Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Littlest Things, the Greatest Memories

It’s always amazing to me how the littlest things can evoke the strongest memories. The “Meijer” price tag sticker on a body wash container I brought with me to Tanzania made me smile every.single.time I saw it, for months. Despite not fully appreciating Walmart here in the States, even bags from said location sent as padding with school supplies from my church were items that were kept and often used around the house – not because we didn’t have plastic bags available, but because they reminded us of bits of “home.”
(...because who is to say there wasn't a hedgehog or hippo at the manger?
Ok, maybe not a hippo, realistically... but an elephant!? ALL creatures worship Jesus right!?)
Today, as I began to pack up my Tanzanian nativity I’ve had on display this Christmas, I thought about getting slightly “softer” plastic bags to wrap the carved pieces in. But then I noticed the bags’ designs, and was instantly transported back over 4 years of memories of shopping and cooking, searching for boxes while moving houses, getting supplies and adventures, and getting yelled at  reprimanded corrected for doing things wrong in stores with friends (like holding up an overpriced imported shirt to see if it might fit me instead of going straight to the dressing room.) Shoprite, which is a South African chain officially now owned by none-other than Walmart, was our link to American foods like Pringles and European treats like Haribo gummies in Dar es Salaam. Alpha Choice was the much-tinier link in Musoma, where we could get ground chuck/beef already packaged – a dream come true for this girl who was seriously not excited about grinding her own meat! – and things like batteries and regular-sized containers of vanilla for baking when the whole town was out. And ice cream. Did I mention ice cream?

It’s a smell of burning smoke (though generally not of burning trash here in the States), a taste of coconut curry, a glimpse of various (though different) Fanta flavors at the local Burger King soda machine. A message from a Tanzanian colleague in Swahili. Walking into a job interview recently and hearing Swahili being discussed between teachers. Realizing the painting of a lake fit the background of my nativity perfectly, as many Tanzanian's lives revolve around fishing… As I sit looking out the window at so much snow, I am thankful both to be here, and to have the treasure of incredible memories that almost seem unreal at times of adored people and places in my not-too-distant past.

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