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.
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 :-)