Any time any one gets a new job, or moves to a new place, or really, any number of new things, there are always adjustments to make. And moving across the ocean to one of the poorest countries on earth is no exception to that rule. So I thought a collection of Things We’ve Had to Adjust To would make for fun reading.
Now these Things We’ve Had To Adjust To are not necessarily good or bad or right or wrong nor have they necessarily been Difficult Adjustments, just Adjustments all the same.
So here we go:
- First and foremost, if I can be brutally honest and well, maybe a bit self-incriminating, the biggest adjustment by far has been working full time. While I was always plenty busy (as in Plenty Busy) in Denver, it was always with a myriad of various and assorted things–work, house projects, small group stuff, volunteer, getting together with people, play (OK, maybe play should have made it higher up on the list), but not the 8-5 (7-5:30) Every Day of the Week Grind. So just having to be at work five days in a row has, in itself, been a big adjustment. Not bad, just an adjustment. I’m not whining; just an adjustment.
- A fun and interesting (and very exhausting) adjustment has been spending a great portion of my days communicating with people for whom English is a second language. This also involves a constant and continual amazement at how difficult communication can be. Of course, the direct hire American embassy employees are all American citizens and English speakers, but the Locally Employed staff (which outnumber the Americans at the embassy by about three or four to one??) all have varying degrees of English skills and varying accents to wade through. And vocabulary limitations. And grammar idiosyncrasies. And forget about American idioms and figures of speech. I can’t wait to have one of them request my presence and me respond that I’m all tied up and they run to the rescue with scissors to cut me loose. (No, that hasn’t happened; I’m just saying it totally could.)
- Driving without rules. And navigating. Really, driving should be a blog post all its own, but let’s just suffice it to say that it’s a BIG adjustment. After living in Denver, the city built on a grid, and possibly the easiest city to learn your way around, this place has me befuddled. And forget about asking directions. People can take you any where you want to go, anywhere, but forget about them explaining to you how to get there. They don’t use maps; many of the streets are just recently named, so they don’t know street names; many houses have multiple numbering systems, none of which make sense, and none of which are used by the locals. No stop lights. No traffic rules. There’s one roundabout in town where they yield to cars ENTERING the round about (all the rest are the opposite). So how’s a person to just know that?? But let me put it on record that Randy is doing an AWESOME job of learning his way around, learning both to navigate as well as to negotiate the (no) rules of the road. Kudos to him! (And, no, we don’t have a car yet, just a borrowed one, but ours is due to arrive TOMORROW!! Ha, ha. We will believe it when it’s in our driveway!)
- Church. Due to our own language barrier, we’re limited to choices because there are only a few with services in English. I’m very thankful that there are in fact a few, but it has not been easy trying to decide on one and settle in. We’ve found two that we’ve tried out a number of times, and as fate would have it, each has parts we love and parts we could do without. As is often the case, we prefer the worship/atmosphere at one and the preaching at the other. How I would love to just video podcast Hunter in. But then I guess I could’ve just stayed in Denver…
- The beer choices. Or, more accurately, the lack thereof. Now it’s kind of embarrassing that this would make it into the Top Five Things We’ve Had to Adjust To, but the fact is, it has. Primus and Amstel (both brewed here), with the occasional Heineken import thrown in, are all the choices there are. Tusker, a Kenyan beer that isn’t half bad, is on most menus, but they never have it. (It’s just a tease to put it on the menu.) And well, it just gets old. This from a person who’s always said there are too many choices in the world. Well, I guess I meant too many toothpastes and wall color choices, not beer. Not that I ever have more than one. (I don’t. I’m on call.) But still, variety is the spice of life. You can rest assured that our consumables shipment we have coming to us sometime in the next year will be mostly Colorado microbrews! 🙂 Because when it comes to microbrews, Coloradans are just plain spoiled.
- My response to Mzungus. As you might remember, Mzungus is their word for us. (It actually means “traveler” but it is used almost exclusively to refer to white people.) There are plenty here, more than I would have expected, but it still takes my breath away when I see one out somewhere, and I really have to resist the urge to go over to them, hug them, say something like “Hey, where y’all from?”. I have to remember that white doesn’t necessarily equal English speaking, and certainly not American. And many of them are here for the long haul, and are no longer fascinated by the concept of another white person all the way over here, too. So I practice restraint, not my forte, and just die of curiosity wondering what the heck that person is doing here and why they are not as interested in me as I am in them.
- And the flip side of that, is being a Mzungu ourselves. A novelty. The stares. Especially when we have Quandary with us. Thankfully, there are only a few places in town where the street boys accost us for handouts, so we don’t have to deal with that part of it often, because if we did, that would be way worse.
- The money. And the cash economy. Forget it. Period. I am and always have been exchange-rate-challenged and I just can’t figure it out. I wonder if I ever will. And since no one takes credit cards, we always have to make sure we have cash (and wads of it because a thousand bufrancs is only sixty-three cents). My greatest fear is going out to eat with a whole bunch of people without Randy and the bill comes and I have to figure it all out. Hopeless.
- Having people around all the time (the guards are here 24/7, our household help is living here, the gardener is here all during the week). I have a blog post brewing entitled The Help, so I’ll save the rest of those thoughts for that one.
- Camping out. And by this, I don’t mean, camping out. I mean, being without our stuff. This has been a particularly hard adjustment for Randy, because he is home more than I am, and therefore noticing the lack of stuff. (Our state department supplied welcome kit has four plates, four forks, four spoons, four towels, etc., and no gas grill and no cast iron wok and it’s getting old.) We are ready for our stuff to arrive.
And there you have it. There have been many other adjustments, too, like watching AFN (Armed Forces Network) TV with their AFN commercials (hysterical). And the food. And shopping. And missing our family and friends and our church. And the weather. (Which I don’t know why that’s been an adjustment–it’s pretty much the same every day, but a few days it’s been overcast and I just wasn’t prepared for that variation.) And seeing the Southern Cross in the night sky. (How cool is that?) And dealing with state department foolishness. And having a very small social circle.
But all of these “adjustments” add to the richness of the adventure and the enlarging of our perspective, and the appreciation for all things precious. And for that, and so much more, we are thankful.