Twenty-three years ago my best friend Kasia and I wandered about the domed hut village, the smell of fire and animal now becoming familiar, everyday revealing grand epiphanies about life in balance.
Infrequently but still the soul recognizes a destiny, some event or person crosses our path and we gaze a little longer, etch the moment in memory, the present suddenly more present, crystal clear in sensory awareness. It was such a day when I first met Raphael Lenaibalatia, — at the time a small, belly distended boy about five, who could not contain his curiosity for these two white girls, possibly the first white people he had ever seen, who appeared one morning in his village.
It was many years until we would meet again, now he towers at 6’3” somewhere in his twenties (his people do not track individual age, but age sets), his elder brother paved a way for him to go to school, having had his schooling paid for in large part… by me. We had come full circle from that brief introduction twenty-three years ago. Students at Vital—Center for Mind-Body Health have now also played a role in this destiny.
Today, well yesterday, Raphael became the first Lenaibalatia to go to university, ever! This is truly a memorable day which will be recounted in oral story for many years to come.
I am actually not a fan of Western education especially for non-Western peoples, but in Raphael’s case they need doctors, people to help with catastrophe, for despite the encroachment of cities everywhere, his village and family still live a miserable, four hour drive from the nearest clinic, that is if one has the fortune of a vehicle passing by, which often takes several days. Imagine having a goat prod you in your eye with its horn, then having to be transported over bumpy, rocky road in the back of a shock-less pickup and you start to glimpse the harsh nature of nomadic life.
Raphael was accepted into medical school and after three years can return to the village to perform basic services desperately needed. I suppose much of what he will learn may be redundant or irrelevant; nomadic peoples adept at life in inhospitable climates, cohabiting with nature and developing ingenious means for survival. But for the conditions that herbs and ritual cannot address, his experience will be invaluable.
I am a proud sister shouting from rooftops about my clever younger brother. Thank you again Vital students — your contributions reached where they were intended this time, and an entire village, if not region of rural peoples will eventually benefit from your generosity. Thank you Raphael for your perseverance in your studies, and for that ever mysterious way your soul chose mine to become your sister. Congratulations!