Here is one of my favorite images of my current country of residence:
Isn’t it lovely? It is peaceful and serene and seems a lot like something other worldly. Like you should be able to see hobbits frolicking in the distance.
But my days look a lot more like this:
And I don’t think you can really have the one without the other, but they are a nice contrasting images that are a piece of the “what does your life look like” puzzle. People travel to Africa to go on safari or see Victoria Falls or raft down the Nile and tour the site of the pyramids.
Hunters come to Africa in search of The Big Five (lion, elephant, cape buffalo, leopard and rhino). I once had the pleasure of a middle seat on a trans-Atlantic flight in between two such men donned in khaki and begging to tell some unsuspecting traveler all about their trip. I have never been so distraught that my headphone jack did not work (I’m looking at you, Delta.) nor have I ever before or since done the I’m wearing headphones but only for pretend because nothing is coming out of these speakers fake out so hard.
It’s kinda hard to fit all of these “things you do in Africa” things in when you live here. When this isn’t vacation or just a sweet Instgram feed, but it’s actually just life. And some days you sleep, cry, laugh or any combination of the above through it because it ain’t always a picnic. And sunset pictures are way prettier than me cocooned in my quilt cause all I wanted was a loaf of bread AND WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD THE GROCERY STORE NOT SELL LOAVES OF BREAD???
My life is more consumed with The Big Three (that recently turned into four). That’s water, electricity and internet (plus phone) for those of you playing at home. This week, I’ve struggled with them all. Sometime Saturday, my iPhone 5 charger decided that it was finished with a slow painful death and just wanted to abdicate life completely. I held onto that 1% battery life for as long as possible. Now that we’re in cool season, the wind knocked around my internet something fierce, and just like that – I have neither phone nor internet at my abode. But no matter. We power through.
Monday the power went off around 9am. No big deal, I’m spending the day at work. Someone is soldering my phone cable back together and the internet folks are coming to take a look. Fastforward to 5 pm – power is still gone, internet cannot be fixed without power, fixed phone cable is literally dead to me until outlets work again AND the water tanks are empty from gardening use and water cannot be pumped from the borehole (well) without power.
Yep folks, that’s water, internet, power and phone all gone. So I’m left go out to dinner with my neighbors and then retire to read (on my iPad) by candlelight on my couch in my well-built home with a blanket over me for warmth. It’s a hard life, I know.
This story can really go one of two ways from here: I talk about power as a metaphor for the Thing that you don’t have or the Thing breaks down in your life and then you are literally left in the dark (but I’m keeping a growing list of all of my almost metaphors to put into one killer of a post at a later time). OR I talk about how the luxuries of running water, electricity in the house and the free flow of phone and internet are all concepts that get lost in translation.
I can (and do) commiserate with my expat friends. I started to tell this story to a co-worker and stopped short when I remembered his house doesn’t have electricity. Ever. For most of the people I see on the daily, electricity is just no big thing. And for me, all of The Big Three (Four) were gone, and I still had more.
That is challenging and frustrating and humbling and motivating all at the same time. I still have more. Not more than my coworkers or friends. I just have more. I have more than no power, phone, water, internet, LOAVES OF BREAD.
When I’m dramatic (seldom) and exaggerate (even less often). Even then I have more. Even when I have nothing; I have more. I’m going to reserve the right to curl up on my bed and practice calming breathing techniques but I’m challenging myself to remember: I have more than I know and more than I pay attention to. There’s also already more to life. I have more.
I guess it turns out my story could only go one way.