Monday, January 13, 2014

Thoughts from Summer

In case you haven't caught on yet, I use writing as a way to process life... faith... whatever happens to be happening around me. Not to say I haven't had anything to process the past couple of months - I just haven't had a chance to post it!

This summer I wrote a series of "journals" as I transitioned and traveled, took classes, saw old friends and made new, and came back to Musoma exhaustedly trying to finish my masters courses. They're unpolished, unedited, and admittedly way too long... but I thought the chronology as I transitioned time zones, continents, cultures, and oh so many other things provided a bit of perspective of my summer 2013.

24 June 2013 - Nairobi, nearing the airport...

Things that still amaze me when I leave East Africa:
  • The concept of drinking out of the faucet – I balk every time and have to tell myself it’s ok…
  • Not super-washing and super-drying every piece of fruit and veggies…
  • Eating salad.  Every meal.  Every day. 
  • Cereal!!!
  • Strawberries.
  • Cold weather.  (I seriously should have packed more warm clothes!!!)
  • English. Church. Sunsets at 10pm, instead of the usual equatorial 6:30…

27 June 2013 Transitioning to Germany

It never ceases to amaze me… this trouble with transition.

I tend to think, somehow, that I should be good at this by now.  But then, I move someplace else (maybe moving isn’t quite right – but after this past year, I consider anything over a couple of weeks a move), and hit that moment when I hate everything and can’t figure out what’s wrong with me… then realize that yep, I’m normal.  And that this too shall pass, though perhaps not quite soon enough.

Another continent, another country, another culture.  As much as I love traveling (and I do, honest!) and realize the amazing opportunities that God is letting me live out, sometimes I wish for… consistency.  Normalcy.  Non-change-ability.  And then I remember.  That Book that I follow, that good God I lean on not enough but more and more every day… He never promised consistency.  Or comfort.  Or security, or sameness.  EVER. 

But after sitting through another day of class on the exposition of Romans?  I remember that He DOES promise me the seal of adoption.  Freedom from fear, love that knows no bounds.  Inheritance, glorious inheritance with a deposit of His Spirit in my life in the meantime.  And for this, I am grateful.

Because I’m certain that having a house in one place wouldn’t promise me an eternal inheritance.  And it certainly wouldn’t guarantee adding to the number of those who have this knowledge and faith and belief in East Africa through the Word of God in their language either. 

And so yes, I wish I knew every language on earth.  I wish the Tower of Babel never happened, and that I could sit down and have real conversations with people I meet.  I wish that I wasn’t “alone” on this journey, that transition didn’t always mean all new faces, that I would learn to trust more and worry less.  I wish a lot of things.

But more than that, I wish for the time when no one would need to tell his neighbor about the Lord, because they would already know.  When every tear was caught, every word held close to a heart that cared, and that we’d GET this and understand it and live it and be it.

I wish…

I wish for the life I have.

28 June 2013 More thoughts on Germany during class (ahem!)

That moment when…
  • You realize there are a certain set of words you should know in every language.  Even before “please” and “thank you” come a more critical set of vocabulary: “toilette,” “dame,” and “mann.”
  • You remember why introducing the world to stropwaffles is a very good thing. 
  • You pull a tank top out of your suitcase, and your housemate rightly comments, “Wait, that used to be WHITE?”  Oh, Tanzania.  Apparently my clothes don’t look quite as good as I thought when compared to the outside world!
  • Amazing joy collides with sadness in hearing my niece has been safely born – half a world away.
  • You wonder why you decided taking classes was a good idea on top of everything else!
  • You meet up with people who think having guards at a school is normal, and say things like, “Of course you'd never stop and stay in the case of a car accident..."

