I was awake most of the night and was so tired this morning, plus still not feeling great. Everyone else went off to church and I stayed in bed.
I had a lovely, quiet morning--windows open, birdsong abundant, a cool gentle breeze and QUIET. This is a rarity here in our community. With my brain able to reflect without interruption I remembered some little things that in culturally stressful times can become very big.
Recently I have lived in a tiny amount of rebellion. When there is little time to spare and yet the demands keep coming (albeit in the beautiful form of various members of our New Hope Uganda community) I can tend to tighten up and grab for something of my own culture comforts. In the past couple of months such rebellion took on an extremely subtle form as I refused to date my journal entries DD/MM/YYYY and instead pressed in the ink to paper a little more firmly in MM/DD/YYYY. This is undoubtedly getting lost on some of you.
In the United States I grew up writing the date month first, then day, then year as it is the American way. When I lived in Germany in the 80s, I relished distinguishing myself from the norm as I learned to present a date not only with the day first, then the month and year, but also crossing my 7's. What fun to be different!!!
Now? Sometimes I grow tired and weary of being different. (dates are also written here in Uganda as DD/MM/YYYY)
Such a very small thing that grows to an annoyance when I'm feeling stressed.
A couple of years ago I went through a fairly stressful period and purged a bit of the pressure by writing down some thoughts. I was reminded of that journal entry today and decided to share it.
My dear friends and family, please don't get too worried about me. I (and the whole family) are doing well, but sharing some of the struggles as silly as they seem in retrospect, keeps this thing we do real. Perspective on this whole cross-cultural adventure is healthy.
Here is my journal entry from 2016:
"As I fold clothes this morning in Uganda, memories rise then settle, a thin skim on cooled, boiled milk. In my hands, another cloth table napkin whose only current purpose is to host breakfast bread or protect rising bread dough from preying insects, but at one time actually sought to serve its intended design. Honestly, the napkin never held any sense of its destiny, it was me, who so desperately sought some sense of what I deemed to be propriety amidst overwhelming cultural shift.
I painfully remember my eyes welling up when sternly correcting my laundry helper concerning her failure to properly iron said napkin, "How am I supposed to present that on my table with a creased, crooked fold?" The impasse of looming exasperation folded me to tears as she stared at me and I at her. I tried to hold the gaze, but gave up and huffed down the hallway.
In our early years here in Uganda, I honestly would frequently reply that I didn't experience much culture shock to speak of when asked for advice from newbies or queried by compassionate oldies. I believed that I, except for a minute bit of frustration, sailed through those first few years.
It is amazing what we can convince our minds and hearts of in an effort to cope.
Seriously? I squirm with embarrassment over sharing that little bit of emotional breakdown. And there are PLENTY of others. Yet, I continued to genuinely feel I wasn't suffering much cultural stress. (today's interjection, "HA! HA! HA!")
For crying out loud, who needs cloth napkins in remote Africa? They were a gift from someone and I convinced myself of their merits by the savings we made on not buying paper napkins (we were a 5 person family living on about $300 dollars/month) but, they became a visual reminder of what I didn't have. Fresh from America's excess of the non-essentials, with magazine covers of beautifully set tables flashing through my mind I must have thought I could create some semblance of peace and "normal" in my new and unfamiliar environment. Yet, I completely believed I wasn't in culture shock, no sir.
And today? I have chilled out a bit, truly I have. Haven't I? I am not so sure. This morning my house helper told me at 9:30 that we had no beans for lunch. In the past ten years I have lost count of how many times I have been told we have "tewali" (nothing) and in turn how many times I have asked to be told ahead of time, instead of when it is too late to have lunch ready in time. It has happened with charcoal, dish soap, laundry soap, posho flour, sugar, and salt to name a FEW. I still get my feathers all in a knotted tuft when face to face with someone's failure to plan that then affects the smooth running of the day ahead."
And so it goes. I wonder what will catch me off-guard this week.
Thankfully, God never changes and I have found great strength through reading and studying His word through scripture. Wherever we are He is there. Whatever culture we live in, His is the ultimate guide.
I felt a little bit better around noon and was able to get some of the lunch prep done before everyone returned from church. It's a little more noisy now that the community has returned from church and the nearby kids are playing outside, but I am thankful for my quiet morning spent in the books of Daniel, Ezra and John.
At the end of this week we will embark on our annual foreign staff retreat and I look forward to the teaching we will receive from Josiah, our member care coordinator. We'll be looking at II Corinthians in light of our unique community and all that means for us as expats.
I hope your day and week is filled with peace and joy.