Monday, October 11, 2010

First Impressions

How do I feel about living here? When I'm in a good mood, everything is an adventure. Every exchange a chance to learn about another culture and practice Swahili. Every harrowing journey a good story for the folks back home. Not having any work to go to (and, with domestic help, little to do at home) is freeing and means I can enjoy precious time with my rapidly growing Caleb.

But when I'm feeling down or far from home, it all feels a little too alien and I feel a creeping purposelessness. Walks around the neighborhood and to IPA become reminders that I'm the only one here not working and that I have no one who I can truly call a friend to visit.

I know that these things will change with time and I try and remind myself that my enjoyment here is in good part all about my own perspective.

While we don't have easy access to old friends and modern conveniences, we live in close proximity to abundant natural beauty and people who are curious and eager to know us and who will teach us new things. I miss the convenience of getting around in a car, predicatable access to hot water and consistent electricity, but our lives here leave a much smaller environemental footprint. I miss cooking (and eating) any of our favorite foods and the ability to decorate our home to suit our tastes and lifestyles, but I have to admit I enjoy never having to make our bed or do our laundry.

Caleb seems incredibly happy for the most part, looking for goats and chickens and playing with the neighborhood children. He doesn't quite understand what all the excitement is about or why the children come running from all directions once any of them have spotted the "mtoto mzungu," but he's sure something fun is going on and he lights up around the children here. As trepidatious he is around the adults - many of whom want to grab him from my arms - he's doubly excited around all of the children. In fact, he runs towards them enthusiastically waving his oustretched hand and screaming "Hi! Hi!" which just about melts my heart.

The kids here think everything he does is hilarious (and I totally can't blame them). I overheard one of them saying that the "mtoto mzungu" .... "kama ngombe" (the white kid walks? like a cow) since he's not yet as good as most of the kids at navigating the craggly dirt paths. But mostly they're charmed by his brazen enthusiasm and chuckle at his excitement over chasing cows and chickens. So, he's still an anomoly and ends up looking like a tiny pide piper when we try and walk anywhere, but I know as the novelty wanes he'll find some consistent little playmates who stop seeing him as diiferent and just play together as children.

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