Last Thursday my husband drove both my son and me to JFK airport. I was leaving on a routine flight west to San Francisco for a neurosurgery meeting. My son was departing on a bit more of adventure. Early that evening, Daniel would begin his full day journey to Accra, Ghana and then on to the remote village of Akropong where he will live with a Ghanian family and work on building projects (schools, community buildings) for three months. Like many late teenagers, Daniel had been been nothing short of challenging for much of the last few years and I had long anticipated the day he would depart for Africa-a chance to gain a little corner of peace and quiet. So I was unprepared for the emotions that flooded through me when I had to finally hug him and say goodbye. I spent much of the first part of the journey to California completely unable to complete any of the work I desperately needed to do.
A week has passed and we have received a very brief communication that he arrived safely and another with some very rudimentary details about his placement (he is an hour from the nearest internet cafe and cell phone reception is inconsistent and very expensive). We do know it is very hot and that the work proceeds slowly as a result. He has met many other volunteers and in one of those amazing coincidences, one grew up in the same town as his British father! Perhaps he will make his way to an internet site this weekend and we can see some photos and hear more about his existence there. For now, I have made the decision-for reasons I can't really explain-that I will only communicate with him via hand-written letters. Perhaps I think he will enjoy getting mail and perhaps it seems more personal and appropriate given where he is living. It is strang being 2010 and having a loved one be away for a really extended period of time (7 months total) with little means of communication. It takes me back to when I was growing up and even long-distance phone calls were unusual and very short. It also reminds me how dramatically communications have changed in a relatively short period of time!
Daniel wanted to get away and to do something completely different that also helped mankind. It seems he has accomplished that geographically. I hope the emotional change will also be all that he seeks. For me, I will be in New York waiting...yes enjoying the lack of mess, late nights, and overly boisterous behavior but also wondering what will great me when we reunite in May 2011.