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Zen Peacekeeper.







What I left behind

Saturday, September 6, 2008 by Marianne Elliott

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On 27 December 2005 I was sitting in Terminal Two, Dubai
International Airport, waiting for the plane that would take me to Kabul,
Afghanistan. To get to this moment, I had left behind the best job of my life.
It had been a job in which I’d been challenged professionally beyond any thing
I’d attempted in the past. I’d been forced to face up to my personal and
professional weaknesses and had slowly come to appreciate my real strengths.
I’d worked with people who shared my passion for human rights and for justice
and who had become true friends. For five years I’d looked forward to getting
into the office. Near the end, though, I had become exhausted. I felt I was
running out of new ideas for the work and, even worse, running out of
excitement about what we were trying to achieve. It was time for a new job. 

I had also left behind a spectacular group of friends –
intelligent, loyal, and compassionate women and men. Each of them not only had
a fantastic sense of humour and of occasion but they were also each incredibly
talented in their own way and a source of constant inspiration to me. I’d left
behind the Matterhorn Ladies’ Book Club, where I’d spent many deliciously languorous
Sunday afternoons with good books, great friends and some excellent sherry. I’d
left behind my running club and the running buddy with whom, during our many
training runs, I had talked through every challenge life had thrown me over the
past five years. I’d even left behind my wee cottage, the first home I’ve ever
owned and a place of sun, happiness, refuge and great creativity.

In the midst of all that goodness, however, there was a
big hole in the middle of my life in Wellington. Two of my closest friends had
recently left New Zealand to work with the UN in Liberia. I’d met these two
women while we were all living and working in the Gaza Strip. Among my friends,
they were the only ones who understood the things I had seen and experienced
there and the ways that they had permanently changed me.

Every time I got an email from one of them describing
the challenges and struggles of the people they were working with in Liberia, I
wondered whether what I was doing in New Zealand was enough. I remembered what
it felt like to live and work in Gaza. I remembered what it meant to be pushed
so far out of my comfort zone every day that I was forced to grow braver,
stronger, more compassionate and more resilient. I missed that growth and
wondered what the easy life in New Zealand was teaching me, apart from comfort
and security and ease.
  Every time
I spoke to one of them I started to feel that it was time to get out there again.

To get to Terminal Two, though, I’d also left behind my
family. I’d left behind my grandmother, her pain still fresh as she mourned the
loss of her beloved husband of sixty years, my grandfather. I’d left behind my
beloved cousin who had just had a malignant cancerous tumour removed from his
brain and was about to embark on the fight of his life to rid his body of
cancer forever. I’d left behind my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces
and nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins. I’d left behind my whole big fat
Scottish-Irish-Scandinavian family who remind me that even when I don’t quite
fit in, I will always belong to my people.

More than anything else, however, my family were the
reason why I was on my way to Kabul. My great-grandparents were missionaries in
Papua New Guinea. My grandparents were missionaries in Nigeria, where my father
and uncle went to school by plane. My parents had been on mission in Papua New
Guinea when I was a child. When I was in high school my sisters and I were
taken out of school for several months to go and visit our aunt, uncle and
cousins who live in Guatemala as missionaries. As I grew into my own life I
realised slowly that whilst you could take the theology out of the sense of
mission, it was much harder to get the sense of mission out of the girl.

Because of that sense of mission, here I was sitting in
the waiting room of Terminal Two. I’d left behind everyone I loved and
everything I knew and I was waiting for the UNHAS (United Nations Humanitarian
Air Services) flight to Kabul, Afghanistan.


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4 Responses to "What I left behind"

  1. I think, in commenting on your post today, I will start at the end. I love the end, it’s great I think it ties all the stuff you’ve talked about so far together really well without being overly sentimental.
    “As I grew into my own life I realised slowly that whilst you could take the theology out of the sense of mission, it was much harder to get the sense of mission out of the girl.” – I love this, it’s an absolute gem. Amazing!
    I think the intro is pretty good too. Now, to offer some constructive criticism. I think your third paragraph has some interesting ideas, but I feel like they’re not really developed, there’s sort of an awkwardness there as though you are wanting to say something but it’s not quite coming out clearly. I’m not saying you should get into the whole story about being in Gaza, but maybe a bit more about the relationship with these two women might help with linking it to the other paragraphs.
    The other small suggestion I have is that you might want to look at the third to last paragraph again. You overuse the word ‘beloved’ a little, and I think maybe the way you described your cousin’s fight with cancer is a little bit wordy.
    But of course those suggestions are all just my personal taste, and really very minor things. Love the work, it’s so interesting! Keep it up!

  2. amy says:

    as i read this post, i feel as if i am about to embark on a journey. a journey that will open my eyes to your experiences but also challenge me to think about my own responses and choices. there are statements i was curious to know more about – the references to the best job of your life and to your time in Gaza stand out. but i am assuming they will find expression and context as the story unfolds. thank you for sharing your story. it’s such an interesting one but it also needs to told. take care.

  3. Swirly says:

    Once again, a beautiful. poignant glimpse into one of those tiny moments in your experience as a UN worker in Afghanistan…a moment that brings into clarity how profound, brave and tender this journey was for you.

  4. ash says:

    what i love about this is that i can tell you have such a heart and passion for what you did and how you contributed to the world.
    i see clearly that this is what wakes you up every day and is truly the “beat” of your heart.
    i love that.

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