne, the feeling of wandering and wondering makes my heart beat just a bit faster and I can’t help the silly grin that always takes over my face when I allow time to just stroll around.
5) Be still, and still be here. This is a mantra that my favourite yoga teacher often shares in class and it often comes to mind during transition times. It is okay to feel overwhelmed and at times exhausted by transition. It is okay to not move, cook, create or wonder and just be still, nap, read, meditate. Remember that life is made up of a series of moments, and taking time to ask yourself what you want from this moment, is a good way to not get overwhelmed with the grand scheme of transition.
In a new place I experience moments of joy and days of sorrow. There are days where I am enriched and enthused by the newness, and days where I am bogged down by the unfamiliarity and additional challenges that accompany a new place.
Listening to and respecting each emotion that enters without judgement is a daily practice, and something that does not always come naturally. Love yourself, and listen to yourself, through all the cycles of transition. Reach out to other women who live similar lives, and know that around a table of like-minded souls you too shall feel at home and encouraged to go forth with this wild journey as an International Aid Worker.