Just Breathe

Rachel Schrattenholzer - Senegal


December 17, 2014

October 28, 2014

I wake to hear the crickets still softly chirping, donkeys wailing in the distance, and horse carts galloping by the compound. It’s 7:00am, when people are working in the fields, taking advantage of what’s left of the coolness of the night, and my brothers are taking the horses and sheep out by our mango groves to graze. Still under my mosquito net, I do the most important thing of my morning. I sit up straight on my travel pillow with my hands relaxed on my lap, and I breathe.

The mornings have always been the hardest for me here. At night, I tend to dream of home. Whether it’s ordering a sandwich piled high with assorted veggies from New Seasons, or walking amongst mountains, or wandering Portland, I’m always amongst familiar faces. It can be difficult to dream of the ones you love and wake up knowing that you won’t be seeing them for a while, but it’s all about perspective. When I wake up, images of home still fresh in my mind, all I need is a little perspective. I take deep breaths, cherishing memories of loved ones and the little quirks that used to annoy me but now I miss. Then, I let them pass. I tune into the soft chirping of crickets, hushed voices of children, horses hooves on the dirt road, roosters claiming the mornings light, the dull hum of my fan… And I’m back. It doesn’t take much for me to remember why I’m here and how much opportunity each and everyday holds. Just breathe.

I brought a few letters with me to Senegal, one of which was my birthday card from this year (my birthday happened to be three days before I left for Pre-Departure Training). In it my dad wrote, “I remember my first words to you when you were born were “Breathe.” Still good advice, I think. As you go on adventures and go into your 20’s, breathe, savor, then move on with passion and enthusiasm.” So now, as the sun rises, I breathe. Setting my intentions, and establishing an energy that carries me through the day with purpose. It really is good advice Dad.

Rachel Schrattenholzer