Friday, July 8, 2011

Four Months, Four Continents–Back to Africa

We got back to Arusha with no problems (Millie slept the entire flight home!!! And I foolishly stayed awake the whole time on the overnight flight just so I could enjoy TWO movies in peace). As soon as our suitcases were unpacked, I started preparing to pack them up again (along with 14 boxes) for our departure from Tanzania four weeks later.

Its amazing how quickly a change like moving can sneak up on you. Just as you’re going about your day, buying veggies at the Arusha-version of a farmer’s market, annoyed by the ignoramus drivers on the road and the always-out-of-money ATM, and you get call that says “say good bye to all those nice people you have gotten to know the past two years and essentially the only world your daughter has ever known, you’re going to Cambodia.” You’re 10 parts thrilled, 10 parts sad and 20 parts overwhelmed over what will transpire in the coming weeks. This was the case for me.

I felt more than content with all the remarkable people we’d met in Arusha who’s paths had fortunately intersected with ours. I loved that I was able to climb Mt. Meru after having it stare me down on a daily basis as I went about my business. I felt gratified that what was a leap of faith for our new family turned into such a professionally and personally gratifying experience. I felt triumphant that I had simultaneously stumbled through new motherhood while also navigating life on a new continent. I felt satiated by having seen so many animals in the wild and gorgeous countryside. And lest I forget, it was a blessing beyond words to have so much help at home.

But I can’t deny that at times I found life in Arusha to be annoying and that I longed for one of those Staples "Easy" buttons to push. And during those difficult times, I longed for the simplicity and intuitiveness of America. Why couldn't the store just have the things I needed when I needed them? Why did "maybe next week" really mean, "I have no idea" and that they didn't just say that in the first place?  While hiking in the Grand Canyon (during our recent home leave), Roger asked me ‘what do you love about America so much?’ I told him it boiled down to, when I’m here, I feel powerful.  Everything makes sense, I know my way around, I speak the language and I know the written and unwritten rules.  In Tanzania, it was the opposite.  Naturally, it was unrealistic of me to expect to feel as comfy in Tanzania after two years as I do after thirty odd years in my native America.  But I guess as you get older (esp when toting around a little one), being able to predict  and deftly navigate your surroundings becomes as essential to you as your daily venti latte.

In the midst of a major transition for our family, I feel compelled to wax philosophical about the expat lifestyle and longing for home.  But no matter how I dissected it, I continually reached the same conclusion – no matter where you are, the grass is always greener in other pastures.  I will appreciate all that Arusha had, and that I surely took for granted, once I am sweating buckets in Phnom Penh.  And undoubtedly I will wish for an Easy button while we’re there as well.

Walking safari in Great Rift Valley, with our Colorado friends
Our last month in Arusha was a roller coaster.  We got out to the bush one more time (for Mother’s Day) and we had good times with the good people we’d been fortunate to meet.  We even sent ourselves off in true Tanzanian style with a whole roasted goat at our farewell party (which I think gave many children nightmares)! But there were a lot of difficult goodbye’s and a lot of packing.   I started seeing Arusha in a different and more positive light.  I understood why people relocated there for good, opting to raise their families surrounded by the bush and slower pace of life.

The farewell goat!
Other philosophical sentiments that moving ignites is regret and living simply.  Why is it that in the day-to-day course of straightening up I can look at a heart-shaped coin purse and think “this may come in handy one day, better save it” but then toss it in the giveaway/trash pile the moment we decide to move? How do I get my brain hard wired to critically examine every trinket and tchotchke at the moment of confrontation and either put it to use or make it someone else’s treasure? You’d think a lifestyle based on relocating every two years would have given me some skills in this department, but sadly, no.  Nevertheless, even three hours before the taxi picked us up, I was unloading a suitcase full of STUFF on the staff.

And lest we forget our good pal, regret: Wishing I had made it to Serengeti.  Wishing I’d explored more of our corner of the continent.  Wishing I’d been more adventurous and less nervous.  Wishing I’d mastered Swahili and engaged more in local life.  Of course, it just always felt as though there would be time for those things once I [enter every excuse in the book].  I suppose moving every few years like this should drive home the prescient wisdom of just doing it.

Farewell Arusha (yes, 6 weeks later)! Thank you for welcoming us, being such a wonderful home for our new family and creating so many friendships.  Tutuonana badaye (see each other again)!

From the month of April until the very first day of July, Millie and I will have had our feet on four different continents in as many months.  We start in Europe, return to Africa, pop over to North America and then eventually land in Asia.

1 comment:

  1. powerful post Rebecca... You've done a lot in 24 months with a new little one! Can't wait to read about your adventures in Asia!