Monday, December 13, 2010

"...if only in my dreams."

Never has a song seemed so appropriate to my life. I'm dreaming these days of a place I love, even more than I usally do. And although I know it's a 30 hour flight back, I promise you that I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams. Cheesy? Who cares... more on that later. For now, I have something else to say first.

It’s official. I’m a terrible person. When I first set out on this venture, I (desperate for any scrap of detail about this experience) promised myself that I wouldn’t be like so many of those other volunteers who start off strong and then three posts later they are finishing their service and going home. It was so frustrating to me and I couldn’t fathom why it was so difficult to just keep people undated on your excitingly exotic life. Seriously, guys, how hard can it be?

Well, I’m not above admitting how na├»ve I was (about so many things, but we don’t have to go there today). You see, the challenge is not in finding the time to write, it’s finding things to write about. For any of you who really know me, you are well aware that very rarely do I not have something to say about anything and/or everything. Communication isn’t a weakness of mine. I’m sure you are puzzled, then, as to why I can look you metaphorically in the eye and say “I don’t know what to say.” I’m a bit surprised myself.

Here’s the thing. When you first arrive in your new foreign home, everything is dazzling and new and so easily describable. The differences are so stark in your mind because your point of reference is fresh. You begin to adjust, settle down, fit in, get a handle on things, and before long you realize that nearly a year has passed and this has become your life. No longer are you uncomfortably aware of how dissimilar everything is, these things are essentially just another day in the neighborhood. You become used to the strangeness and, before long, the strange is normal, and you forget what normal was before. A moment will come when you look around yourself and (whether you are giggling at the absurdity of it or reverent with awe and appreciation) you pause and think to yourself “How can I possibly describe this to someone back home?” And so it becomes easier not to try knowing that there is no way you can capture the moment and relate it back properly to those who have no frame of reference.

I feel guilty. It’s part of my job, the Third Goal of Peace Corps, and I should be doing my best to give everyone back home a glimpse of what life is like over here. The fact of the matter is that it’s a totally different world, and sometimes my life is so outrageous that it feels like my 15 hour flight was actually a warp through the space-time continuum and I’m really on a planet a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (being stared at like an alien every day only adds to this illusion, surprisingly). I can try; I can describe what we eat, the clothes we wear, the nuances of the language and culture, but no matter what, I will never be able to capture the essence of Zambia accurately for you all. The problem is now that I love my new home so much, I am loath to do or say anything that might misrepresent it. When boiled down, the issue is that the more Zambian I become, the harder it is to remember what it was like to be American. I don’t necessarily mind, as it makes my day-to-day living here easier, but it does make the translation back to you more difficult.

So, to conclude what is probably the longest excuse/apology ever, I have a request. I appreciate so very much all of the support from home, and I want to know that I love each and every one of you who is cheering/praying/rooting for me, even the ones that I don’t hear from. So ask me questions! Preferably specific ones, not stuff like “What’s it like over there…” I’ll try to describe anything you want to know, but I just don’t know how to encapsulate ‘what it’s like’ anymore. Life and death taxi rides, mouse extermination battles, graphic descriptions of my illnesses, ratio of clean skin to dirty at any given moment, you name it, and I’ll do my best to fill you in.

Despite the woe-is-me dialogue above, things are actually going quite well. I’m doing my best to stay busy in the village and enjoy my PC life. My first garden and nursery was an epic failure (apparently during dry season, plants don’t grow if you aren’t around to water them all the time…preposterous, I know), so I am in the process of repairing my fence and starting again. The rains have started, making that whole watering issue a moot point, so I confident that I will have vegetables as soon as I get my rear in gear and plant…again. The change in weather has been lovely. I thoroughly enjoyed hot season, despite all of the dire warnings of misery, but in some ways I’m glad to have moisture again (Emphasis on ‘some.’ Laundry is now a huge pain in my tusheni).

SO. Christmas. To say that I am looking forward to the holidays this year is a gross understatement. In 10 days, I will fly to London to meet my sister for what is, I’m quite positive, the BEST Christmas present EVER. Twelve days in London and Paris together, I am over the moon about it. It’s hard to believe it’s actually Christmas already, I’ve been anticipating it for so long, I almost don’t know what to do with myself now that I’ve made it this far. Moreover, the complete lack of commercialization of the holidays has been refreshing. Add that to the 80 degree tropical weather, and you have a perfect recipe for “Holy molars, it’s the WHAT of DECEMBER!?!?!” It’s the best holiday season I could ask for, no pushy commercials, none of those annoying bell-ringers in front of every store, no sales, no music, no lights…Blissful. The best part is, now that I am ready to be festive and cheery, it will be even more magical when I do arrive in Heathrow airport. Jolly good, wot. The way the holidays are supposed to be, in my opinion; like, actually a treat.

Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful season of giving. Thank you to all who sent me Christmas cards and packages, especially the lovely ladies of Beta Sigma Phi in Vancouver! I love you all and appreciate your support and well wishes so very much. (Tanya, I promise your letter is coming :D) Enjoy the blessing of being with your loved ones (I know I will, even if it’s only one of them), and remember those who can’t be home for Christmas this year, for whatever reason. We’re certainly thinking of you.

Peace and cheers to a wonderful New Year!
Xo ash