21 September 2015

when adventure loses its appeal.

Contrary to what we believed before we arrived in Tanzania, life here is really busy. Our work is not just a day job. It seeps outside of the normal 8-5 work schedule and occupies our thoughts and conversations on nights and weekends. Outside of that, we have commitments to our Maryknoll community, our neighborhood, and our friends, not to mention the labor that goes into taking care of a house and a dog in a developing country. 

we're just too dang busy.

You get the gist, so I don't need to say more.

With all of the work involved in day-to-day living, we try to stay true to serious relaxation time on a weekly basis. But what about when even that goes awry? When it seems really obvious that Tanzania/Africa/God/The Universe is telling you that your best laid plans shouldn't come to fruition?

This weekend, our Maryknoll Lay Missioner community decided to take the idea of fun and turn it into a full-day activity, part of which involved a scenic boat cruise on Lake Victoria. Most of us were excited at the idea of watching the sun go down while sipping on a nice cocktail of choice. As the boat left the shore, we jokingly teased each other about being able to swim and who would be left behind, if the boat were to go down.

The cruise was, for the most part, exactly what we all hoped it would be. The wind on the lake was cool and refreshing. We took pictures and made conversation as the boat circled around the coastline of Mwanza. As we were approaching dock an hour later in the dark, however, things seemed a bit amiss.

Michael turned to me and said, "This boat is definitely going too fast." As I looked at the shore, I saw he was right. Everyone looked at each other nervously, grabbed on to part of the boat, and braced for impact as yep, you guessed it, we had a little accident. The boat crashed into a nearby hotel overhanging the lake and then collided into two docked boats, such that the other boats were impaled and became stuck to ours.

What was supposed to be a fun and relaxing event quickly became worrisome, stressful, and tiring. (For the Moms' sake, I should note that the impact was very minimal and no one was hurt in the least.)

When we safely got back to shore, thanks to some friendly Tanzanian national park rangers, I asked Michael, "Why does this always happen to us?"

Flash back to a few weeks ago, when Michael and I wanted to spend a weekend with some friends of ours who live in a town about two hours away from us. We had had a very busy week of work and were looking forward to catching up with fellow Americans, whom we hadn't seen since the spring. As we drove to their house, we were discussing life in Tanzania - its ups and downs, the constant waves of emotions, doubts, and concerns. "But despite it all, you know what I love about Tanzania?" Michael said. "Nothing is ever boring here. It's always an adventure."

Twenty minutes later, as smoke was billowing out of our truck engine and Michael lost control of the gear shaft, we were forced to roll the truck onto the side of the road in the middle of a remote village, as twenty Tanzanians gathered around to watch the entertainment. I looked at Michael and smiled. "Is this the adventure you were talking about?" I asked. He gave me the death stare.

What was supposed to be an easy and enjoyable two-hour drive to see friends turned into a hot, sweaty, frustrating and tiring six-hour drive to our friends' house, where we then commenced to stress about how to fix our truck, how much it would cost, and how we would get back to Mwanza in time to get to work.

Do you see a trend here?

There was also the time when Michael and I decided we hadn't been on a date in way too long. On a whim, we met in town at one of our favorite local restaurants. "This is so nice!" I crooned over the meal. "Why don't we do this more often?" As we walked out to our car after dinner, we realized the street lights were out so we couldn't see well, which led Michael to fall into a sewage ditch that had not been covered. I kid you not, in a split second, half of Michael's body was in that hole. He sprained his ankle so badly, he wasn't able to drive home. Because of date night, multiple doctor's visits and days of icing and resting his ankle followed.

I could go on, but I don't think I need to beat a dead horse.

We had a recent conversation with friends of ours who transitioned back to the States after three and a half years in Tanzania. They reminded us, "Life in Tanzania is hard, y'all." And you know what? They aren't gosh darned kidding.

After almost two years here, we expect a lot of life in Tanzania to be hard. Our work is a constant battle, trying to accomplish big goals (like oh, I don't know, only creating a more just and compassionate world) with no electricity or clean water or enough funding. The young women we work with let us down and disappoint us. The dog gets sick again with some mystery infection and we spend every morning for two months putting ointment onto her wounds and shoveling diarrhea out of the yard. And she still doesn't get better. Honestly, at this point, we're okay with all of that. We've accepted that this is the reality of life in Tanzania. 

this is our norm. that's okay.

What I'm not okay with is accepting that even when I do my best to set aside time for relaxing and fun, a chance to win back some of my sanity, Tanzania always wins. Why is that? Is it simply because we're in a developing country? Fate doesn't care when we want to have fun? Did someone put a curse on us?

I seriously don't know, but to anyone out there listening, I would like this to please stop soon. Either that, or I'll just compile all of these stories for a future international bestseller. Universe, it's up to you.

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