Sunday, January 9, 2011

You Can't Always Get What You Want

I miss Chipotle and fountain diet cokes. I miss being able to get cold, safe drinking water right from the tap and not having to light carvão anytime I need hot water. I miss driving, blasting music on the highway and even Denver traffic. I miss the east coast. I miss the convenience of having my bedroom, bathroom, laundryroom and kitchen all in one structure. I miss washers and dryers. I miss good customer service, self efficacy and the efficient workplace. I miss drive thru ATMs and even the drive thru window at Wendy’s. I miss Super Target where I can get everything I need in one stop. I miss reliable public transportation and personal space in crowded settings. I miss air conditioning, although not as much as I thought I would, but I do miss feeling clean for more than 10 minutes after I bathe. I kind of miss having meat in my diet but am actually enjoying this mostly vegetarian lifestyle and don’t think about it much. I miss my favorite TV shows but not TV in general, if that makes sense, and I miss sitting in a dark movie theater with my spiked diet coke waiting for new trailers to start. I miss the pedestrian right-of-way. I miss the cold weather and snow that I typically associate with December through March but like the tan I am getting during this African summer, even if it is slightly uneven. I miss cheese. I miss walking through a crowded place and not being the immediate center of attention because I’m a branca or muzungo. And I miss my family every single day and wish I was around to see how my friends and their families are changing (Tommy in particular!) but am thankful for Skype so I can occasionally see their faces while we talk.

But I like waking up without the sounds of a city and traffic. I like being called tia, amiga, irmã and mana by kids in the street and around my house. I love that you can buy fruit, chicken, cashews, sodas, vegetables, bread and phone credit from a chapa just by sticking your arm out the window. I like eating mangos that you know fell from the tree within the hour and getting a “pineapple popsicle” from the market to eat as you walk. I enjoy speaking Portuguese even though I haven’t been doing it as often as I should lately. And I like our mashed up English/Portuguese language that may be slightly confusing to our family and friends back home (I apologize if random Portuguese words make it into our conversations. Just ask for a translation). I like not worrying about bills, buying gas or paying over a dollar for a soda. I like the view from my future house and the contrast of the vibrant green vegetation against a cloudless blue sky. I like the sound of rain against our tin roof and the way it drowns everything else out and leaves the air crisp and cool for awhile. Part of me likes the fact that there isn’t a paved road within 50km of my site - it’s charming. The other part thinks it’s a bit obnoxious. I love that random people on the street greet you, asking how you are and are not always rushing off to something “more important”. I like that I’m just a few hours away from the Indian Ocean. I like sandes de quiejo e ovo and cold Fanta laranja from the street vendor in Chimoio and eating meals we have literally made from scratch. I think I like the idea of teaching eighth grade biology and am excited to have some structure to my week. I like that there are nearly 200 other people in this country that I know understand these struggles and joys even if I never speak to some of them about it. And I like that when I stop and think about it, it still catches me off guard that I’m in Africa and that I’m actually taking on this adventure.

You Can't Always Get What You Want - The Rolling Stones (liking the Glee version too)


  1. I love that even with you so far away, we are still so insync that without knowing what you have written I could suggest a song/title. :)
    I love that you are truly amazing!

  2. We loved talking to you this weekend. I'm so impressed with you - you're savvy, smart, competent and incredibly gracious despite some tough conditions. I was telling your mom the other day you're the only person I know who could do this. You're inspiring and I love you to pieces!

  3. em! i was so behind on your blog! im home sick today and finally was able to catch up. i LOVED the story about stuart and all the other bugs. you amaze me. i miss you so much. how's this text thing kkb was talking about work? i would love to text you! let me know. happy new years. love you!

  4. I read a couple of articles about Sargent Shriver this past week. He was the founding director of the Peace Corps who died recently.

    Three contributors to one article wrote so eloquently about "being away" in those early years of the PC that I had to stop and reflect on how "connected" we are with you these days - and how courageous those early volunteers were, to really "go away."

    You are brave and resolute, no less so than those early volunteers! I am awed by the clarity of what you have committed to do. I can support you...and hope that in the years ahead for me I can model some of what I do after you!

    Few of us leave an imprint on history like Sargent Shriver; but we all can make contributions, albeit small that, over time, aggregate into whole communities becoming more than they could have alone.

    That is the work you do!

    Love, Dad