Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Thank You

Mom, thank you for teaching me how to organize my thoughts, talk to patients, and keep my life generally organized (even if it’s organized clutter). Thank you for teaching me how to play suitcase Tetris so bags are packed in such a way they don’t explode when I open them and things are easy to find and retrieve. Thank you for teaching me the importance of pajama days and taking time for myself. Thank you for instilling a love of knowledge spanning all subjects and teaching me how to apply those things practically. Thank you for teaching me to be open minded and how to recognize and accept everyone’s belief no matter how much they differ from mine. Thank you for teaching me to be true to myself, and for teaching me I am more than capable of exceeding expectations. Thank you for instilling the thrill of adventure within my heart. 

Dad, thank you for teaching me how to do things like connecting a gas bottle or jury-rigging a fix for my toilet. Thank you for teaching me how to laugh at myself and see the humor in the ridiculous. Thank you for teaching me how to focus and block out the world around me. Thank you for demonstrating the beauty of a simple life. Having learned how to cook over a campfire or do dishes in a bucket on a picnic table has made transitioning into life here a little easier. Thank you for teaching me “every rose has its thorns” and “it’s not enough just to stand outside the fire”. Thank you for teaching me it’s more than fine to have high standards and expectations especially in regards to how I am treated by others. Thank you for teaching me the power of a cup of coffee and how the best cup is had as the sun rises.  

Grandma, thank you for teaching me how to prepare a meal from “nothing”. Thank you for teaching me how to listen to myself and connect to my needs be they physical, emotional or spiritual. Thank you for teaching me how to sit and breathe, and thank you for teaching me to appreciate the world around me. Thank you for always recognizing and reinforcing my ability to see the beauty in everything even when things seem grim.  

Jonathan, thank you for being my brother and by default my best friend. Thank you for teaching me there is always someone I can count on (even if you don’t answer your texts). Thank you for teaching me I’m not alone in the world. 

Aunt Sue, Aunt Caroline and Aunt Chris, thank you for teaching me how to listen to another person’s heart. Thank you for teaching me it’s ok to embrace the weird within me, and how to open my heart to others. Thank you for teaching me how to laugh and how important it is to sing Broadway songs at the top of your lungs when you’re feeling down or how much peace can be found in a solo trip to the coast to reconnect (even if it isn’t on a Harley).
Gavin (cousin), Aunt Caroline, Aunt Sue, Aunt Chris, Katelyn (cousin), Mom, Jonathan, Me

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I'm Sorry, but I Can't

I’m sorry, but I’m going to be late today…
            Because I have a broken pipe, and I need to wait for the plumber.
I’m sorry, but I’m not coming today…
            Because the plumber never came yesterday and now my apartment is flooding.
I’m sorry, but I’m going to be late today…
            Because I have been summoned to a. the Archbishop’s House, b. the clinic, c. the school, etc.
I’m sorry, but I’m not coming today…
            Because my stomach has decided to revolt.
I’m sorry, but I’m going to be late today…
            Because the taxi I’m in keeps overheating, and I doubt it’ll make it the last 30km into town.
I’m sorry, but I’m not coming today…
            Because you asked me to work the last two weekends, and I need to go to the market for food.
I’m sorry, but I’m going to be late today…
            Because I have to flush my toilet.

            Sometimes things come up. We all know this. For some reason, there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground or a simple solution here. I made my way across town to my friend’s house this afternoon, and she begged me to write a blog on my morning, so here it goes.

7-something: A text message that scared the living daylights out of me asking me to pretty please bring oatmeal when I head up to Njinikom this weekend. Even though my heart was pounding in my chest, I was thankful it woke me from a bizarre dream (even though my alarm would have done the same at 7:15).

7-something later: I really don’t want to get out of bed.

8-ish: Okay, fine. I roll myself out of the hole my body has formed in my foam mattress and grumble as I make my way into the kitchen to make coffee. Because, you know, coffee is life.

8:30: Get dressed and make breakfast.

8:45- Eat breakfast.

9:00- Ready to leave the house! Wait, no I’m not. I have to flush my toilet.

9:05- Grab buckets and head outside to fetch water.

9:15- Back at the apartment and in the kitchen to do dishes. When there’s no water, one cannot waste water. Once dishes are done, the toilet can be flushed.

10:00- Dishes done. Time for more coffee.

10:20- Rest of dishes are done.

10:30- Toilet is finally flushed! Woohoo!

10:45- Make it up the hill to the office.

