For one of my classes at Loyola – How To Tell A True War Story – we were asked to write a list of the things we carried, inspired by the author Tim O’Brien. Here is my list:
Mosquito net, mosquito repellent, anti-malaria pills, a whole case full of medicines (predicting the worst), sun cream, after sun, books, a kindle, my laptop, phone, iPod, camera that could take underwater photos, money, gifts for my host family, modest clothes (that were appropriate to wear in a country that is over 90% Muslim), clothes that I wasn’t too attached to so I could leave them there and carry new things home, letters from my family and friends and ex-boyfriend, heartache, excitement, “TEFL for Dummies”, fear of failure, fear of not knowing the first thing about teaching, fear of missing out, condoms and tampons (that would later be taken out, inspected and laughed at by a Gambian border control officer), embarrassment, two pairs of those ugly practical sandals that you think are essential but stop wearing as soon as you realise they’re considered ugly in other parts of the world too, trainers – with the good but unrealistic intention of running, closed-toe shoes that I later discovered I could never wear without getting a mountain of sand in each one, flight documents, passport, fear of not getting on with the girl I would have to share a room with for a year, resentment that I got partnered with the girl I had the least in common with, jealousy of the other volunteers who seemed to have more fun together, guilt, make-up; mascara, eyeliner, foundation (that I could hardly wear because the heat would make it come off with sweat), slight regret that I wasn’t staying in Cardiff with my friends and my family. No photographs, I forgot those and later had them sent out to me. Remind me, why did I want to leave? Excitement, determination, restlessness, wanderlust.