Sunday, August 09, 2015

Arrivals and Departures Part II--Some Initial Thoughts

My thoughts upon arrival to the States several months ago:) Enjoy!

*Driving is so smooth. Roads are beautifully paved (everywhere!) and cars appear shiny and new. Signs, traffic laws and maps guide us so seamlessly. We come from a land where directions sound more like “Go to the tree with a crook in the first limb and veer a soft left. Proceed till the road ends. Wait with the goats. Some one will come for you eventually.” So streets with any type of patterned layout are a gift.

*The radio. We love the radio. SO many options all of the time. We usually track down the Christian channels first, but eventually we will tune to a country music station and stay there for a while. Country music soothes me and makes me feel at home. Always.

*There is a working washer and dryer, right in this condo where we are sleeping. We have all been SO happy about this. My twelve year old has done four loads already. In America, laundry is a party.

*Just outside our door are two patio chairs that look toward the coastline. But you can’t see the coastline from where we are because of a very tall hotel blocking the view. It is lovely. And that is not sarcasm. Our whole family has discussed how amazing the tall, tall building is. We all sit and stare at it after dark and it blesses us. Why?  Because of the lights. The beautiful, glowing, always working exterior lighting. The Cashlings said, “It’s like a Christmas tree!” Electricity that works consistently is amazing.

*Air-conditioning. It makes no difference what time of year we are in the States, I will always require a coat. Air-conditioning freezes me out. It almost hurts to walk into stores. I am more comfortable and at ease outside.

*A beach is the best place to land to begin furlough. Our Uganda wardrobe works well at the beach and there is not the immediate pressure to be all put together in the American way yet. Mussy hair, casual attire and no makeup…the beach accepts these things readily and makes it an easy adjustment into this culture where fashion and style do matter. Plus, it’s the beach. Simply splendid!

*Phone lines. In Uganda to activate a cell phone we buy a SIM card for under 5 dollars and then add data or airtime monthly. Easy peasy. In America, there are fast talking attendants at phone stores who type on computers and our devices faster than they talk linking us into their system for all of eternity. It will only cost $100 until it becomes apparent that you plan to USE your phone more than 3 times a month at which point the monthly fee jumps exponentially. In our hour long set up yesterday the attendant must have said, ‘I’m saving you money here’ 20 times. Saving? Interesting commercialization where you spend to the tune of someone whispering that you are actually saving.

*Heard in our conversations over the last few days:
“There are FOUR electrical outlets in my room alone! FOUR!! And the power is always on!”
“This refrigerator is SO big.”
“Driving in America is smoother than our flights.”
“That dog is in Macy’s in a stroller!”
“All these options make me dizzy.”
“The internet is always connected and it always works. It’s SO fast!”

*Jimmy Fallon is the late night show guy now and not David Letterman. There is a whole entire station dedicated to shows that document buying, selling and renovating houses to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. I watch all that spending for entertainment. Within only a few hours TV can make me feel like I am too old, too wrinkly, too flabby, poor and hungry. And while there are some shows that I still find delightful (I’m looking at you Downton Abbey!) TV mostly increases a perception that I am behind and missing something. In my early days in America, I feel more peaceful when the TV is off.

*Yesterday at the phone store, the attendant (who was very nice) asked where we were from. Jeff told him, “Uganda,” and the attendant chatted with Jeff a bit about what we do there and then the phone set up continued. In another lull of waiting the sales representative made polite conversation again and asked, “So what’s it like over there in Ghana?”  Without hesitation we simply smiled and said, “It’s very different from here.”  We made no further comment and neither did he.

This very brief and well-intentioned moment is a wonderful descriptor of what furlough is for us.
We are briefly intriguing to others in all the uncommon and distinctive of our home address.
But while we may be notably memorable for a moment (‘Hey Hon, I waited on a family from Africa today!’); we remain very disconnected and unknown (‘What’s it like over there in Ghana?’ We have no clue! We’ve never been there. :))
No one did anything wrong in our encounter yesterday. No offense was taken. But it signifies our struggle over these months. We most often respond to the intent of kindness shown in conversations like this, but we do not have the expectation that we will be understood or meaningfully identified with. This understanding that our life circumstance is difficult to connect with leaves us answering to the friendliness with appreciation but feeling empty over the long haul as we move politely over the surface of association.

*Jeff and I had lunch in a Lebanese restaurant yesterday. The music, the accents, and the food were so comforting to me. We are constantly drawn to foreign accents and cultures within our passport culture. Among the ‘others’ we are at home.

*And speaking of home, we will delight in moments of welcome and belonging when we see family and friends. Familiar hugs and long meandering conversations with those who have known us long will anchor us beautifully. We are eager for those moments.

But for now we allow our re-entry to simmer, knowing it will most likely work to a boil despite our attempts to keep the heat of culture jumping turned very low.  We constrain the temperature of our adjustment by giving ourselves private space, anchoring to our 6 person family, practicing the discipline of listening well, getting outside regularly and actively giving thanks. We pray. We ask. We need.

Our God is faithful and so very good. 

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