Who knew flushing a toilet could take so long?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Twenty-One Steps to Getting Rid of the Mouse in Your House

Rodents are a part of life here. Everyone has them, has had them or will get them. In some parts of Africa, they have put rats to use sniffing out mines left behind from past wars or conflicts. You can’t drive for more than an hour without seeing someone standing on the side of the road selling rats of varying sizes on strings tied to a stick, but the most entertaining thing, to me at least, is that every rodent whether a mouse, a common house rat or a ground rat (that looks something like a miniature capybara) is a rat. So maybe my title should be “Twenty-One Steps to Getting Rid of the Rat in Your House”… What I had, however, was a mouse, so we’ll stick with what we’ve got.

Step One: Recognize you probably have an unwanted guest in your house.  Perhaps you see mouse droppings (and pray they aren’t carrying one of the deadly diseases mice are known for) or you go to slice your loaf of bread for toast in the morning and find a tunnel has been eaten from one end to the other.

Step Two: Curse the mouse. Curse the mouse’s house. Curse the mouse’s family and their cow while you clean up and throw away your freshly baked bread.

Step Three: Forget about the mouse.

Step Four: Sit on your couch, perhaps watching a movie or reading a book, and watch the mouse scamper from your kitchen into your hallway, losing sight of it when it ducks behind a wall.

Step Five: Again curse the mouse.

Step Six: Spend what seems like hours searching to no avail.

Step Seven: Spend a week looking for the mouse as you slowly go insane from the scurrying and quiet squeaks.

Step Eight: Stumble upon the mouse, both of you jumping sky high, but realize he is a mouse as you fail to catch up to him even though he struggled to find traction on your tile floor.

Step Nine: Step up your game. Invite the cockroaches over for a game of poker. Unfortunately, the cockroaches are cockroaches and you soon find yourself in trouble.

Step Ten: Get rid of cockroaches.

Step Eleven: Make a call. Your friend’s cat is willing to take the contract, but she demands payment in tuna. You’re desperate, so you agree, making plans for her to spend the weekend.

Step Twelve: Lay in bed that night, tears streaming down your face because you can hear the mouse. He seems to be mocking you.

Step Thirteen: Enough is enough. You swing yourself out of bed and flip on the lights, or you know, don’t because there’s no power. Where’s that flashlight? With flashlight in hand, you channel your inner Sherlock Holmes and go in search of the offending houseguest.

Step Fourteen: Having located the mouse behind your dresser in his quest to eat the oatmeal you have stashed in your “go bag”, devise a plan using a curtain rod to flush him out.

Step Fifteen: Execute your plan. He runs. You strike. He jumps. You veer. He flies around the corner in search of escape, but you cut him off laughing, “not this time, Jerry!” He spots your duffle bag lying on the floor just a few feet away and bolts for some sort of safety from the crazed giant with a curtain rod.

Step Sixteen: Pick up duffle bag calmly and walk it around the corner to the front door, shaking it every so often to assure yourself the mouse is still there and make sure he doesn’t get any ideas about climbing out.

Step Seventeen: Struggle to get your front door open with one hand.  The key sticks a couple of times.

Step Eighteen: Curse your door and the mediocre construction.

Step Nineteen: Carry duffle (mouse still inside) through the door and hold it over the edge of the verandah.

Step Twenty: Watch as the mouse kamikazes out of the duffle bag from the second floor verandah and watch as he hits the ground and scurries away as fast as his tiny legs can carry him.

Step Twenty-One: Return to bed and sleep like a baby for the first time in weeks.

For the record, I haven’t had a mouse in my apartment since. I can only hope the mouse returned to his friends and family with horror stories of the crazed giant and warnings to steer clear of that particular apartment.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Listen and Pray

Sometimes, the hardest thing I have to do as a missionary is listening. I have heard life stories. I have heard joys and shared smiles. I have heard trials and tribulations. I have held people’s hands and let them cry. I have sat there and said nothing. 

Sympathizing with people in desperate need of empathy seems… hollow.

What do you say to the person sitting in the chair next to your desk crying because they’re overwhelmed with shame? How do you comfort someone who doesn’t believe themselves to be more than their disease? How do you hold back tears as you listen to them cough, watching their chest depress every time because they’re skin and bone wondering whether or not it will kill them? What do you say to someone letting their disease consume them?

I wish I had the answers. This is why listening is so difficult.

It isn’t easy opening up to a complete stranger; to spill your deepest fears to a person you met not even a minute before. It takes an amazing amount of courage.

I could spend all day telling them what they should do… Take your medication. Eat regularly and eat well. Surround yourself with love and positivity because there is nothing to be ashamed of. You are more than your diagnosis. You are strong and courageous. You have purpose, and the world is made better because you’re a part of it. The problem is, unless they believe it, those words are empty. It’s hard to give advice when both of you know in the end, the disease will win. How do you fight that? What do you say? I can’t force someone to take their medication. I can’t make sure they eat. I can’t give them a job, take their pain away, or instill in them a sense of belonging and hope.

I can only listen and pray.