I have been working with Cabrini for about a month now and have really been in the mix of things since the beginning. One of the things that I have noticed about my work is that nearly everything I do could either be seen as incredibly romantic/heroic or incredibly mundane. I will leave it up to you to decide which it is:
I drove all around the country tracking down medicine so that AIDS patients can live another day
I spent all day running errands and getting lost because no buildings are labeled.
I helped secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money.
I spent all day rearranging documents so they met the US Government templates.
We nursed two TB-positive twins who were dying of malnutrition back to health.
We agreed to change poopy diapers again and clean up messes after meal time.
I oversaw the installation of a multi-site, comprehensive data network.
I called our our computer to guy to ask why he hadn’t installed the router yet.
We moved from a comfortable house in the States to the most desolate place in Swaziland.
We cut our living expenses by 90% and still live very comfortably.
My salary puts me well below the poverty level in the United States
My salary puts me in the top 5% of Swazi earners
I am a missionary in Africa.
I spend most of my day doing paperwork for a growing organization.
The longer I am here, the more I realize that even in Swaziland, we still deal with the same issues, struggle with the same questions, and measure ourselves by the same standards. Sure, things are much different than what I experienced on a daily basis in the States, but at the end of the day, it is all how you look at it.
Over all, I think most people would pretty amazed at how "normal" our life is in Swaziland. We have a nice home in a safe area. We can get pretty much anything we need at the grocery store. We can drink the water. The cost of living is quite affordable, and we make more than we need. Of course if we lived in Manzini or Ezulwini or Mbabane, we would have access to even more amenities. As one person explained it to me, Swaziland is "Africa Lite" and that is a pretty accurate portrayal. That being said, there are still some things I miss:
- The convenience of being able to eat out – There hasn’t really been any foods that I have craved yet, but I do miss the opportunity to not have to fix a meal, or to just pick something up on the way home.
- High speed internet (or any regular internet for that matter) – Quite possibly the biggest challenge I knew of when making the move… especially to Cabrini. If we were in town, we would have decently reliable access.
- Being able to easily look up answers – This is related to the prior, but more specifically, I miss access to google / wikipedia / the library / easy phone-a-friend / etc. I never realized how much I relied on the internet to supplement my knowledge.
- Access to news – sure we have the Swazi Times, but unless you are interested in a strange combination of news, gossip and propaganda, you need to look elsewhere. (I have another post I am working on about the Swazi headlines, but I will save that for another time).
- Interacting with a variety of people – Here at St. Phillips there aren’t many people, and those who are here are usually all bound up in the same things. So it becomes difficult to get fresh ideas / perspectives / experiences.
- Netflix and Pandora – Yes, I am back on the internet thing… but, most of my "entertainment" came from these websites.
- Snobby Selection – I miss good wine, good beer, good spirits, good coffee, good cheese, good cuisine. We can get some of all that, but not a great selection.
- Ice Cream and Candy – you can get it here, but the selection is incredibly slim and it is very expensive.
- Being connected / "in the know" – There is a very steep learning curve here. Multiple times I have been told to complete a task that I have no idea how to do and with no guidance. I am also having to learn names and relationships by the truckload. I miss knowing what is going on.
- Family and Friends – Without doubt this is what I miss the most. We left behind some pretty incredible people and nothing can replace that.
And, here is Beth’s quick list of 10 things she says she misses:
- Getting things conveniently
- Good Coffee
- Kitchen Aid Mixer
- Reliable Oven
- Friends and Family
- Being able to "Go places"
- Ice Cream
- Having all her kitchen stuff and ingredients
We are at about the one month point since our big move (depending on how you count it). And while in general things have gone very smoothly, there is one area that has been especially impressive: Mikayla’s reaction to the transition.
We have known since early on in our daughter’s life that she was pretty special; she is incredibly good natured, adjusts well to change, and is always happy. But, we knew this move of 9,000 miles, 7 time zones, and two hemispheres might be a bit much. However, Mikayla has never waivered. She has been happy, and spunky, and open to change, and has taken everything in stride.
Just think all that she has been through in the last 2-3 month. She has:
- Seen all of the furniture in her house slowly dismantled and given away.
- Had nearly all of her toys given away or sold.
- Moved out of the only house she has ever known into a borrowed room.
- Had the few possessions she still owns packed, unpacked, and repacked countless times.
- Put up with parents who were stressed, sad, anxious and excited.
- Endured trips all over as we tried to cram in last minute visits.
- Had her sleep routine totally disrupted.
- Said to goodbye to all her family and friends.
- Taken 72 hours to move across the world.
- Flown on three planes for over 25 hours of flight time.
- Been drug through more airport terminals than we can count.
- Had to sleep in front of a ticket counter because we missed our flight.
- Put up with her parents as they stressed about their travel plans.
- Moved into a third home in less than two months.
- Gone from a crib to a toddler bed to a mattress on the floor to a couch to a twin bed and back to a mattress on the floor.
- Had to travel over an hour for any "quick trips into town."
- Lost access to things like parks and play areas.
- Been mobbed by kids twice her size because they are so interested in her.
- Tried to figure out why everyone speaks funny.
- Been kicked out of church (twice) and Sunday School.
- Had to get used to her Dad working again and her Mom being home.
- Traded the family dog for two new mission dogs.
- Had two new family members introduced (the twins).
- Been forced to share attention, food, and toys with these new kids.
- Been kicked out of her room again.
- Had to get used to taking showers instead baths.
- And, has made all new friends.
Yet, in spite of all these changes and struggles, Mikayla is still the same resilient, cheerful child she has always been. She has not skipped a beat, has barely shown any jealousy and hasn’t even been cranky. All of that is a lot for anyone to go through, let alone a two-year old. Forget the "Terrible Twos," Mikayla has demonstrated the "Terrific Twos"… and did I mention she was a SuperStar. I am pretty sure she has handled the transition better than we have!