Looking back over the past month or so, many exciting things have happened in the lives of my friends and family. Two of my fellow MOZ15ers got engaged, my best friend and her husband celebrated nine months with their beautiful baby boy, my brother and my dad have been planning weddings and my cousin brought a gorgeous little girl into this world. Those are big life changes in my book. The most exciting things in my life are sleeping through the night without back pain and being able to sit inside my house during the day. I’m noticing some differences between these two lists of highlights. When did a cold bottle of water become worthy of a 10km walk in the African heat? How is that a bar of chocolate can make me happier than a kid on Christmas? And all it takes is a hot shower for me to feel “made-up” and “dressy”? How simple my life has become.
Looking back I remember telling myself multiple times that I was going to simplify my life. I specifically remember standing in Rachel Toman’s dorm room in Cornerstone after our freshman year at UNCW – the floor covered in clothes, make-up, shoes and papers. We vowed that we were going to take the opportunity of moving to minimize our lives, to get rid of all the crap we didn’t need. And I really think we tried. But each year I acquired all kinds of stuff that I just couldn’t seem to part with. And now I’m living in a house about the size of that dorm room. I’ve got one suitcase of clothes, a mattress, two boxes of books and other Peace Corps supplies, some basins and buckets, a bike and a water filter. That’s all I really need (although a bed frame would be nice) and sometimes even that seems excessive. I look around at the kids wearing the same dirty clothes they wore the day before and feel bad that I have so many options everyday, that my clothes don’t have holes in them and that sometimes I wish for more clothes simply so I can do laundry less frequently. Peace Corps says that we will live at the level of our community but I often feel awfully wealthy.
The NFL lockout and the government’s almost shutdown are all about money. Yes, the U.S. government is ridiculously in debt and we do need to figure out how to best deal with that, but tell someone here in Moz that the U.S. is several trillion dollars in debt and they will look at you blankly. The people around me can’t even fathom that much money. I was disgusted as I read about the issues between the players and owners before the lockout occurred. These multi-million and billionaires were fighting over more money without any thought for other people affected by their decisions. Rick Reilly’s column a few weeks ago summed it up nicely (and humorously) as to who else is affected by this stalled season (http://espn.go.com/blog/rick-reilly-go-fish/post/_/id/855/nfl-labor-decision-winners-and-losers). And a New York Times op-ed piece (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/opinion/10kristof.html?scp=1&sq=cowardly%20congress&st=cse) about Congress dealing with the budget states it perfectly – we’re dealing with junior high kids with too much power. Petty issues are interfering with more serious matters.
I have a unique perspective out here in the mato but it shouldn’t take a move to Africa to understand what’s going on here. America is self-centered and selfish. We have access to anything and everything and don’t like being told we can’t have something new and shiny; we always want what the other person has. Now not everyone is like this and I’ll admit to having similar thoughts at times – I have a cute dress but I really want this other one, I have plenty of food at home but it would just be so much easier to stop and grab something from Panera’s. My neighbor in Dombe spends the entire day preparing food, cleaning dishes, washing clothes, caring for children. She has got to go to bed absolutely exhausted every night and yet she always has a smile on her face and a minute to help Mona and I start carvão or prepare feijao for our dinner. If anyone deserves more money or a beachfront vacation home it’s her. Not those staunchy old NFL team owners or the rich Republican Congressmen who can’ comprehend that organizations like Planned Parenthood actually help manage the population and future spending.
I’m sorry it took moving to Moçambique to get this clear view of things but I’m sure glad I have some perspective and a new appreciation for the simple things. Maybe we should require people to serve two years in the Peace Corps before they can run for office or buy a football team?
Against All Odds - The Postal Service