Furlough is just around the corner, so we are naturally thinking excitedly about getting back to the U.S. People often ask us, “What do you miss most about home?” The biggest and most obvious thing is family and friends. There is just no way to quantify what it is like to leave them behind, and we absolutely can’t wait to see them again. But aside from people, here is a list (in no particular order) of five things that I miss most about life in the States.
1. Reliable Electricity – When the electricity goes out I feel so powerless! It’s not really a big deal at first. We just get out the lanterns and continue our business. It doesn’t even scare the kids anymore. However, when we hit a stretch where there are long power outages for several days in a row it really, really gets old… fast. I’m actually sitting in the dark of a power outage as I write this (maybe why this made #1 on the list). We do have a generator, but unfortunately it has been broken more often than it has worked since we got here.
On the other hand – We do have electricity a lot of the time. I can’t say the same for many of the people here.
2. Clean Water – Boiling water to drink or cook with is a chore that has to be done a couple of times a day. After it boils then it has to cool and be filtered before we drink it. When we wash dishes (by hand of course), we have to rinse them in bleach water to make sure that microorganisms don’t get left behind. The same goes for washing all produce that we buy. Again, it is not really that big of a deal, but it does get annoying.
One the other hand – We do have reliable plumbing that brings water right to our faucets every time. I don’t have to go far down the road to see people without plumbing at all. They go to a public water supply and fill buckets with water to use. Their toilets simply empty into a hole beneath the outhouse.
3. Blending In – It is easy to tell that we’re not from around here. We stick out. Every time we venture into public we draw eyes and attention. I can’t walk down the road without children pointing and yelling, “Mzungu!” That’s the Swahili word for a white person. That’s novel and cute at first, but does get old after a while. People charge us more in the market because they assume money is no object for a mzungu. We get asked for financial help constantly by both friends and strangers because people assume we can help. Sometimes it would be really nice to not have the color of our skin be the first thing (sometimes it seems the only thing) that people see about us. I miss walking down the street without a mob of people trying to sell me things because they assume that I’m a tourist. I miss blending in occasionally.
On the other hand – Our standing out does open doors for the gospel. Sometimes people will listen to us, when they wouldn’t listen to a local. And we often do have the money to help, which is a HUGE blessing. I really love having the opportunity to help those who aren’t likely to find help elsewhere.
4. Fast Food – I don’t mean the taste of fast food. I like the taste of the food here just fine. I mean the speed and convenience of fast food. When traveling or just having a busy day, it would be really nice to have a McDonald’s value meal, being in and out with a meal to go in less than 10 minutes. Here if you eat out, then you probably need to allow for 2 hours almost anywhere you go. Things just move at a slower pace, and people don’t get in a hurry. That’s kind of nice SOMETIMES, but other times you have other things to do.
On the other hand – We have plenty of food. It may come slowly, but it is coming. We’re not missing meals or going hungry. I don’t have to travel far at all to see people who have to worry a lot more about their next meal than I do.
5. Traffic – Driving in town feels kind of like a video game – a very real and dangerous game. The rules are just suggestions. Two lanes can easily become four or more. Motorcycles swarm around and through the traffic, operating on a completely different set of guidelines than larger vehicles. It is not unusual that while I’m passing a vehicle for another vehicle to pass me. In the meantime, pedestrians are crossing anywhere they want. Rush hour is beyond stressful, and nighttime driving is just unreasonably dangerous. I can’t wait to get back the land of reasonable traffic patterns and somewhat sane drivers.
On the other hand – We are fortunate enough to have a good vehicle. Most people have to ride on the dala dalas (crowded public transport vans driven by crazed maniacs) and piki pikis (motorcycle taxis driven by crazed maniacs). Meanwhile, we have reliable transportation at our disposal 24 hours a day. What a luxury!
It is hard to feel sorry for yourself for very long here. Every time I think I’ve made a sacrifice for God, I encounter people who didn’t have those blessings to begin with. Every sacrifice, inconvenience, and annoyance has ultimately been well worth it to see the powerful ways that God is at work here. It really is an honor to be His servant wherever He may send me.