14 July 2013 Finishing classes in Germany and getting ready to travel to London to visit friends and study

How to know you’ve been living in international environments:
  • You realize the reason you can’t find a shampoo that works well is that you need a different kind depending on what continent you’re living on – and have valid proof of this from the past three years.
  • You get excited for things like being able to open your mouth in the shower and breath normally.
  • You stock up on cadburry chocolate whenever you have a chance, and ask someone to drive you to a neighboring German town where they sell little bags of chocolate chips.  (The driver wanted some too!)
  • You get REALLY excited when you realize you’re actually in a country where you can read the signs – in your own language.  It feels a bit spoiling!
  • You have sim (cell phone) cards for multiple locations and are glad whatsapp works for all of them.
  • You have every phone number entered into your cell with country codes added so they’ll work no matter where you’re on earth you’re calling from.
  • You stay at someone’s house with no top sheet and nod, realizing that’s pretty normal “in this area…”
  • You think it’s weird that you can throw away all trash into the same bin in London, and look for the gelbesack to put your containers into…
  • You hear someone mention that they can tell if someone’s from Italy or France based on the way they dress.  And you start wondering… where would someone say I’m from based on clothing??
  • You think things like, “I’ll already be on the continent… I may as well layover in…”
  • You know what amazing products are cheap in various parts of the world, and seriously think it’d be worth going to said places to get the cheap prices – and visit the people you know there, of course!
  • You get weirded out by drinking tap water, and consistently remind yourself that if the fruits and vegetables still have water on them after washing, they’re still safe to eat. 
  • You find yourself moving from a question on how you dry your clothes in Tanzania to a description of mango flies…
  • You realize that discussions of health-related issues are way more natural and normal around the dinner table – even with people you’ve met recently – then perhaps they should be!
  • You regularly carry self-test kits and meds for malaria and other common East African diseases whenever you travel.
  • You plan to get extras of meds when in Nairobi (10 hours from home) because 1. They’re cheap, and 2. They’re better quality (and more available!) than in Tanzania
  • You lament at your keyboard’s lack of British Pounds and Euros key options for working out travel budgets.
  • You have your picture file sorted by continent, then country, then city…
  • You are constantly using your currency converter, and are adept at calculating at least three country currencies in your head.
  • You’re adept at using both British and American English terms in your classes interchangeably… and after using a British term (which is most natural), you quickly add the translated version for your lone American student…
  • You give your students an example of the importance of standard measurements: “When I was living in Tanzania, and my brother was in America, and he was getting married in Colombia… I could send my measurements to America AND Colombia and they were the same on all three continents!” 

21 July 2013 Church in Bristol
Worshipping today in a church in England with an Australian pastor and new friends from around the world made me feel at home.  I wouldn’t often say that new situations feel comfortable, but this one certainly did.  I could worship, be myself, not think about how I was coming across or how a message was going to be perceived culturally.  It was in English.  I was a guest.  And oh, did I realize how much I missed just being in God’s presence letting my heart cry out to Him!

1 August 2013 Leaving London

I sit looking around a room I’ve called home for the past three weeks in London, at bags I still need to pack and weigh and hope they make the cut…
     at the latest cable (wire) I finally got that still doesn’t let me skype on my computer properly…
     at the two pair of sunglasses I finally purchased today after a hard search, in two sunglasses cases so hopefully this time they’ll survive in the Land of Tanz…
     at the LTPro (London transport) app on my phone I won’t need after tomorrow early…

and I remember what it means to have everything change.  again.

     Tonight is the last time in a long while I’ll take a shower and breathe through my mouth, willingly allowing drops of water to enter my body without fear of infection.

     Tonight I eat my last Subway sandwich and cookie (white chocolate macadamia nut, of course!)

     Tonight I stare outside one last time at the light filtering through the window at 9pm.

By tomorrow evening, I’ll be in Nairobi, on my way to Musomaland.  I’ll slowly switch out of my western clothes, my western mindset, my western way…

I’ve learned a lot along the way. 
   Things like – how much influence Britain really has on the Land of Tanz. 
   Things like – American credit cards – even new ones – don’t have chips in them that allow them to work at most British shops.  (Credit card discrimination, my friend announced, and I tend to agree…)
  • I’ve learned that British lemonade has fizz.  Every time. 
  • where Ziplock bags and  surge protector/adapters can be purchased (key items on any missionary’s shopping list!)
  • That it really does get sunny and hot in London.  Sometimes. 
  • To relish every shower where I can leave my mouth open.
  • To relish every consistent shower.
  • To relish premade foods.
  • To relish the times I get in the places where I am… and to look forward to the next thing while softly mourning what’s done and gone...

4 August 2013 (in the Mayfield Guesthouse in Nairobi, Kenya)

Affects of Transition:
  • Dreaming you can convert between F and C quickly without a second thought.
  • Waking up completely confused where you are
  • Speaking the wrong language in the wrong country – always.
  • Putting every new phone number into your phone using the country code, so it’s viable no matter what country or continent you want to use your phone from
  • Meeting people you love from the country you just came from as they head back there from where you’re going… randomly in a guest house…
  • Being thrilled when people get whatsapp so you can keep in personal touch (not FB) with them – for free.

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