Thursday, November 11, 2010

This is How it Works... or Doesn't (the joys of transition shock)

So I was in the States for about 3 weeks and WOW!

What I just couldn't get over was just how nice everything was and, maybe mostly, how everything just works there. Smooth roads, wide sidewalks, easy shopping, hot water, cold water, electricity, street lights, the postal system... you name it!

Funny, eh? I mean, I do carry an American passport and I do go there about every 2 years and I have lived there plenty and I am 48 and fairly bright... But I just found the whole experience so surprising and kind of overwhelming.

For instance...

I was borrowing my parents little old grey Volvo ( I love that thing!) for a couple of days while I was up to Santa Barbara and a girlfriend decided we needed to go shopping to pick up a birthday gift for me. (Nice idea!) We finished and I jumped in the car and found that it wouldn't start. Turned over but wouldn't fire up. So I called my dad and the call went straight through because there were absolutely no problems with the network. I asked him to listen as I tried to start the car and he decided it sounded like the fuel wasn't getting where it needed to go.

Dad called AAA and they said OF COURSE they would come help me immediately because it was Dad's car and he's been a member for 30 years. The AAA guy was there in about 20 minutes and he was so nice and I never once worried that he might be incompetent or untrustworthy. He cheerfully hauled the car away to a mechanic across town who specializes in Volvos with whom I'd just spoken and who came with the highest recommendations. (I immediately regretted having not told the AAA guy that his tattoos were beautiful. Sheesh. How could I let him get away without that?)

My dad called his Volvo guy down in Pasadena and described the situation. He said it sounded like the fuel pump relay. It wasn't too long before the SB Volvo guy had listened to the car and he told my dad that it sounded like the fuel pump relay. All these phones working and intelligent diagnostics confirming each other and efficient systems! It just boggled me. But that wasn't enough. The car was repaired quickly and for a reasonable price and I got it back in a matter of just a few hours. I just couldn't get over it. It was so simple and safe and honest and well done.

Now, I'm not going to complain about how things are here in East Africa. I love Africa and there is plenty here to cherish. But this simple efficiency, proficiency and trustworthiness surrounding my little Volvo scene, well, that's not how things go when we have car issues here. My word. The number of places Byron has to go to just to get a spark plug that will actually spark... The days spent chasing spares... The mechanics that have made him almost lose his mind... Let's just say that Africa has other strengths to enjoy.

You might say that landing home again in Tanzania has felt a little bumpy in some ways. Transition is always harder when I'm not expecting it to be anything but easy. And it's the funniest little things that get to me. But I came up with a symbolic gesture to help me embrace it all...

I hadn't cut my nails short for the last couple of weeks before I left Tanzania for the wedding in North Carolina and, on the day before the ceremony, I joined Tait and her mom and the other bridesmaids for a manicure. (A manicure!) I had a bit of length to my nails and, I must say, I liked the way my hands prettied up. Over the course of my visit, I managed to keep them nice and I returned to Africa with hands that don't really go with the circumstances of this life. You know, I chop my nails short here, don't put anything on them at all, and try to remember lotion from time to time.. That's what works for me and I'm happy with it.

So, after a few days of bumping into the roughness of transition every time I turned around, I sat down with finger nail polish remover and my nail clippers. Back to reality-- the reality of the life I've chosen. I smiled with every snip, snip.

Hello, Africa... I'm home :-)

10 comments:

Julie said...

You're amazing ... if my car doesn't start ... yes, here in the USA ... it ruins my day! Thanks for your perspective on life, daily living, choices, ... and being WHO we are WHEREVER God puts us.

Tom Shank said...

Thanks for writing this Lisa. I appreciated your struggle and your sharing of it. : )

Sue said...

Oh, how this crazy fast paced 'fix it, get it back, and move on' to our rushed & busy lifestyles does a bit of damage on remembering to be grateful.

May it be that we slow down, notice the tatoos, and find grateful hearts in whatever culture we find our selves.

Smiling with you. :-)

sifluralin said...

So many worlds we live in.

Lisa, I read your chapter on G-d as healer last night and cried. Will be lending it to a very hurting friend of mine this afternoon. I am so grateful for your wise words across the miles.

Much love to you and Byron and Heather.

Roy said...

Great story, Lisa! I remember being with Gordon Aeschliman one day. We heard and saw a wreck on the freeway just as we walked into a restaurant. By the time we walked out of the restaurant 90-minutes later, all signs of the wreck were gone. No wrecked cars, no police, no broken glass on the street. Gordon, who was from South Africa as I'm sure you remember, was stunned and just couldn't get over it!

A BAKER'S HALF DOZEN said...

what a joy it is to see life through your eyes.
xoo
Jill

Alana said...

One day when I was living in the US my car died and I had to call AAA. I sat in freezing temperatures for 2 hours until they came. When they did, they explained that the gas station had sold me gas with too high water content (illegal). It turns out the AAA mechanics were from the same gas station that had sold me the illegal gas. Hmmm...

Things don't always work in the US. :)

lisa said...

Sorry about being stuck in the cold, Alana. Even as I was writing I was thinking that not everyone has a wonderful AAA experience. But mine served as a perfect foil for my life on the other side of the world.

Roy, we had an experience like Gordon's in Germany years ago. Having just arrived from Kenya, we watched a fender bender in this perfectly neat little town get cleaned up in 10 minutes. No sign of the broken glass or slowed traffic or anything. Weird!

jesus gypsies said...

it's amazing that after all these years overseas we can still have those "shocking" moments. thanks for sharing :)

Carolyn said...

Lisa, I know it probably doesn't seem quite the same, but I have the same feeling every time I return to Calif. from here. Always seems like things are brighter, work better, and all is right with the world!