In true American fashion, I have found myself too busy of late to sit down and write a blog update. Usually when it happens in Dodoma that I go a few weeks between blog posts, I just run down major events that have happened with the kids or my roommates. When I look at the events of the past few weeks, it is a series of coffees, lunches, and dinners with friends and supporters. Not exactly blog-worthy, although significant for me.
I hadn't put a lot of thought into how I would spend my work time while I was here, and have had a number of people ask me if I am doing any speaking events. I am doing a few small-ish speaking events for groups like my mom's high-school students, my grandmother's social club, and my Home Community. Instead of large speaking events, I've been focusing on spending time investing deeper in relationship with the people who are invested in me and the work God has called me to, mostly in one-on-one or one-on-few kind of environments.
I've had a fair number of highs and lows in terms of enjoying my time back in the States. Overall, I've loved hanging out with my friends and family, but the pressure of being back is, at times, both overwhelming and depressing. I know it will be hard for some to hear, but, to be honest, I've been reduced to tears a time or two, wishing I had the extra $250 to change my ticket so that I can "go home". When I shared this with my Home Community last week, I explained it like this: "Being back here is like putting on a pair of shoes that don't fit anymore, then running a marathon." *sigh* It's difficult to hold on to "Tanzanian Leisha" and her values and priorities while being in "American Leisha's" environment.
On a lighter note, here are a few things that have startled me about how things/I have changed in the time that I've been gone:
1. Women Without Much Left On
I'm sure there was a progression from jeans to skinny jeans to leggings with dresses to leggings with tunics to leggings without much else, but I think I left somewhere during the beginning of leggings with dresses and have returned at the height of leggings without much else. It's startling to see friends who I know are modest, fashionable women publicly wearing clothes that African women would barely consider reasonable undergarments. I've done double-takes more times than I can count, startled at the obvious display of certain parts of female anatomy. (And let's remember that I'm coming from a culture where public breast-feeding doesn't even merit note.)
2. "Let Me Check My Brain"
I knew a handful of tech-saavy people with iPhones before I left, but I am astounded at how many people now have an iPhone or Android or iPad or whatever other device. I got my first glimpse of the prevalence of this technological dependence in the airports on my way back, where a gate full of people waiting for planes stared into their hand-held brains. A friend who has lived in Portland for several years now just admitted that he still doesn't really know his way around because he relies on his phone to get him from point A to point B without him having to remember the route. I'm sure there are long-term implications for our memory capacity, but I have to admit that I marvel at the ability of my borrowed Android to bounce a signal off of a satellite in space and tell me my location within a few feet. Scary and awesome at the same time...
3. Trust Me, It's Best For Everyone
My driving instincts are in the toilet. Even after a whole month back, I still don't trust myself to get behind the wheel of a car. Even though I had driven for ten years in America, after one year of driving in Tanzania, where we drive on the opposite side of the road, sit on the opposite side of the car, and obey only minimal road rules, I don't trust myself to drive here yet. Maybe I'll start driving again when I can go a week without walking to the wrong side of the car or looking the wrong direction before crossing a street or wondering why someone comes to a complete stop at an intersection. In the meantime, I'm rather enjoying riding the bus and walking, although my parents and friends are probably over having to pick me up or drop me off in random places.
So hopefully I've redeemed the bummer start to this post with a little witty cultural reflection, but if not, go easy on me. I'm a fish out of water.